Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Amelia and a Second Look

A friend of mine was here at Mass on Easter Sunday morning. Her name is Amelia. She is a photographer and her photos, many of which are of the monastery, are beautiful. We chatted for a while and she told me that for most of her life, she looked at things but never really saw them. It was not until she got her first camera that she began to see everything and everyone about her in a different way. “Not that they had changed – the beauty was always there,” she said. “I had just never seen it before. Now everything is different – the human face, a chair, a door, a road.”

Life does not arrive with a commonly shared meaning. Interpretations range from the bland to the mystical. Human responses provoke misery or usher in joy. We do share a common road that is life, but how differently many of us walk it.

As Christians, we profess a common faith and so walk a common road. But at a close inspection at what is at our feet, we stumble as well in trying to walk through life with each other in peace. Christianity is no stranger to inner divisions that have pitted believers against each other to this very day.

Everything we know invites a second look.

In the recent issue of Time Magazine there is a photograph of the Dalai Lama, prostrate on the floor of his study. The caption to the photograph states that it was taken during his morning prayer to the Buddha – a prayer he makes every morning. So it is that someone from the East lays down, seeking God. Perhaps Buddhism, with a second look, is not as godless as some would make it to be.

Recently a Saudi Arabian sheik declared that he would do his best to establish ecumenical dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews in his country, for, as he stated, the times are in desperate need for people of different faiths to live peaceably. Tensions, bloodshed and violence, all carried out in the name of religion, are causing him and others to take a second look at the meaning of God and the human person.

We live in times when the road beneath us is widening – there is more room for those of different approaches to God, to history, to what it means to be human. We must learn to walk with them.

Amelia told me that life has more beauty than she ever imagined and she uses a lens to capture it. And she captures it well. Her life is one taken aback by a second look.

Jesus tells two men about the meaning of Scripture while walking on a road. They do not recognize him until the breaking of bread, and then he vanishes from their midst and, as we believe, their hearts are filled with joy because they will always have the bread, bread to share, bread to keep his presence.

Our times prompt among many of good will a second look at long held religious traditions. With the lens of faith, we are asked to look anew at the road of life and to trust the Lord who lives in bread, in human friendship, in human hope. We look to our right and are learning to welcome and learn from the Buddhists. We look to our left, and a Moslem approaches us in peace. Each prompts more than a second look at the sources we have to understand and welcome them. But they are looking too, their hearts burning, knowing that the possibility of divinely given peace is just ahead, perhaps out of visible sight, but as real as the Lord who is encouraging them to walk nearer to us that we all may find him, with a second look.

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