Looking at Us Through Rose Colored Glasses

Doug McManaman
3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C
Reproduced with Permission

It is always interesting to consider just how much the emotions can affect our judgment. They can distort judgment - which is most often the case - , and they can also sharpen our judgment - i.e., in emergency situations. Think about someone who has fallen in love; she sees the beloved everywhere - everything reminds her of her beloved. You could say that falling in love brings about a kind of mini psychosis: the person is no longer completely in touch with reality. The expressions we use to describe someone who is in love testify to this: "she's on cloud nine", which implies she's no longer aware of her surroundings; or, "she sees him through rose colored glasses".

There's something to this experience, however. I believe it has a theological meaning, minus all the imperfections associated with it. Allow me to explain. God the Son joined a human nature; he is like us in all things but sin; he came to establish his kingdom, and he did so by dying; his death is the perfect offering of Himself to the Father, on our behalf. The shedding of his blood is a ransom, a pay off; he offers his life to pay a debt that is too great for us to pay. He is God, and so what he offers is perfect and of infinite value; and he is man. As man, he can act on our behalf. The Father sees him, sees his offering, and is pleased with his offering because behind it is a perfect love, the love of God the Son. And finally, He accepts that offering, and the resurrection is the acceptance of that offering, the final proof that the debt of sin has been paid for.

We are now in God's favor, precisely because of that offering. When God the Father sees you and me, He sees His Son, because He loves His Son; there is nothing the Father loves more than His Son, and when His Son became flesh, He did not cease to be God the Son. He is God the Son in the flesh. He is one of us, our brother, a member of Adam, and because of that, the Father now sees His Son when he sees us. There's a sense in which God the Father looks at us through rose colored glasses.

We are now in His favor, and to be in a state of grace is to be in God's favor. We don't have to remain in His favor, we can choose to walk out of that favor; but the point is, when God sees us, He sees a likeness of His Son, and he delights in us as a result of that. It's like you loving your grandchildren, because you see your own son in the faces of your grandchildren.

More to the point, however, when God the Father sees us suffer, He sees his Son in the depths of our suffering. When we experience our radical frailty, our limitations, when the world feels too overwhelming and we taste our helplessness, He sees His Son in us because it was through that kind of an experience that the Son saved us, redeemed us, paid our debt of sin.

In fact, anyone who experiences the alienation and emptiness that results from choosing sin, that's when the Father's mercy is most intense. The darkest moment in Christ's life was the very moment that He saved us, the very moment his work was done, when he cried out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" When God the Father sees anyone in the throes of that emptiness and God forsakenness because of the sinful lifestyle he has chosen for himself, God looks upon this man or woman with rose colored glasses, for He sees His Son in the throes of that emptiness, offering himself for this person.

This life is all about knowing that love, learning to allow ourselves to be loved like that, to taste that love, to receive it into ourselves. It's all about knowing the divine mercy, the pillar of fire which is the cross burning with love for us. The cross is that "pillar of fire" that banished the darkness of sin, and the Easter candle is the symbol of that pillar; the fire that burns is Christ's love for us, and He loves us because He loves the Father perfectly and infinitely, and so he loves whatever belongs to the Father, especially the individual human person, who is in the image of God.

We are caught in the middle of that love between the Father and the Son, and when we open ourselves to that love, our life is never the same. It is not the same because fear is gone, and when we are touched by that love, we want nothing else than to communicate it. To communicate that love is like communicating a flame. If you recall the Easter Vigil, when we lit our candles from the Easter candle, that one little flame is shared without diminishing. Within a minute, hundreds of little flames are burning throughout the Church, and this one little flame from the Easter candle is not diminished even slightly.

Clearly, this is not a zero sum process. The point is joy is like that. When you and I have come to experience that love, that mercy, we are not the same anymore. Our lives are no longer governed by fear and disordered desire for more; they are no longer governed by the anxiety that seeks to preserve what we have. That's because our life is no longer about pleasure, but joy. Please is a zero sum process: if there is a chocolate cake on the table for us to share, the more I get, the less you get. The more pleasure I have for myself, the less there is left for you. But joy is not like that, because joy is immaterial. As I share that joy by communicating that love, by being on fire with that divine love and allowing that fire to ignite the lives of others around me, that joy is not diminished, in fact, it becomes greater.

The most important thing is to taste that love. When that happens, our anxiety begins to decrease, and then we can commit, then we can let go of sinful patterns of behaviour, the need to control, the need to be the center of attention, the need to be acknowledged and thanked, the need to be loved and appreciated, the need to have a hand in everything, the need to be consulted, the need to correct others, the need for pleasure and ease, the need to have things work out exactly the way we want them to work out, the need to limit and control the outcomes of things, etc.

In marriage, this will mean a greater openness to life. If young couples know this joy, then children make sense. But children do not make sense in a world in which pleasure is confused with joy. If you followed the media coverage of the conclave recently, you saw how preoccupied the media were with certain issues, hoping for a Pope that will come out and declare that abortion, or contraception, or same sex marriage is now permitted. There is an inordinate preoccupation with issues surrounding sexuality because the world does not know the joy of God's mercy, and the only thing it knows is pleasure, and pleasure is a zero sum process: "the more people are invited to share this delicious meal, the less I am going to get, and that means the less pleasure there is for me, so don't invite too many people to the table". If all we live for is pleasure, if all we know is pleasure, then things like abortion, contraception, and sexual license make perfect sense, and a morality that questions these makes no sense at all. And that's why the Church makes no sense for the western media.

Our culture is a culture of fear, and that's why it is a culture of death; and a culture of death is one of darkness. But we have to live in this culture as a people of hope, as a joyful people, as a burning flame that gives light. We have to have that light, we have to know that love, and so we have to think about it a lot, pray a lot, think about Christ, meditate on his passion, allow him to speak to us in Scripture, thus allowing him into our lives so that we can see him in our lives, arranging everything so that it works out, allowing him to show us just how happy he wants to make each one of us, individually. Amen.