The fall of the Israelites was avoidable and God did everything He could to try to prevent it. In becoming self-centered, however, they forgot how to recognize God’s presence. They rejected Him, but what made it so complete was that they replaced their ability to recognize God by assigning their faith to that which was not God. In short, they did not see or hear what had previously been plain to them. That did not keep God from trying to break through to them by speaking through numerous prophets. After much travail they eventually responded in sorrow, accepting their responsibility for what had happened. They learned to recognize His presence even in exile, and rejoiced in gratitude when they were freed. They had finally learned to see.
Part of what ails our world today is that many do not recognize the presence of God within it. People claim that God does not show Himself anymore. On the contrary we have more direct access to Him insofar as Jesus left us His presence in the Eucharist and through the sacraments: we have personal, face-to-face, intimate encounters offered to us on a daily basis. We also have the presence of Jesus every time we pray, every time we share in a loving encounter with another person, and any time we open ourselves to beauty. Miracles abound if we have the eyes to see. We cannot say that God does not reveal Himself, or that the presence of evil in the world shows that God does not care, or that we simply do not know where God is. God is ever present, but maybe like Bartimaeus we need to ask for the gift of sight. This is important because as His disciples it is our mission to bring His presence visibly into the world through our love, mercy, and work for justice. He relies on us to make His presence known, especially in the darkest places of suffering, loneliness, and brokenness. But first we have to let Him into those places in ourselves.
Perhaps what keeps us from seeing is that we distract ourselves by focusing only on what is negative in our imperfect world or within the church or government, thinking problems are too big to be fixed. Perhaps we limit our sight to our own imperfections, or get caught up in the daily grind to such an extent that our concerns blind us to the reality that we are not alone in them. Perhaps we are too busy to see the beauty in the world around us, the people with whom we come into contact, the written word, a moving piece of music, or the lovely gesture of some artwork. Perhaps we have lost our vision due to the pain of suffering or our distress in seeing the suffering of others.
If you have trouble knowing where to begin, try asking specifically for what it is you need. Sometimes having a more visual, tangible experience helps, so you can imagine you are present in a Scripture passage, letting Jesus speak directly to you, such as imagining you are Bartimaeus, or that you were there in the crowd. Also you can let your faith lead you as you receive the Eucharist, trusting He is truly present there. Sometimes we forget that we need to become present to Him in the Eucharist. It is not a one-way street: we are present to each other. Also, remember that Jesus does not stay in the church when we walk out the door. We receive communion so that we take Him with us into the whole of our lives, asking Him to bless everything we experience. Our communion helps us do that which He taught, which means to be generous with everything: to give unselfishly, to offer forgiveness as we have been forgiven, to be compassionate rather than judgmental, to welcome the stranger, to work for justice by being just, and to give our care to the suffering. He has been lavish in His gifts to us and so He wants us to share of what we have received with those around us. In sharing, what He has given is multiplied within and around us. And in so doing His presence opens the eyes of the blind to see that He is indeed here... with us.
©Michele L. Catanese
The top photo is mine. It was taken in Big Bend National Park, TX. I chose this because it reminded me of the people's return to Israel from exile when looking through the pass into the land in the distance.
Next is a painting called Jesus Opens the Eyes of the Man Born Blind (detail) by Duccio di Buoninsegna (14th century)
An icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols is next. It is called Cristo Pantocrator. To find it click on this link: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cristo-pantocrator-175-william-hart-mcnichols.html if you are interested in purchasing a copy as a print, card, plaque or in many other mediums.
(Check out Fr. Bill's entire site at Fine Art America. You can click here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/william-hart-mcnichols.html?tab=artworkgalleries
Remember I do not get any remuneration for this promotion. I simply love his work and enjoy sharing it!)
The remaining two photos are mine. A sunset in Driftwood, TX, and then the Atlantic Ocean taken at Westhampton Beach, Long Island, NY. I chose the last photo because of the footprints, which seem to speak of presence.