A Vincentian View: Recognizing the Lord

by | Apr 10, 2024 | Formation, Reflections | 0 comments

Each year during the Easter Season, I find myself fascinated by the idea that the friends of Jesus do not recognize him in the resurrected form.  We listen to the story of Mary Magdalene who mistakes him for the gardener, or the disciples on the way to Emmaus who treat him like a fellow traveler along the road, or Peter and the other apostles busy at fishing but who do not recognize him in a figure along the shore.  Only when Jesus does something characteristic of him are their eyes opened—like calling by name, or breaking bread, or prompting a miracle.  In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul alludes to other appearances of the Lord about which we know nothing.  We can also look to Acts 1:3.  I wonder how many of these encounters involved Jesus being hidden from the sight of the observer until he chose to make himself known.  What is the lesson in this practice?  Is it less about Jesus being changed and more about the disciples not looking for him or expecting him to continue among them?  After all the encounters over the course of more than a month, is it possible that the followers of Jesus were much more attentive to those around them, because one of them might be the Lord?  I wonder.  Could it be that the Lord still appears among us in unrecognized ways?

Matthew 25 has the powerful passage in which Jesus repeatedly tells us that whatever is done for the least of our brothers and sister (or not done for them) is done for him (or not done for him).  The Lord is present in the community.

Vincent had a powerful sense of affirming Christ among us.  We recall his image of the two headed medal:

“I must not judge a poor peasant man or woman by their appearance or their apparent intelligence, especially since very often they scarcely have the expression or the mind of rational persons, so crude and vulgar they are.  But turn the medal, and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, who willed to be poor, is represented to us by these poor people.” (CCD XI, p. 26)

Or the way that he prompts the Sisters in their service:

In serving persons who are poor, we serve Jesus Christ. How true, Sisters! You are serving Jesus Christ in the person of the poor. And that is as true as that we are here. A Sister will go ten times a day to visit the sick, and ten times a day she’ll find God there. As Saint Augustine says, what we see with our eyes is not so certain because our senses sometimes deceive us, but the truths of God never deceive. Go to visit a chain gang, you’ll find God there. Look after those little children, you’ll find God there. How delightful, Sisters! You go into poor homes, but you find God there. Again, Sisters, how delightful! He accepts the services you do for those sick persons and, as you have said, considers them as done to himself. (CCD IX, p. 199)

The encouragement repeatedly insists that Christ is found among those whom we serve.  Understood not merely as simple stories, these teachings open our Vincentian eyes to the Christ who appears in our world.

The challenge becomes how readily and easily do I recognize Jesus in those who dwell with me, and around me, and beside me.  Where can I see and serve our risen Lord?


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