BEFORE THE CROSS | Finding the ways Jesus is truly present in our lives

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

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We have seen the Lord!

That's the message of this week's readings as we celebrate Easter. It raises an important question: How has Jesus appeared to each of us?

Some people wonder: Why doesn't Jesus show Himself today, the way He did to the apostles when He rose from the dead? Wouldn't that make it easier for us to believe, and to convert an unbelieving world? The answer is twofold.

One: He does. That is to say, sometimes Jesus makes extraordinary appearances. There are special apparitions and eucharistic miracles throughout Church history down to the present day. He may not have appeared to you or me that way. But it would be remarkable spiritual hubris to think that unless it happens to me, it doesn't happen at all.

Two: As any relationship grows our way of being present to each other changes. Parents are present to their children in different ways as infants, teenagers and adults. Couples are present to each other in different ways when first dating, as newlyweds and after 50 years of marriage. The same is true of God's relationship with us: His mode of presence changes. On Mount Sinai, God appeared to His people in thunder and lightning. On the Mount of Beatitudes, He came as a man among us. After the Resurrection, His disciples didn't recognize Him at first, and He appeared and disappeared at will. It was the same Jesus, but His presence was somehow the same and somehow different.

God has always come to His people, and He always will. But as our relationship has grown, He's come to us more deeply and quietly.

Sometimes we go to adoration and we sense His presence deeply, and sometimes we don't. Sometimes our study of the faith gives us insights that bear deep fruit for ourselves and others, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes our actions bring about a deep connection with others in faith, and sometimes they don't.

Jesus is always present in the prayer, study and action we undertake in His name. Sometimes He allows us to see and feel His presence with great clarity. Sometimes He asks us to trust that He's present even when we don't see and feel Him. But just because His mode of presence has changed doesn't mean He has ceased to be present.

If parents always relate to their children the same way, their relationship stagnates. If couples always relate to each other the same way, their love stagnates. Similarly, God doesn't relate to us the same way as we grow. And that means that we can't always relate to God the same way, or our faith will stagnate.

The Risen Jesus appears to us today just as truly as He appeared to the apostles 2,000 years ago. Yes, His mode of presence has changed. That just means we need to be open to seeing Him in new ways. So: how have you seen the Lord? 

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