Posted in Words!

Face it.

Over the last eight weeks I have had cataracts removed from each of my eyes.  In both cases the surgeon replaced the compromised lens with a new lens.  In both cases the result of the procedure has been to almost eradicate the nearsightedness and extreme astigmatism that I have lived with all my life.

This is indeed a marvelous thing.  As I look clearly in beautiful color into an amazing world it might well be wished that cataracts could have come along decades ago.

It is an adjustment.  One of the most curious parts of that adjustment I had not foreseen.  It is this.  I have worn corrective lenses every waking moment since grade three.   I recall my first visit to my Uncle Peter and Aunt Teresa’s home in Birmingham, England.  One of my first cousins there, a little boy at the time, posed a genuine question to me as I emerged from rest one morning.  “John,” Colin asked, “were you born with your glasses on?”  A hearty laugh followed on all sides, but the right answer would have been, “Almost.”

So, the shock over the last couple of days, if I could use that tern, is the realization that  – to a great extent – I have never until now seen my face.  I have never before completely seen my own face. To do so, I would until now have to remove my glasses and get well within two inches of a mirror to clearly see.  If I left my glasses on, as was usually the case (as Colin had noticed), I was not really seeing my face.  I was seeing my face dressed with my latest frames.  If I saw myself in a photo without glasses, that still image provided some sense of the  living reality, but definitely not the whole.

And I never really knew that until yesterday morning.

Yesterday I got up.  Went to the mirror.  Noted that my left eye, done the afternoon before, was still dilated, and then paused to realize, “That’s my face.”  I looked, especially into the eyes.  I felt as if I did not know them. Not really.   I still feel the same of course a mere day later,  I cannot yet name what I see in them, looking back at me.  It does seem that the whole looks much more intense than I have known.  There is a mystery there that I have never truly known.

Considering all this, tonight, in the pages of a major American newspaper, I came face to face with the image of a tiny boy holding a stuffed animal. He is looking wide-eyed, to the camera.  He has been separated from his mother for four months, a lifetime for him.  And in a real way, a lifetime for her as well.  His eyes, too, showed an intensity that one might well expect, an intensity he might not have evidenced before this traumatic period.

Adan Galicia Lopez, 3, was separated from his mother for four months. [Victor J. Blue, NY Times]

His human face tells a story.  His human face both reveals and conceals a mystery.  It’s a mystery that will be unveiled in some measure over the years of his life.  But the mystery will remain.  This face of mine, like all 7,000,000,000 human faces,  reveals and conceals its own mystery too.   Even I do not comprehend it.  In the face of this truth, I can only bow before the mystery of this tiny boy.

Lord, help me to see.

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Light and Air

cropped-img_0806.jpgThere is a man I know

Though not as well

As people think. And so

It was an unexpected moment

in the middle of an ordinary day,

when he came and said,

“I have many great friends.

I have so much to be grateful for.

I just have so much.

But I am…”

I looked up as he paused

His face was filled with an emotion hard to place, and then he finished,

“… lonely.

You could have driven

An 18 wheeler packed with regret

Between the beginning and the conclusion of that sentence.

And tears rolled down his face and onto the desk

I saw, I felt, though I did not know what to say.

How rarely these things deep inside are released

Into light and air.

Resurrection Week

What was it like for you

In that first week following your dying and rising?

You were alive – not again –

But more alive than any human being had ever been.

Does the world look different, feel different, smell different?

You are risen, but still interacting in the same old places

With the same often confused and frightened folks who

Nonetheless love you.

What was it like?

Your talks with your Abba; they couldn’t have been

More frequent, you were always in touch;

But were they stereo over mono now?

Digital over analog? Millions of colors bright?

What did you think about this week?

The wounds are still visible in your body.

Do your muscles, your bones, still ache

With the memory of last Friday? Do your

Nerves still cry out in old agony, or

Is all that transfigured into a more-than-physical

Shout of joy? (A shout that has only a beginning,

And no end).

You went through all this for ordinary people.

Shouldn’t it change us too? Even now?

Help us, Jesus, to lean into your heart and hear

The beat; to take your hand, wound and all;

To delight both in your appearing and your vanishing

For all of it is somehow revelation of how it is for you

This week, this eternal week

In which we join you, even if we know not how.

~ John McGinty

April 4, 2018

The Incredulity of Thomas,

by Caravaggio, 1602

It Has Been Done: Easter 2018

Every day the eyes of our souls, the eyes of our hearts, the eyes of our bodies encounter innumerable images. We wake and see the faces of people we love. We look to the sky and see the beauty of creation. We see skilled musicians bringing us the beautiful sounds of music we love. We see talented athletes moving as if without effort the length of a basketball court and placing the ball with deftness exactly where they will it to be.

