Back in 1943 my aunty May, who was two years older than my mum, contracted TB. Apparently May was a vivacious young woman whose love of life was contagious. When it became apparent she was ill, my mum said it was really hard to watch the life ebbing out of her till it seemed hardly like May at all. Mum was barely able to mention May's name without breaking down but she always said, "I don't know why I'm crying. I know that May's alive, I just can't physically see her."
I think to see with the eyes of faith is the gift of the spirit. There are two words in Greek that mean 'to see'. The first is theorein which means to see with your physical eyes; the second is horan which means to perceive. Disciples are invited to be willing to look beyond physical matter and trust that Jesus is with them, to perceive his presence. This is what Pentecost is all about. Are we able to look at the devastation that death and disaster bring and say all will be well? Are we able to look at our illnesses and see God at work? Are we able to look at a brother or sister and see beyond the bad temper, poor behaviour or rudeness and see the presence of God? Are we able to look at the paedophile or the murderer and sense the presence of God? Can we look at the asylum-seeker and the refugee and see his or her fear and know that God is there? Dare we open our eyes and perceive the presence of God in everything?
It means we have to change and the gift of the Spirit is all about change. To see beyond means our hearts have to become compassionate, our lives have to be broken. To see beyond means we have to give up our judgemental attitudes and the way we condemn our brothers and sisters. It means we have to think of others before ourselves. Dare we take the risk to do that, inviting the Spirit to change our hearts and minds? When we do, Jesus tells us we will be filled with a joy no one can take away. It is not the sort of frothy, feel-good joy that is here today and gone tomorrow but a joy that is gift and comes from deep within.