Tag Archives: spirituality

How the movie ‘Gravity’ is an allegory of the Christ story

February 27, 2014

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By Bob Busch

(Warning: spoilers ahead.)Scene from movie 'Gravity'

The Oscars are coming March 2, and “Gravity” is nominated for best picture. I highly recommend it. I found the movie to be a riveting space-survival story, and, whatever the filmmaker’s intent, also an allegory for the Christ story.

“Gravity” is set in low-earth orbit in the present day. The movie’s heroine, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), is not a professional astronaut. She’s only aboard the space shuttle to deliver her research work, a new set of eyes so the Hubble Space Telescope can “scan to the edge of the universe.” Her colleague, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), is a veteran astronaut on his last mission before retirement.

While Kowalski marvels at the beauty of the earth brimming with life below, Stone has turned her back to it. Her spirit died the day her young daughter died in a tragic accident, and she’s since buried herself in her work. Disasters ensue, and all but the two perish. And then Kowalski gives the supreme sacrifice so Stone might live. Stone is now alone and struggles to survive against insurmountable odds.

To me, “Gravity” is a movie masterpiece, both as a space story and as a spiritual metaphor for the Christ story. Kowalski represents Christ. Stone represents us, humanity. The voice from the Houston ground crew represents the voice of God. Contact is lost when disaster strikes, and the astronauts’ pleas to “Houston from the blind” represent humanity’s pleas to an unseen and unheard God.

Kowalski’s sacrifice in the untethering scene represents Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Stone exclaims humanity’s cry: “But I had you!”

Abandoned and alone, literally and figuratively out of fuel, Stone despairs in the Upper Room of her marooned space capsule. She laments that no one will mourn for her, and she dismisses praying since she’s never prayed in her life. Bereft of hope, she chooses death by turning off the capsule’s oxygen.

Then the key scene: the miraculous visitation by Kowalski. He enters directly through the Upper Room capsule door. Is Kowalski a low-oxygen hallucination or a dream, or is this truly a resurrection visit from the divine? Whichever, the visit changes everything for Stone.

She’s now found the reason and purpose to go on. We see her Pentecost as she turns on the oxygen and breathes new life in the spirit. We see her re-entry from space, complete with tongues of fire as the space debris descends into the atmosphere. We’re witnessing the descent of the Holy Spirit onto man.

Whether she burns up in the next 10 minutes, or lives to tell the tale, she’s now fully embracing life’s every moment. She emerges from her water landing and her space-capsule womb, representing rebirth of body and soul. She crawls from the water onto the shore, representing man’s evolution to a new life in the spirit.

She clutches at the sand, uttering the simplest and most perfect prayer: “Thank you.” They are the movie’s final words. Finally, she marvels at life all around before walking off into the distance to begin her life anew, on this earth and life eternal.

As I look back at the movie, I ask what Stone was searching for in outer space. To me, she was searching for the key that would open the door, between heaven and earth, which stood between her and her beloved daughter. Her search for that key represents humanity’s search to be with God.

Nothing of this world proved to be the key. Humanity’s greatest technologies failed and fell away. No human being or human effort or idea came to the rescue. The one and only key that opened the door was not of this world, but rather of the divine. It did not come from within Dr. Stone, but through a relationship with another. It was not earned through her efforts or intellect, but was freely given as a gift.

The one key that opened the door was Kowalski, symbolizing Christ. His sacrifice and resurrection was the key that allowed her to transcend the bonds of this world, to connect with her daughter. When she finally spoke to her daughter, she did not do so directly, but rather, through Kowalski: “Tell her I love her, and I’m not quitting.” Jesus is the intermediary who opens the door between heaven and earth.

Once the door opened, where did it lead? Not to a God residing somewhere “out there” in the heavens of outer space. As the movie’s opening credits state: “Life in space is impossible.” No, God is life, and life resides right here, at home. God is in the ground crew. Stone looked for the answer at the farthest edge of space. In the end, she found the answer was right here all along, in her own backyard.

