Sunday, April 18, 2021

Going Backwards

All of us like the disciples need to go backwards to begin our resurrection story, backwards to a sober, painful place, the place of ‘This should never have happened!’ So many things, events painful, rudely embarrassing from our past, in our present. They should never have happened. But they did happen, the whole bloody mess - like crucifixion, a disaster, our worst blunder - putting God’s Lamb to death. And now we can see our helplessness, in the helplessness of God crucified. ‘This should never have happened!’ But it did. We go backwards to own it, to see it clearly, appropriate it; to mourn our losses - the real pain - and so to move on in hope, choosing life for ourselves and for one another. Then we beloved ones can recognize the risen Lord and all he’s doing on our behalf, remembering like the disciples the typical extravagance of his ordinary available lovingkindness, reversing all that we may have believed was a dead-end; retrieving, reversing what ‘should never have happened,’ noticing the wounded Jesus who is noticing us. It’s what beloved disciples like us are meant to do - open our eyes and hearts and name the blessings we are receiving here and now, noticing the sacred in all its ordinariness. For without this knowledge, this insight, and mindfulness how can we go on?

I am reminded of a distraction during prayer, years ago when I was on retreat. I was trying to focus, feeling I should be thinking of Christ Jesus. I was on retreat after all. And I was feeling guilty. ‘This shouldn’t be happening,’ I thought, for I was beleaguered by the memory of someone dear to me - remembering walks and meals together, loving conversations. And then distraction turned to prayer as somehow I understood the Lord saying to me, ‘How else would you know what I look like?’ Without this person? How else? Indeed without the love of those we love, on whose kindness and forbearance we depend, even without the challenge of those we find it difficult to love, how would we, how could we hope to recognize the blessing, the presence of the Risen One in our midst; not so very far away, this Son of Man with a beautiful wounded head,  hoping against hope that his best friends will recognize him.

It is incumbent upon us. We have been given a sacred trust -  it is our duty to reveal the risen Lord to one another. How else will we know what Jesus looks and feels like. Perhaps it’s too obvious. You’ve heard all this before - finding God in all things - in the ordinary. But then again. How to keep the awareness and the longing for the blessing of his presence? Christ Jesus is always playing in ‘ten thousand places. Lovely in eyes and lovely in limbs not his through the mirror of faces’*that we know and see and love and even find it difficult to love.

Panel painting by Duccio.  * Line of poetry from Gerard Manley Hopkins, in this meditation by one of our elderly monks.