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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories Jesus Risen: A New Vision – He is risen, He is with us

Stained glass windows are common in churches. They can be moving images. Sometimes they even serve as instruments of teaching. Frequently they present images drawn from the Scriptures, stories of God’s relationship with God’s People. Most often these images are drawn from past eras. They speak in a language of another time.

Not far from Canada’s Wonderland northwest of Toronto is the church of St. David. It is a relatively new building. Like many of our churches it has some stained glass. One of these is quite striking. Its center point is as one would expect the good news of God’s presence among us. What is unusual is how this is expressed. The images used to show the message are contemporary. The Sky Dome, the CN Tower, a baseball player, a hockey player, a soccer player, scenes of Toronto life are used to express the message of Jesus. There is a recognition, that Jesus is among us, now, in the midst of our own world, culture and traditions.

This is not a new step. Artists for centuries have presented Jesus and his disciples in the settings and the garb of their own times and cultures. Often, they have shown them walking and living in the streets and buildings of their own towns and cities. It is a recognition that our faith in Jesus the Christ is for all peoples, in all places and in every era. The life-giving love of God is not limited to one culture or one language or to a single image or format of prayer. It is for all.

In John’s Gospel (10:1-10), the gospel writer presents Jesus in two images, the shepherd, and the gate to the sheepfold. Both images portray a sense of openness and nurturing. Using these images, Jesus tells his disciples: “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.

What immediately precedes this part of John’s Gospel is the account Jesus’s healing of the man who had been blind from birth. (9:1-41). In this long story, the blind man receives his sight. As he gained his physical sight, his eyes were opened in another way. Through the eyes of faith, he came to recognize the prophetic role of Jesus.

When Luke, in his Gospel tells of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he relates how Jesus blessed and broke the bread and then gave it to them – “then their eyes were opened” (Luke 24:13-35). The story described a conversion experience for the two disciples. They recognized the risen one who until that time had only been a stranger they had met on the road. For the blind man as well as for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, this was a conversion experience, with an awareness of who Jesus is and of his significance. Conversion is an opening of eyes, seeing in a new and wonderous way.

Such a conversion, such a new vision is both a consolation and a challenge. The blind man and the disciples were crossing to a new life, letting go of what had been for what is now. They were beginning to recognize Jesus as more than their teacher and rabbi. The risen Jesus was not leaving but would continue to be with them in a new way. This was a consolation in their grief and loss. It was also a challenge. The risen Jesus was more than a memory, more than a figure of their past. He remained among them and they were to continue to change and reveal him in their own lives.

Our Challenge is more than recalling Jesus and what he did. It is to have the commitment and courage to live the presence of Jesus in our own time and place – not as a figure of our past, but a spirit and presence here and now. “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” What a hope!

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