And the rescuing voice that immediately called out to her, when her craft broke through the clouds, as she re-entered the land of the living? It was God’s voice in the Houston ground crew, calling out to her, amidst the other radio clutter symbolizing life’s daily distractions that keep us from hearing God’s voice. Houston had appeared to her as an unresponsive dial tone when she had called, unseen and unheard. But Houston had been there all along, calling out to her, wanting to be with her. Only when she entered her new life in the spirit was she able to hear God’s ever-present call: “I’m here! I’m coming to rescue you!”

When Stone says “thank you” at the end, who is she thanking? An abstract God? A low-oxygen hallucination of her own making? I don’t think so. She’s thanking a very real God, made fully human and yet fully divine, through Kowalski (Christ). Jesus renamed Simon as “Peter,” meaning “the rock,” and like her namesake, Dr. Stone goes forth to the ends of the earth to share her new life in the Spirit.

The father-son team that created “Gravity” acknowledges many other spiritual paths throughout the film, from references to Buddhism to the Ganges River that is at the juncture of the Muslim and Hindu worlds. However, whatever the intent, to me, “Gravity” is a space movie that also serves as a beautiful metaphor for the Christ story.

Busch resides with his wife and three children in Minneapolis, where he raises money for new medicines development and doctor training at the University of Minnesota Health. The family attends the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. He can be reached at robertbusch27@gmail.com.
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Something Beautiful…

October 14, 2013

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Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful

Last week a speaker/entertainer came to speak at the Champions for Life luncheon.  Danielle Rose, a music missionary sang from her prolife CD and spoke about her missionary work in China.  Because of the one child only policy and the poverty of most of those who live there, many families abort their daughters in favor of having a son who can care for them in their old age. As she was explaining this horrible reality, she described that this country had 20 million young men who will never have a wife and family.

 

What happens in a country where you have millions of young men with no future?

 

With such hope and innocence she said.  “Maybe God will raise them up to become priests.”  I am sad to say that most of us in the audience chuckled at that statement.  Maybe we have become so cynical that we don’t believe God can really do such things. China is, after all, an atheist country where it is illegal to evangelize.  Then, Danielle caught our attention and said compellingly “No, really! God can make something beautiful.”

 

At that moment, Danielle asked the Holy Spirit to help her find the right words to say.  I wish I could remember her exact words but she went on to compare Christ’s passion to the situation in China.

 

 

She said, “God can take something ugly and sinful and horrible and make something beautiful happen from it.” Of course I know this; I just need to be reminded.

 

I don’t know about others in the audience, but I wasn’t thinking about the situation in China.  I was thinking about situations in my own heart, situations closer to home.

Her words reminded me to hope and trust that “God really can make something beautiful!”

 

Here is to something beautiful!

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Living in Alaska, she’s got a prayer

August 25, 2013

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107633I’m just catching up with a book that’s been in print for seven years, but the lag in time doesn’t do anything but add richness to Heather Lende’s fine work, “If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska.”

Haines might be any hamlet in a unique geographic environment, but Lende lifts the southeast Alaska coastal area and the people who live there to a level that turns her writing into a literary classic.

The fact that Lende writes obituaries for the local newspaper isn’t the only reason this ought to be on the required-reading list for journalism majors. How she gathers the details of the deceased lives — face-to-face with the people who knew the person best — is a lesson to be remembered, and the quality of what she learns about them is evidence that her methodology isn’t to be ignored.

Sprinkled through chapters with titles like “Nedra’s Casket” and “When Death Didn’t Stop for Angie” are snippets of her column, “Duly Noted,” tasty snacks to enjoy between the meals that are the satisfying entres. They’re newsy bites, subtledly humorous, frequently ironic, and help give a fuller picture of the goings on in this neck of the woods, from the mundane to the fascinating.

The picture includes spirituality in a variety of traditions, including a mention or two or three of the ministry of Father Jim and Sister Jill from Sacred Heart Catholic Church. In how many other books that make the N.Y. Times bestseller list do you think you’ll read the “Hail Mary” or about the author’s discovery of the rosary and learning how to pray it from a parish prayer group. “The rosary prayers are directed to the Virgin Mary,” this Episcopalian author wrote, “I liked that. It would be easier to talk to a woman, a mother like me, than to God himself.”

