That awkward moment when you realize that you’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places, or that moment when He calls your name and you realize that you’ve been standing in front of Jesus and didn’t even recognize Him.
I’ve been struggling with a few heavy burdens these last few weeks, some my own doing and others completely out of my control. One of my biggest, most persistent struggles is with self-worth. I often feel and believe that I’m worthless, useless, and lost. I “know” the truth about God’s love and all, but I feel and struggle with believing the lies. This, among other things, has sparked a cry of “Maranatha!” in my prayers: “Come, Lord Jesus!” I long for the end, partly for selfish reasons, and in part for an end to all the evil and suffering in our world (note: this longing for the end is a good thing)1.
In the midst of this recent struggle, I came across an amazing article in the Georgia Bulletin by Fr. Behrens and it connects beautifully with my post from last week based on Fr. Robert Barron’s thoughts on the Ascension. Part of my longing is the feeling of abandonment and separation from Christ. I long to be with him and feel lost as if he were far removed from me. But that’s not really the case, is it? Fr. Behrens begins by talking about the all-too-familiar post-Resurrection stories. These stories offer some often overlooked depth and beautiful truth to them.
One commonality between these stories is their reliance on physicality. In each case, the disciples fail to recognize Jesus until there is some form of physical contact, some sort of intrusion upon the senses: the touch of a finger, the call of a name, the breaking of the bread. As Fr. Behrens states, the spiritual truth is known through the physical and this truth that cannot be seen with the senses is the only truth worth knowing; it is the truth of Christ’s loving, intimate presence.
In my last post I discussed the Ascension and Fr. Robert Barron’s understanding of it, on how Christ didn’t leave us behind when he ascended, like an astronaut leaving earth. Rather, he ascended into a greater reality, one beyond our sensual comprehension. Heaven isn’t another level in the atmosphere but a higher state of being. Heaven and earth touch in a million points of light, interwoven like the various threads in a tapestry, and they bleed into each other. With every loving act we help increase this contact, we help make “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
Another commonality in the post-Resurrection stories is the wounds of Christ. Even in his glorified body the wounds remain. The earthly is joined to the spiritual and in the Resurrection-Ascension event heaven and earth become one!
This is what we experience in the Mass, isn’t it?
We go to Mass to “do this in remembrance of [Him].” We go to re-member, to reunite ourselves with Jesus, to be made whole. We all are broken and in need of mercy. Each of us carries the weight of the world on our shoulders; we walk around with broken hearts, wounded prides, shrugging shoulders, desperate souls. So we go seeking mercy, healing, and wholeness. And what do we encounter but the union of heaven and earth in the bread and wine transformed in the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ! Is it any wonder then why it still looks like bread and wine? Like Christ ascended, it is beyond our sensual vision!
Nonetheless, we encounter Christ’s wounded mercy, his pierced hands, his blood outpoured and we re-member His body. Then, like the disciples in the post-Resurrection stories, we are compelled to go make disciples of all the nations. We are to be his hands and feet; his wounded hands and feet. Embracing our crosses and the crosses of our neighbors, we help to lift the weight of the world from their shoulders and realize his kingdom has come, that our maranatha cry has been answered! Christ is Immanuel, God with us, closer to us than we are to ourselves. And so we cry out again, “Maranatha, Jesus our Lord has come!”2
Like Mary of Magdala, we can truly say, “I have seen the Lord!”
1. CCC 1042: VI. The Hope of the New Heaven and the New Earth
2. The word “Maranatha” can be translated in two different ways. If you translate it as “Marana Tha” then it takes on the meaning of a command or request, “Please come, Lord Jesus!” If you translate it as “Maran atha” it takes on the meaning of, “The Lord has come!”