Sunday, June 20, 2010

Seeing with God's Eyes

Jacopo Pontormo, Supper in Emmaus, 1525 (Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy)

(Note the "eye of God" above Jesus' head.)

What does today's second reading at mass and going to the pool have in common?

Let's start with the pool. My family and I went to a large public pool here in Cincinnati. We become very self-conscious about the bodies of others and our own bodies. We see others and we think that we don't measure up. It can be a blow to our self-esteem and our ego. We see others and we are tempted to turn them into objects for our pleasure. As I've been saying recently, bodies matter in Catholic theology. However, the pool can be a glaring example of how bodies should not be treated.

Our bodies are not for lust, but, unfortunately, going to the pool can be a test of "custody of the eyes." We corrupted sight early on. After the Father of Lies told Eve that God was a liar and that she would not die eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we read: "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, ... she took of its fruit and ate..." (Genesis 3:6). However, this is not the kind of sight to which God originally called us. We are instead to strive to live the words of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). If we can see others with the eyes of God, not as something for our gratification, but as children of God, then we can see them with a pure heart. And when we see them as God sees them, then we see God for we are using His eyes.

There is also the flip side of that situation. We can objective ourselves. Walking around in public can be a very humbling experience. At the pool we see many people who are physically attractive as the world preaches it. I'm not exactly the model for a Greek statue, so it is easy to imagine being viewed by others as deficient physically (even if that is not how others actually view me). I was rather heavy when I was young, and it is hard to shed that perception of myself, even though I am not now overweight. But still, I'm rather flabby (which would be helped if I would just exercise like my doctor tells me to do). I was walking around feeling somewhat embarrassed by my appearance, when I went into the pool because my son called to me. It wasn't anything he said. It was how he looked at me. Children, especially young children, have a way of looking at you that just shouts how much they love you. The amazing thing is that they see you. They don't see how much you weigh or whether you have well defined abs. They don't see how much money you make or don't make. They don't see whether you are successful or unsuccessful in the eyes of the world. All they see is the parent who, with the power of God, created them and loves them as bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. Or, if they are adopted, they see a parent who loved them so much that he or she chose them to be his or her own. They love us despite our flaws. They see us as God sees us. They see us as we are - we who yell at them, get impatient with them, don't always listen to them - and they love us anyway. They see us as we are - we who have the capacity to love, who have the desire to do what is right, who attempt to help others. And they see us as we want to be - heroes and saints.

So what does this have to do with today's second reading from the Letter of Paul to the Galatians (3:26-29):

Brothers and sisters: Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.

God does not make distinctions among people as the world makes distinctions. The things that divide us from each other do not divide us from God. We must seek to see as God sees, and then we will love as God loves.

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