Living simply, living in tune with nature, caring about environmental issues, hunting, fishing, family, snowshoeing, skating and life-and-death drama — it’s all in there.

The uniqueness of Alaska makes great copy for those of us in the lower 48, but how Lende tells the stories of life there, that makes great reading.

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Reflections on the Triduum – The Easter Vigil

April 1, 2013

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Easter Lily For the last 7 years or so I have helped with the liturgy for the Easter Vigil at my parish.  I love helping with this liturgy.  Their is so much going on! Baptisms, confirmations, first communions and the history of the the Church all rolled into one.  When I went to my first Vigil some 10 years ago it was the beauty and drama that caught my attention.
The church was filled with flowers and banners and the choir was singing “Horse and chariots are cast into the sea!” and the night starts outside with a fire.    Even to a secular eye their is allot going on – I remember thinking “this is like a Cecil B DeMille movie or an opera!”

The history of the world unfolds in the readings.  Present day new Catholics are welcomed into the church.  The culmination of the last three days is given its context.
But their is such paradox and depth and mystery.  Every year I try to understand it more.

Their is always something that surprises me in this liturgy, this year it is the line from the Exulet.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer! Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Happy fault and necessary sin?

I went on line to read Pope Francis’ homily for Easter Vigil  to look for insight.  He speaks of the surprises  too, but he speaks of the surprise of the  women as they entered to tomb.

“We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises.”

I understand the fear – the fear of newness.  When I come on the unexpected I become fearful.  I want to control and if I can’t control the situation I usually lash out at those closes to me. When I left the Easter Vigil on Saturday night (well close to Sunday morning) My plans were set for the next day.  Family to church in the morning, Easter brunch at my sister’s house followed by driving my children back to their perspective colleges.

But something unexpected happened.

My husband got a call in the middle of the night.  His father was dying and he left to be at his bedside.  Suddenly, our world turned topsy turvy.

My father in law died on Easter in the afternoon.  Pope Francis words came to me.

“We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises.”

The Easter Vigil, like every Mass is meant to remind us,

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6)

As I tried to find the words to comfort my mother-in-law and my husband, those words of the angels came to mind.

This isn’t the blog post I intended to write.  Things happened and we deal with the unexpected.

A little about my father in law.

Bob was once asked to a tryout for the Yankees baseball team, but declined the invite because of various complications. I think their were times in his life that he regretted that he didn’t try.

In the last few days of my father-in-law’s life he was asked, “Bob, if you get better what are you looking forward to doing?”

In those moments when a person is ill and the life here and our past seems to merge in our minds, Bob replied “Play Ball.”

The days and months ahead will be filled with grieving for Bob.  The thought though comes to mind that if we truly believe the Easter story, we wouldn’t be sad.

If we believe in the resurrection Bob will get to “Play ball.”

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Reflections on the Triduum ~ Holy Thursday

March 29, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the Triduum! It was 10 years ago that I attended my first Holy Thursday Mass.  It was shortly after my “re-conversion” to the faith and I was blown away.
As I watched with wonder at  the beauty of the Mass and tried to understand the depth of the liturgy, I left the church that night in a bit of a stupor. As I stumbled out of the church past the priest, I walked up to him and said “It is like coming home.  It is like being away at college for a long time and then you come back home. It feels like that!” I don’t know if anyone else can understand that sentimentality, but its impact has never left me.
Each year I enter into this sacred week with certain expectations.  What I expect never seems to be what I get, but if I approach it with my eyes and heart open I most certainly hear God’s voice.
This year my personal, family life is in a bit of a disarray.  With two children at college and their needs and schedules changing- regular family traditions are a bit off.  Easter baskets have changed from candy and bunny rabbits to gas cards and cash.  To top it all off – we are remodeling our kitchen so we have no stove, sink or refrigerator. We will not be making Easter eggs, traditional ham dinner or even a pizza!

Trying to enter into a prayerful mood – I left my home an hour early to attend the Holy Thursday Mass. The sounds of saws, screw guns and hammers were interrupting my already distracted mind. I was looking for a little peace!

As I walked into the church – the first thing I noticed was the empty tabernacle.  It immediately brought to mind the thought that Jesus was not “in the house.” Their is something sad about an empty tabernacle.

