Reflections : July 2019

By Father Chris Thomas

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. Everyone in the area knew May French. She spent her weekends dancing and laughing, and during the week she worked in the local Post Office and was always trying to help the people whose lives were devastated by the war.

When she died, my nana was devastated and my mum and her brother for years were hardly able to mention May’s name without breaking down. However, my mum would often say in the midst of her tears, ‘I don’t know why I’m crying, I know that May is alive.’ The eyes of faith help us to see differently than others.

I’m told there are two words in Greek that mean to see. The first is ‘theorein’, which means to see with your physical eyes, and the second is ‘horan’, which means to perceive.

In chapter 16 of John’s Gospel both Greek words are used. It’s almost as though a journey has to be made where the disciples are invited to be willing to look beyond physical matter and trust that Jesus is with them, to perceive his presence.

So what are we challenged to see? It is to see beyond that which is around us. Are we able to look at the devastation that death brings and say all will be well? Are we able to look at our illnesses and wonder how God is at work? Are we able to look at a brother or sister and see beyond the bad temper or the poor behaviour or the rudeness, and see the presence of God?

Are we able to look beyond the paedophile or the murderer and see 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?

I say ‘dare we’ because, in many senses, to see beyond means we have to change and most of us don’t want to 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?

You know that with everything we do to another person, we’re doing it to the God who lives within them. If only we realised it. You see, belief in Jesus is not just about nice feelings. It radically challenges who we are and how we live. The challenge is to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s never easy to follow the Jesus way; but, as Jesus says, ‘Be brave, I have conquered the world.’