On a glorious April afternoon, she rounded the corner of the garage with a bounce in her step. Though she didn’t speak, she practically shook with joy as she held out the single flower from the rhododendron bush for all to admire. Her smile, wide and appreciative, exhibited her excitement over this smallest of gifts. At eighty-five years of age, mom’s heart overflowed with child-like emotion from years of dementia. In this “diminished” state, she often saw what others took for granted. Not only flowers, but cloud formations, birds, and babies. She could often “see” the important realities of life.
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah as he chastises those who “look but never see.” He then speaks to his disciples, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, …” As Christians, we are to have eyes that “see,” for God has revealed to us “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” We are to “see” the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, who died for the salvation of every single person. We are to “see” and serve Jesus in others, especially the least and the last, the sick and the suffering, the lonely and forsaken, the old man and the newborn baby. We are to recognize and “see” him in the world’s beauty and silence of our hearts.
In her dementia, our otherwise stylish mother preferred her permanently stained sky-blue sweatshirt and balked at showers and hair-washing. To maintain her dignity, we scheduled weekly trips to the hairdresser. One day, as we waited in the salon, an elderly man opened the door and pushed in a wheelchair with a woman suffering from an affliction. Most looked and turned away, but mom jumped up, shot straight to the woman, bent down, and hugged her. As mom held her, both wept though neither could speak. In that moment, mom could “see” into the heart of this woman. As we averted our eyes and avoided contact, mom’s tears spoke of love, acceptance, and solidarity.
Though we may fear eye-opening experiences (like dementia), God desires to open our eyes to “see” into the heart of others. As Christians, we must look past the veneer to “see” the person — no matter how battered or scarred. We should ask: Do I look past the color of skin to “see” the man? Do I look past the disability to “see” the girl? Do I look past the rough teen to “see” the sad child? Do I look past the dementia to “see” the child of God? Do I look past the tattered coat to “see” the face of God?
As parents/grandparents, we name grace — God’s presence — by recognizing and speaking of the equality of each human person, as created in the image and likeness of God. We cultivate rich soil in our children by breaking open the Word of God, helping them to discover the mysteries of the kingdom. We name grace by living our discipleship and taking time to “see” and serve others.
Two hours after my mother thrilled at the fragile purple petals, she suffered a massive stroke which took her to glory. Mom always loved life, yet in her infirmity she began to “see” a little differently. Jesus calls us to “see” differently — to “see” from His heart into the heart of each person. Jesus invites us to the Eucharist, where he continually opens our eyes to the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Now, that’s good news!
How will we help our children to “see” into the heart of others?
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To read more reflections or to connect with Mary Pedersen: www.marypedersen.com.