As I sat in a corner to collect my thoughts and pray when I looked up at the hustle and bustle going on around me.  From a distance I noticed the choir rehearsing – a unified choir with our Latino and English speaking community.  I noticed a young man from our Catholic high school walking the other servers through server training.  I saw the sacristan putting out candles, readers looking over their readings, volunteers arranging flowers and ushers setting out worship aids.  All this action could have put me on edge since I came to the church to get away from the bustle of my home, but then I realized something.

Jesus WAS “in the house!”

Everyone there – a community – had come together to make this happen.  They were joyfully doing their part to bring others to God through the liturgy.

Of course the Holy Thursday Liturgy speaks of service.  Service to each other.  Service to those in need.  The Holy Thursday Liturgy also speaks of the Eucharist – the body of Christ.  And He was present there  in the people and at the great offering of the Sacrament.

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Turning to our Mother in Times of Tragedy

December 17, 2012

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Madonna and Child

In the wake of the school shooting on Friday, I went to find solace in daily Mass on Saturday.
As I entered the church, the first thing I noticed was the Our Lady of Guadalupe picture in the sanctuary. The picture was left there as a remnant of the Wednesday night celebration. It was then that it occurred to me that the tragic killing of the 20 children and 6 adults in Connecticut is not something unique to our culture today. At the time of the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego in 1531, child sacrifice was common place. After her appearance, eight million natives were converted to the Church in the next 7 years – virtually eliminating the Aztec practice of sacrifice. Is our wonton cultural lack of seeing life as precious any different? Is this tragedy any different than the atrocities of child sacrifice?
In the wake of this recent tragedy we are left asking why, but maybe more importantly we should be asking what should we do? Stricter laws concerning guns –yes, more help for the mentally disturbed – of course, but maybe we should be turning to Mary in this year of faith to help bring about the conversion that was seen in Mexico 500 years ago.
In this Year of Faith I have made a personal commitment to get to know our Blessed Mother better. I have always been one of those people who just didn’t “get” Mary. I never had an aversion to praying for Mary’s intersession like some of my Protestant friends, but I just didn’t quite understand why I needed an intercessor – why not go directly to the ‘Big Guy?”
To get to know Mary better, I have started with memorizing some of the Marian prayers that I have never gotten around to knowing by heart.
I have been working on memorizing the “Hail Holy Queen.”
In the wake of this tragedy  it was the first prayer I turned to. Maybe it is something about telling your heart ache to your mother and if anyone knows the heart ache of the loss of a child, it is our Blessed Mother. The words are especially haunting; calling us all the “poor banished children of Eve” and the description of  “mourning and weeping in this vale of tears” is what drew me to first look to Mary in this time of tragedy.
If you read this blog post, maybe you will join with me in asking Mary’s intersession.

 

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

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“Remember who brought you to the dance!”

September 18, 2012

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Remember who brought you to the dance!

We have all heard it; “I believe in God but I don’t go in for religion” or “I don’t need church to have a relationship with Jesus” or “Who needs the Church anyway?”

We as Catholics have to respond to these statements and occasionally it seems difficult to come up with the reasons why we need the institution of the Church. It seems especially difficult when we have been confronted with a militant church lady, political pastor, an unorganized youth minister or decisions made by the church that affect us like closing or merging of our parish or dealing with the politics of the marriage amendment. It is at times like these that we may ask ourselves why we need the bureaucracy at all. I, myself, work for the Archdiocese Central Corporation and it can sometimes feel more like an institution than a community of people united to serve God and others.

I recently spent an evening with a few friends discussing our varying opinions on the stance of the church on different issues. We have all felt some frustration on some level with the bureaucracy and politics of the “Church” from the local parish all the way to the Vatican.

Then, we received a phone call about a member of our parish who was hurt in an accident. There was nothing we could do but pray. So there, amongst our wine glasses and appetizers we prayed together as a community of people united to serve God and others. It would seem that this was “church” not the building on the hill, not the Cathedral in St. Paul, not even the Vatican.

We are a faith of and/also not either/or.

