by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, April 10, 2016
“Why do you weep?” is one of the first questions of the resurrection.
That early Easter morning query came back to me in a fresh and unexpected way this past week. I was in South Jersey preparing to give a parish mission on mercy, and was staying in a house located within walking distance of the boardwalk. Being both a New Jersey native and an early morning walker, I was looking forward to strolling along near the ocean each day, breathing in the salt air and moving into a contemplative frame of mind as I listened to the rhythm of the waves.
But as I stepped outside that Sunday morning, I was greeted by strong, howling winds so fierce I could barely stand upright. I was quickly blown back inside and surrendered my plans for a walk, but not before the gale force winds blew debris into my eye.
No problem, I thought, I’ll flush out whatever grains of sand have stuck to my contact lens. I quickly removed the lens, but in spite of repeated rinsing with eye solution, the irritant remained fixed. Tears and mucus built up as my eye tried to expel the foreign object. With the constant discomfort sometimes escalating to pain, I could think of nothing else but finding relief for my eye and my blurring vision. Many hours later, I was able to find an eye surgeon who treated the abrasions in my eye and put an end to the flow of tears.
That “eye opening” experience brought me back to some of the questions of the Easter readings and how the eyes figure into those early Sabbath morning conversations. In John’s account of one of the appearances of the risen Jesus (John 20:11-18), Mary Magdalene stands outside the tomb of Jesus. She’s in distress, in mourning, numbed by the horror she’s witnessed and by the loss of this person, Jesus, who is beloved to her. John paints a picture of her at the gravesite, tears running down her face. One wonders, is it the tears in her eyes that prompt two angels dressed in white to inquire of her, “Woman, why are you crying?” What do the angels see in her eyes?
A bit later in the story, one also wonders: is it Mary’s face wracked with grief, her anguish and loss expressed in tears, that prompts Jesus—whom she at first doesn’t recognize–to ask with gentle tenderness, “Why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” What does Jesus see in her eyes?
So this Easter season holds an invitation to ponder:
What do I notice when I look into the eyes of others?
What do my own eyes reveal of God’s tenderness and mercy?
For what, for whom, am I weeping?
In the coming days, reflect on any of these Scripture references to eyes:
Psalm 17:8, Protect me as you would your very eyes; hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 121:1-2, I lift my eyes to the mountains; where will my help come from? My help will come from God, who made heaven and earth.
Matthew 6:22, The eyes are like a lamp for the body.
Matthew 7:3-5, Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s or sister’s eye and not pay attention to the log in your own eye?
Mark 12:11, This is God’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Luke 10:23, Blessed are the eyes which see what you see.
Luke 11:34, Your eyes are like a light for the body. When your eyes are sound, your whole body is full of light.
My thanks to Father Peter Joyce and the people of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Church of the Resurrection, in Marmora, NJ, for your wonderful witness of welcome and living faith during the parish mission on “Widening the Reach of Our Mercy,” April 3-5. A joy to be among you!
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