Jas. 1:22-27; Jn. 16:23-30
As you know, in the Gospels, the disciples were sometimes slow to recognize our Lord after His resurrection. This is not because they did not know Him. After a few clues, they recognized Him readily. We cannot blame them too much. The resurrection of the Lord was something they had never seen before and could hardly have expected.
However, our Lord is preparing them for just such an eventuality in today’s Gospel, and in the Gospels of the last two Sundays, taken from chapter 16 of the Gospel of John. He says that everything up until then has been as if proverbs, but then He will show them the Father. It is heartwarming that in today’s Gospel, the disciples proclaim, “Now, we understand.” But, they do not, at least not yet. At the Lord’s cross, they will scatter in confusion and hide in the upper room in fear. At Pentecost, when they receive the Holy Ghost and His manifold gifts, they will understand and be empowered to go forth as witnesses and proclaim the Lord to the whole world.
That the resurrection of the Lord affected their lives as well as the Lord’s, is clear. In the Gospel of Matthew, the risen Lord tells the women, “Go and tell my brothers I am going ahead of them to Galilee where they will see me.” This is the first time He has spoken of them as His brothers. Up until then, He has called them His disciples, His followers, His little ones. But now, after the resurrection, they are His brothers. They share the same divine life of the Father.
The Lord refers to this shared life in the Gospel today. He says they will ask the Father, and not that He will ask the Father for them, but that the Father already loves them because they have loved the Son. This is sanctifying grace, the life and love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost shared with us by the cross and resurrection of the Lord, the great exchange, whereby, through faith and the sacraments, He stands in our place that we may stand in His.
The Epistle calls in the instructive metaphor of the mirror to convey this shared life. We know how there are many distorted mirrors which want to reflect back to us a distorted view of ourselves and the world. The world is like this. It wants us to see the human person in merely an earthbound and utilitarian way. But our Lord is the true mirror. He shows us how we were made by God.
On today’s Mothers’ Day, I cannot help but to think that on the day we were born, our mothers took us in their arms and gazed into our eyes with wonder and love that we had been created. The infant, without knowing words or anything else at this point, knows that he or she is beloved, wanted, cherished. The gaze of the mother is a type for the mirror which is Christ. We know how powerful this can be. Infants who do not have this touch do not thrive. We see it also in the order of nature. A prominent psychiatrist of the twentieth century said, “We do not become conscious when we have an idea.” We would think that was the case, when we have an idea, we are conscious, we are aware. “But when someone looks at us.” The gaze invokes the I-thou relationship, which is so potent in our lives and which God has initiated with us in Christ.
St. Bernard, the eleventh century abbot of Clairvaux,-- and maybe he said this Mass and went home and wrote these words—said, “The Gospel has eyes.” In the Gospel, we encounter Christ, His words and deeds, what is right and wrong, good and bad before the Father. Gazing into the Gospel, we see ourselves as God has made us, our goodness, our frailty, that we are forgiven.
St. John of the Cross, the seventeenth century Carmelite mystic, said prayer is, “Me looking at God looking at me.” By sustained presence before God in prayer, He forms us according to His vision as we see ourselves reflected in Him.
When I was assigned to Maria Regina Parish in Gardena, many years ago, one of our parishioners, Sr. Christine, entered the cloistered Carmelites in Alhambra. I was permitted to visit her from time to time, and we spoke of spiritual things. I once said to her, “I think now I am less reliant on how others see me, and more so on how I see myself.” She said, “No, Father. The way God sees you.” It is so easy for us to get side-tracked. Our call is to see all things the way God sees them, including ourselves.
In the resurrection of the Lord, He has given to us a new vision of the world re-created and of the person regenerated by baptism. The mystery is that sometimes we are the mirror. We get to bring this vision of God into the world and to the people and circumstances we encounter. Sometimes we are the reflection. We are grateful to the Lord and to those who share His vision, that, by faith and love, they show us, that on the deepest level, we are beloved children of God.