Do we see what he sees?

The Resurrection of the Lord

Acts 10:34A, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said: “You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Colossians 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

John 20:1-9

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

The saying, “seeing is believing” which relies solely on sensory perception as the guarantor of truth, can no longer be considered as the touchstone of credibility anymore. For computer technology is now able to simulate, exaggerate, enhance or distort reality and thus can deceive the human eye. Even without such technology, our physical eyes can only see the surface of things and sheer physical seeing cannot plumb the depths where the truth lies.

In light of this consideration, let us try to understand the different episodes in each of the Gospels today. While the resurrection of Jesus undergirds our Christian faith, no human eye has been privileged to witness Jesus’ rising from the tomb. Mary Magdalene and the other women, Peter and the beloved disciple or the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, all witness only the telltale signs, namely, the empty tomb, the burial wrappings and the hearsay from others. In the case of Mary Magdalene, the other women, Peter and the other beloved disciple, they all see and share the same sensory experience. Mary Magdalene thinks it is a tomb robbery (rf Jn 20:2); the other women are too frightened to say anything (rf Mk 16:8); Peter is bewildered and confused (rf Lk 24;12). Only the beloved disciple comes to believe: “He saw and believed” (Jn 20:8).

What does the beloved disciple see that makes him believe Jesus is alive again? He does not actually see the risen Jesus with his naked eyes. If seeing is believing; then his conviction would make little sense. And yet he believes even in the darkness of incomprehension with mere superficial signs. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians says: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe” (Eph 1, 17-18). Yes, it is with these “eyes of the heart” which the beloved disciple sees and make him believe.

What are the eyes of the heart? For the Hebrews, the heart is not a blind and wanton generator of emotions but the seat of discernment and decisions. It is here that believing takes place and a heart that loves begets faith. Faith and believing belong to the domain of the heart which precedes intellectual understanding and reasoning. In fact, it is the love of God that generates a certain intellectual light – wisdom that opens the eyes of the heart to see beyond what is visible. It illumines so that one can recognize the truth even before the mind could grasp its full meaning. Jesus Himself says this, “. . . seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, neither do they understand” (Mt 13:13). Realizing that, St. Augustine says: “I believe in order to understand”. But how often do we ourselves say or hear “I will believe when I understand”. It turns out, in most cases, we rarely understand and thus, rarely believe.

Each one of us can be the beloved disciple if we choose not to understand God but to love and trust Him first. Come to know Him personally and then we can see what the beloved disciple sees. Until we have Him in our hearts rather than in our heads, we cannot believe.

Posted: April 1, 2018

May Tam

 
May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)


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