Then it occurred to me that Yes, the church is this group of friends spontaneously praying for one another and/also the institution of the Church. Without the institution of the Church, capital “C”, the church of us praying together wouldn’t have happened. What brought us together as friends is our faith, what taught us how to pray is the Catechism, CCD classes and our Catholic schools, what taught us the value of prayer at all and the idea that prayer even means anything is the institution of the Church – capitol “C”. Without the bureaucracy, doctrine and dogma i.e.; without the institution – we wouldn’t have had our faith handed down to us for over 2000 years.

So, if you ever feel like the church is just an institution and you are tempted to leave, tempted to stay at home on Sunday morning, tempted to say “I believe in God, but not formalized religion,” or if you ever want to just give up on the dogma, doctrine and doo doo that we sometimes see as the Church– just remember who brought you to the dance.

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Mom and the Mass

August 25, 2012

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My mom on her prom day.

I had a big meeting last Thursday night. About 100 Respect Life representatives from the parishes showed up.
Two women from my home town were present. One woman was a friend of my mothers. My mother passed away last year and this woman’s daughter was a friend of my sister who died of cancer at 18.
She came up to me after the meeting and told me how proud my mom and sister would be of me. She said that they were in heaven smiling.
Being that I was greeting everyone as they left after the meeting,  I hadn’t let it sink into my head what she had said to me.

I thought of it this morning at Mass, it made me cry.

The people we love who have died are especially close to us during the Eucharist.

St. Augustine (354 – 430) said:

Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church, which even now is the Kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ.

It isn’t unusual to feel closer to our loved ones during the Mass.  They are in fact with us.   Right there with us!  We are so lucky as Catholics to believe this.  Even if it is a teaching that is hard to put our heads around.

I will leave the explanation of this teaching to the theologians, but I will faithfully believe that when I take part in the body of Christ, that all those that I love, who love me… are with me as part of the celebration of the Mass.

Listen to the words during the Mass.  We enter into this heavenly banquet with ALL of the saints and angels.

I have to remember this as I attend Mass and remember to say hi to Mom!

Who do you say hi to at Mass?

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Here’s hoping the fires in Colorado Springs are put out soon!

June 29, 2012

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As I took my 3-mile walk last night, the sirens I heard as I neared Snelling Avenue brought my thoughts to Colorado Springs and the raging wildfires that have claimed one life and more than 300 homes.

My youngest brother Pat lives there with his wife Kara and four daughters, the youngest of whom is recovering from open heart surgery. As I turned around on Snelling to walk back home, I said a prayer for them. This morning, I followed up with a phone call to Pat, who assured me everything was OK for him, Kara and the girls.

That was nice to hear. I was able to respond with some good news of my own: I won two first-place awards at the annual Catholic Press Association convention, which took place last week in Indianapolis. The highlight is the awards banquet on Friday night. This is only the third time in 16 years I have made it to the convention, so it was nice to be able to make it this year.

Believe it or not, both of my firsts were in writing categories – best feature story and best sports story. The feature was about the Gross family and the loss of Michael and Anne’s teenage daughter, Teresa, to suicide. The other was a sports story about former NFL (and Vikings) quarterback Brooks Bollinger, who took over as head football coach at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood.

I know it may come as a surprise to some folks that I won two writing awards, but I actually have been a writer longer than I have been a photographer. I will continue doing both in my new role as senior content specialist in the archdiocese communications department, which officially begins next week. I enjoy my role of telling stories with words and pictures, and I’m very thankful that it will continue. May God continue to bless my work – and keep my brother and his family safe in Colorado Springs!

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Inclusion (Part 1 of 3)

June 4, 2012

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I want to be noticed!

The Catholic understanding of the Trinity is all about inclusion.  The Father loves the Son.  The Holy Spirit is that love and through that love we all belong. I am not very good about the math part of the Trinity.  The whole 1+1+1=1 thing is confusing to me but I do like to focus on the idea that I get to be included!  I read once that when we make the sign of the cross – we are placing ourselves into that Holy Trinity – we are asking to be included.   Inclusion is part of our faith and should be how we strive to live the way Christ has taught us.