And we see as well, near and far, the images of children who hunger for food and love; the images of people just like us suffering the pain and indignity of years of violence over which they have no control; the images of faces drenched in tears and twisted in pain.

This holy week each year, brings images of its own. The image of Jesus entering Jerusalem on the back of a colt, welcomed by a population filled with hope. And only days later, the image of that same Jesus, in the midst of that same population, tried in a kangaroo court, condemned to death, and executed publicly on a hill outside the city. Tonight, in the stillness, in the light first of a single candle, we see the image of the tomb open and empty, and angelic voices – the echoes of those that announced his birth – sharing the news that Jesus is risen, that death has been overcome, that he has gone ahead of us to Galilee where he asks for us, and awaits our coming.

For we who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, who have died his death with him, and who live his life in him, the images of this week, both of triumph and of pain, underlie and bless and bring meaning to all the other images that we experience all the days that we live.

In most of our four Gospel accounts, it is the women who first go to the tomb of Christ, just as it was the women who stood at the foot of the cross of Christ. (Sorry guys, our type fled for their lives; in this story girls rule!)

As they approached the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus before the sun had risen on the third day, they asked, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb?” By one measure, it is an eminently practical question. But scratch beneath the surface, and so much more emerges.

Those of you who’ve heard me drone on here before, know that I delight in poking around in the Greek that underlies our English translations of the Word we proclaim here. In this case, something beautiful comes to light. The Greek for the word “tomb” shares the same root as the word for “memory.” And so the women, Jesus’ friends, as they approach his grave to attend to him with love even in death, actually ask this question:

“Who will roll the stone away from the door of our memory?”

“Who will roll the stone away from the door of our memory?”

It is as if they ask, who will remove all the obstacles that keep us from remembering what it is to be alive, what it is to love with joy and abandon, what it is to be a human being living embraced in the arms of God? It is as if they ask, who will remove what keeps us from remembering the joy of childhood, the radical openness to the future, the hope that is unwounded and unafraid?

And what is the answer to all those questions, and all those other questions wrapped up within them that each of us can express in words unique to ourselves? The answer is what they came to know moments later: the stone had already been moved away. Other hands have done it. They are the hands that brought the universe to be. They are the hands that formed you in your mother’s womb. They are the hands that join you to the love of your life; they are the hands that heal you in times of illness. They are the hands that carry you through times of sorrow. They are the hands that lift you up in times of uncertainty. They are the hands that will raise you to life everlasting. The stone, all the stones, across the entrance of all the tombs, have already been rolled away.

That is the story of this day. That is the deepest truth of all the truth there is.

Among the images we see each day, or some days try to avoid, are those of loss, tragedy, Injustice, violence and hatred. They are hard to see, and we see enough of them that deep within we can begin to fear that these are the ultimate images of life, of the world, of humanity.

But this day’s truth, the deepest truth of all the truth there is, tells another story. This day’s Resurrection truth affirms that no matter how many the images of darkness, no matter how often they assault our vision, they are not the genuine portrait of the earth. They are not the class picture of the human family this far deep into our common history.

Instead the deepest truth is much-better captured in a phrase I read recently, though I can’t recall where. The words are simple and stalwart:

“We are living in a world in the midst of rescue.”

That rescue is underway. Long since. It began just as the gates of Eden swung shut behind us. This rescue reached its high point on the night we celebrate now. And this rescue will continue until it is complete. Nothing can stop it. And nothing will.

Let me share one final image of that ongoing rescue. In the Monastery of Saint Savior at Cora in Constantinople, there is a precious icon bearing the unusual title, ‘the harrowing of hell.’ There you see the figure of Christ, dressed in white, risen from death. In one hand he holds the tool by which he won our salvation, the Cross. With the other hand he reaches down and takes the hand of Adam, the first man. And Adam in turn gives his hand to Eve, the mother of all the living.

Jesus, alive forever, uses the strength of his life for one purpose, to raise humanity to new life. And each of us, like Adam, accept that ultimate gift not only for ourselves, but to share it with another and another and another of all who thirst for life, who wait for rescue, who have wondered who will roll away the stone from the door of memory.

God has acted on Christ’s behalf, not for Christ alone.

Christ reaches a saving hand toward every human hand that ever has lived or will live. We receive, each of us, new life in the waters of Baptism, not for ourselves alone but to share that life with all.

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He lives now and death has no power over him. In him, we too live life without end.

See.

Remember.

Believe.

Amen.

Alleluia!

~ John P. McGinty

Easter Sunday 2018

[Image: Raphael, The Resurrection of Christ]