Saturday, April 26, 2014


I read an article a while back about "luck" and "chance" in which the writer listed various efforts that
scientists have been making to analyse and explain the phenomena around the topic of "chance." One interesting explanation that I recall was a psychologist's explanation of why some people are lucky and others aren't. The answer is a phenomenon that is well-known enough to have a name (which I don't remember). It works like this: Two single men each wish that the right girl would come along so that they could marry and settle down. The first guy is a pessimist and says to himself, "I know that I'm never gonna meet the right girl. I never have any luck. I'm just doomed to be a bachelor!" The second guy, on the contrary, says to himself, "I know that my princess is out there somewhere and that she's going to come along some day; and when she does I'll know it and I'll be swept off my feet and we'll get married and live happily ever after."

Guy number one walks through life not expecting to find the right girl, and so he never does, and remains a bachelor. The second guy, though, is "lucky," because one enchanted evening he spots her across a crowded room and knows immediately that this is the One he's been looking for. The explanation of his seeming "luck" lies in is his predisposition: he's actually looking for her, expecting to find her; the poor first guy is not expecting to meet anyone and so he misses countless opportunities and his prophecy fulfills itself. He's "unlucky," while the second guy is "lucky" and gets the girl.

MISSING JESUS - New Testament

The New Testament accounts of encounters with the risen Jesus reflect the early Church's difficulty in trying to describe what the risen Jesus was like. What did he look like?

Mary Magdalene, his closest friend, looked him in they eye on Easter morning and thought he was the gardener: "Excuse me, sir, but do you know what they've done with Jesus' corpse?"

Peter and some others are out fishing after the resurrection when this guy on shore hails them and tells them to cast their nets to the right of the boat. So they do. Suddenly the disciple whom Jesus loves says, "Hey! Wait! That's the Lord!" It had taken a while to register.

Two disciples on the road to Emmaus on Easter morning spend a couple of hours walking and talking with the risen Lord and are clueless until at the end of the day their eyes are opened and they recognize him when he breaks the bread and then disappears. Only then do they look back and say, "Were not our hearts burning within us as he opened the scriptures to us?" There must have been lots of clues that they simply missed. How could these people NOT have recognized Jesus?

Well, the answer, it seems to me, lies in that psychologist's theory about predispositions. It wasn't so much that Jesus was unrecognizable, it was that the disciples weren't looking for Him.

Magadelene was looking for a corpse to anoint.
The apostles were looking for fish.
The two disciples on the road had given up on Jesus, since they certainly weren't expecting a crucified Messiah. They listened to him for a couple of hours and, Luke tells us, "their eyes were prevented from recognizing him." What was "preventing" them was their mindset: they weren't looking for a crucified and risen Lord.

 MISSING JESUS - Present Day

How many times a day do you and I fail to recognize the risen Lord when we encounter him?

I suspect we miss him lots of times for the same reason that the disciples on the Emmaus road missed him, for the same reason that the poor guy in the opening paragraph never met the right girl: We're not expecting Him!

I'm not looking for Christ who comes to me as a disrespectful adolescent.
I'm not expecting Jesus to show up as an irritated parent with a nasty attitude.
I'm not prepared to see Jesus when he comes as a brother who's having a bad day and decides to take it out on me.

But in each of these people Christ is saying to me: "Look! It's really me! See the wounds in my hands and my feet, the lance wound in my side, the hurts and humiliations that life has dealt me!"

If I celebrate this Easter season well, if I pay attention to all these readings about the risen but unrecognized Jesus, if I pray for an abundance of Easter graces, then maybe I'll be more likely to recognize the Risen One when he comes into my life -- in ways that I least expect Him -- still bearing the wounds of his suffering.
"Then he showed them the nail wounds in his hands and his feet."


1 comment:

  1. Brother Thomas Aquinas Hall, O.S.B.May 2, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    That phenomenon you mentioned at the beginning is most likely called the self-fulfilling prophecy. That is what I was thinking it was when I read that. It also makes sense for everything else.