Inclusion is a frequent topic in the area of disability outreach.   Deacon Sean Curtain, director of outreach for people with disabilities in the Archdiocese, recently  relayed to me three very important wants that he sees in all people, not just those with disabilities. All of these “wants” have to do with inclusion. One definition of inclusion is a sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued for who you are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others.  In homilies on inclusion he says, “We all walk around carrying three signs.

I want to be noticed,

I want to be heard,

I want to be loved.”

It is sad to see how often these very basic needs are not met in our day to day actions of our work, in our parishes and even in our families.

This is the first of  a three part blog where I hope to expand on this lesson of inclusion.

 

I want to be noticed! 

Our young people, and not so young people, have found creative ways of getting noticed.  Sometimes it is by hair and clothing style, other times it is through social media like facebook and twitter. The sad thing about the “virtual” experience of getting notice through social media is that it lacks a true human interaction.   From our earliest beginnings we strive for ways to be noticed.  Babies cry to get noticed and the terrible twos are a perfect example of some of those not so perfect ways of getting attention.  As we grow,  we learn to be noticed for our achievements of knowledge or ability.  Hopefully we come to realize that God’s love for us isn’t dependent on our achievements. God sees us. He sees us even when we are not at our best.  He loves us anyway!

It is through Christ’s example that we need to learn the importance of acknowledging and affirming others – of seeing them. I don’t believe I have ever read in any of the gospels that when someone turned to Christ – he ignored them. Imagine Jesus turning to someone and saying, ” I am just too busy right now, why don’t you take that up with Andrew.”

I love the story of Zacchaeus.  He even climbs a tree to get Jesus’ attention.

Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house. “And he came down quickly and received him with joy. (Luke 19: 2-6)

What I love even more than Zacchaeus’ persistence in getting noticed – is Christ’s reaction.  “He received him with joy!”

How many times have we found ourselves ignoring the child pulling on our pant leg, avoiding answering an e-mail or failing to “pick up” when someone calls.   Like Christ – when someone is persistent in getting our attention – it is because they have that same desire – I want to be noticed!

Some people can be annoying – I imagine that short, pushy, greedy Zacchaeus was no exception. We all know a pushy “church lady”or a needy relative. But Christ didn’t ignore Zacchaeus. Instead He received him with joy and because of Christ’s acknowledgment – of seeing Zacchaeus – his life was changed forever.

Christ also noticed those who didn’t stand out or work to get noticed.

Sometimes this very simple phrase gets missed as we read of the story of the man born blind.

As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. (John 9:1)

The man did nothing to get his attention, but Jesus noticed him.  He didn’t just pass by, he noticed that someone needed help.  Almost every day, I drive by someone situated near the freeway exit with a sign that says they are homeless.  My first reaction is to avert my eyes.  I don’t want to see them – it reminds me of the debt I owe.  The debt I owe to God and all His people for the wonderful gifts I have received.  If I don’t see people in need – I won’t feel that guilt.  Even short of seeing someone who is homeless – I avert my eyes or avoid others who may be needy.  At various times, friends and family (and myself) have gone through a crisis and need more attention.  Have I taken the time to see their need  or is helping them just not on my agenda?

Sometimes that debt we owe is more personal.  I remember a time when I let down a friend who needed my help, when I would see her it reminded me of my own failings and I found I would avoid her to avoid feeling my own inadequacies.  I am learning to be more straightforward now and deal directly when I fail others by asking for forgiveness. This repairs the discord in my relationships and I start “seeing” them once again.

Jesus even saw people most of us would like to avoid.  On hearing about Jesus – Nathaniel insulted him by saying “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” If I someone was that hostile to me, I think I would tend to avoid them, but instead Jesus complements Nathaniel.

“Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, there is no duplicity on him.”  John 1:47.

How much better would our interactions be if, when we are insulted by someone, we truly see them (see their pain and their need) and throw them a complement?  The result is that hearts would be softened toward us and turned toward Christ.

Ultimately, we know that our inclusion is with God, but it is our job to be Christ for each other.

Here is a challenge for this week:  Take the time to really see a friend, a coworker, child,  or elderly person.   Reflect on inclusion and if you are responding in a Christ -like manner.  Are your work, church, and family structures set up to be inclusive to all?

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