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Let’s start with a trivia question.  The category is movies.  What recent movie made famous the simple phrase “I See You?”  If you guessed Avatar you were right.  The movie set off lots of debate in the theological blogs with its religious imagery, but this famous quote about how the Na’vi people sometimes greeted each other stuck a deep cord with many.  When they said “I See You” they meant they see beyond the physical to someone’s essence, to their spirit.

Last week God said to Jesus, “I See You” when Jesus heard those wonderful words “You are my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Tonight we have another example which may be even more remarkable.  Another human being, wrapped in his own history, bias, culture and personality looks at another human being and says –  I See You, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Many people knew Jesus as he entered the 30th year of his thus far uneventful life, but John the Baptist really saw Jesus.  It is this ability to see another and be seen that we explore tonight.

“Behold the Child of God”

Recognition is a powerful spiritual tool, often symbolized in Scripture by a change in name.  God “saw” Abram’s faith and named him Abraham.  Jesus saw a sure foundation in a weak and wobbly Cephas and called him Peter.  Saul meets Jesus on the road and becomes Paul.  The early church community sees in Joseph a man who can mediate between Jew and Gentile and they rename him “Barnabas, Son of Encouragement.”

I hope every one of you have had a John the Baptist in your life, someone who has said “I see you, as you really are.” I suspect grandparents are particularly good at seeing.  Thomas Merton is famous for explaining that as we grow up we learn to create and put on masks to survive.  It is the John the Baptists in our lives who see beneath the mask and say “Behold, the Child of God!”  I am sure everyone here at one time or another felt inspired to tell a child, a struggling young adult, a friend or even an acquaintance that “I See You.” You changed a life when you did.

The church at its best as had a ministry of renaming whole groups of people who were sent to the margins by the culture.  Throughout various times and places women were treated as property or worse, but within some Christian communities they were equal sisters.  There were times and places where slavery was the norm, but within the safety of the community slaves were renamed brothers and sisters.  At time the church was not in a position to change the culture, but they could create their own inclusive world.  There continue to be times and places where people are treated by the culture as unclean but in the community they were “seen” as children of God.

A Ministry of Recognition

I believe this particular community of faith has a gift of saying “I See You.” It comes from our commitment of inclusivity to those marginalized by the tradition.  This came home to me early in our history when Renee and Judy celebrated 25 years together.  They asked the community to do something for them they have never received from a faith community before – to really See Them as a couple through a blessing at the end of mass.  Their beloved faith tradition of their youth would not see them, their State would not recognize them.  That evening Jessica led us in prayer as Renee and Judy together in front of this faith community that raised its collective hand in blessing over their relationship, their union.  No more hiding, no more pretending.  We were saying “We See You Renee and Judy” as we prayed and many of us cried.

Many more examples could be mentioned, but the message tonight is to make this a daily gift.  People here tonight may have lost a job or had a bad doctor’s visit and we get to say to them “We See You.” Others may be so into their roles as worker, parent, employee etc., that they think they are their roles.  To them we say “We See You.” As we render acts of service individually and as a community let’s make sure we are “seeing” the people we serve.  While John the Baptist saw a dove from heaven come down on Jesus we see that “diamond of light” given to each of us that came from God and is returning to God.

The theme song of Avatar has a profound line in the chorus that is repeated over and over – “I see me through your eyes.” When we really see another we call into being what we see! Every time we gather we call into being a more inclusive world.  Every time we really see another we help call into being that person’s true self.  I expect being seen by his Father and by John the Baptist helped Jesus see himself.

May this Eucharist help us “Be Seen” and help us say “I See You” to someone this week.

Amen

George von Stamwitz

Sts. Clare & Francis Ecumenical Catholic Community
Liturgy for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Saturday Evening, January 18, 2014
Focus text – John 1:29-34 (John the Baptist with Jesus)

Photo from rozsantos.blogspot.com

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