Saturday, September 26, 2015


I’m always intrigued when I come across one of those photographs taken with ultraviolet light or some special filter, revealing things that you can’t see in regular light. Infrared filters, for example, can show places where heat is escaping from a house in winter. The lens that is used is always a critical part of the procedure.

The metaphor of the lens can help us understand what's going on in today’s gospel. Jesus has just performed the powerful deed of expelling a demon. A divine power struggle is crackling in the air as he does battle with the forces of evil in the world. But then, in a surprise change of topic, Jesus turns to his apostles and says this:
“Pay attention to what I am telling you.
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”
But they did not understand this saying;
its meaning was hidden from them
so that they should not understand it,
and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
(Lk 9:43-45)

Matthew, Mark and Luke each have Jesus repeat such predictions (usually more detailed than this one) a few times throughout their gospels. So, then, why were the followers of Jesus so surprised when he was arrested and put on trial? Some readers might argue that these predictions of the passion never really happened, but were invented by the gospel writers to show that Jesus was aware all along of his fate; he was not blind-sided by Judas’ treachery, but walked to his crucifixion with his eyes wide open.


Infrared lens
Luke has a different take on this problem. In the passage cited above, he notes: “But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them.” They would come to understand the meaning of the predictions only after the resurrection.

Being Jews, they all were looking at Jesus through the same familiar lens, namely that of the promised Messiah, the new King David, a military leader who would come in power to overthrow and expel the Roman occupation forces.

If this was their lens, then we we can hardly blame them for being caught off guard by Jesus’ prophecy that he was going to “handed over to men” and killed.

God had hidden the meaning of the Christ event from them until after Easter. Then suddenly in the experience of the Paschal mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection God would reveal the truth of the mystery to them. He would provide them with a new way to understand the truth about Christ, a new and unexpected “lens” through which to see Jesus.

Then things finally began to fit together for them, and they could go forth and preach the paradoxical mystery this crucified Messiah who is also the victorious risen Christ by his resurrection in which he conquered sin and satan and death itself.


We, too, can put this paschal lens to good use in our lives. In the midst of the mystery of human suffering or evil we have to remember to use the gift of the Easter perspective and look at our sufferings through the lens of the Resurrection.  This won’t take away the evil, nor will it reveal completely God’s hidden plan for us. But the very act of picking up that lens and gazing through it can give us hope: we know that there’s something more going on here beyond what looks like meaningless suffering. We try to see our lives in the dimension of Jesus’ own cross, and with the confidence that our lives are part of the greater story whose beautiful plot we cannot fully grasp.

Unfortunately, the Easter lens will only work perfectly after our own resurrection from the dead. Meanwhile we walk by faith, encouraged by the glimpses of glory that we catch through the Easter lens.

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