Making God Visible
Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 16, 2021
Today I want to focus on our second reading, where we read: “No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.”
No one has ever seen God…and yet we have been given a task by God. St. Paul puts it this way: we are “ambassadors for Christ, God as it were appealing through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). God making an appeal through us; God becoming known because of us. How does this work?
Let me share a couple of stories that I think will help. First: Several years ago a group of salesmen were having a regional sales convention in Chicago. They assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday’s supper.
One thing led to another, and the meeting ran overtime, so the men had to race to the airport, tickets in hand. As they barged through the terminal, one man inadvertently kicked over a table supporting a basket of apples. Without stopping they all reached the plane in time and boarded with a sigh of relief. All but one. He paused and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned. He waved goodbye to his companions and returned to the terminal. He was glad he did. The ten-year-old girl was blind.
The salesman gathered up the apples and noticed that several of them were battered and bruised. He reached into his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this ten dollars for the damage we did. I hope it didn’t spoil your day.” As the salesman started to walk away the bewildered girl called out to him, “Are you Jesus?”
The man didn’t know what to say. I suppose he could have said, “No, but I’m one of his ambassadors, one of his representatives.”
Second story: During a presidential campaign, a reporter was assigned to cover William McKinley. His newspaper was violently opposed to McKinley, and he was supposed to travel on the train with McKinley and send back negative stories at every opportunity.
At first he did—and McKinley knew it. But one bitterly cold afternoon the reporter fell asleep, huddled on the green plush end of the unheated railroad car. McKinley came by, stopped and spread his own overcoat over the man.
When the reporter awoke and found out what had occurred, he resigned from the paper. He could no longer malign a man big enough to answer his criticisms with kindness.
McKinley, perhaps without knowing it, was an ambassador of Christ, at least in this instance.
St. John says that “no one has ever seen God,” and then at the end of the reading states, “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. The blind girl, probably used to the rough and tumble of a major airport asked a man who was kind, “Are you Jesus?” The man who went back to help her was rooted in love and compassion. William McKinley was used to the rough and tumble of politics, yet he did not allow politics to rob him of his soul. He saw a cold man lying in the cold—not a critic or an enemy, but a fellow human being.
God is love, and yet no one has ever seen God. And I suppose something similar could be said about love: I have never seen love walking down the street. But I have seen people in love. I have encountered people choosing to do the loving thing. I have witnessed enumerable loving actions—many quite ordinary, but some, demanding and even heroic. It is love put into practice, especially when it would be easier to hate, that makes us ambassadors for Christ, representatives of God. By abiding in love, living in love even in the difficult circumstances of our lives, that love becomes visible, and God who is love becomes real for others.
It’s as simple as that, and as challenging and demanding as that. Pope Francis often makes reference to the story of the Good Samaritan. When others were too busy or too indifferent or too uncaring, the Samaritan bent down to help the man, beaten and bleeding, beside the road. So much of our world today is beaten and bleeding. Pandemic. Unemployment. Racism. Toxic politics. Jesus desperately needs ambassadors of love. Where will he find them, do you suppose?
No one has ever seen God. Yet we can make God visible each and every time we choose love over hate, compassion over indifference, forgiveness over revenge. It’s all in what we choose to do.