Occasionally while holding our grandson in my lap as he begins to drift off to sleep, he will look up into my face with all the inquisitiveness of any four-year-old. Slowly and gently, he will reach upward to touch my nose, lips, and eyebrows and with his tiny fingers begin to explore what to him must seem like a vast terrain of the unknown. My eyes follow his, and then unexpectedly I begin to experience the kind of bonding that develops when one gazes intently into the face of another. This small gesture of a child touched my soul in a way I didn’t anticipate, much different than, for instance, shaking someone’s hand, even of family and friends.
A book came out some 30 years ago called “Megatrends,” which predicted a major shift in the world, in one instance characteristically described as “high tech…low touch.” The more technologically advanced we are, the less is our interpersonal connectedness. We see evidence of this today in our relationships with one another, especially in the fracturing of the traditional family and the steady decline of meaningful interaction within households. This brings to mind how important it was for Jesus to gather his disciples around a table and be able to look into the faces of those whom he loved dearly. The next time we gather with family and friends around the table, take a moment to gaze into the faces of those around us. There is something magical and perhaps even mystical about what happens to us when we are intently focused on the face of another, especially when we remember it is one shaped in God’s own image.
A similar occurrence dramatically unfolded that first Easter morning as Mary Magdalene, with tears in her eyes, stood outside Jesus’ empty tomb wondering where they had taken his body. Here’s what John’s Gospel says happened next after meeting someone she thought was the gardener. “’Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him’. Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’…..” (20:15b-16). Two sets of eyes face to face, Mary and her Risen Lord.
Something absolutely magnificent happened that morning, something Mary could never have imagined. But thank God, He is not bound by the human sense of the credible, the believable and the imaginable. Whatever God does, it always exceeds the boundaries of our imagination, always beyond the limits of our understandings.
What thoughts might come to our minds if we had been there Easter morning and come face to face with Jesus? Love is victorious. Love is stronger than hate. Life is more lasting than death. There’s an important shift when Mary is no longer an observer of, but becomes a participant in, the greatest three-day, life-to-death drama the world has ever known. Catholic theologian Hans Kung reminds us, “Nothing compels us to believe.” It’s just that “there is much that invites us…..Jesus’ behavior, Jesus’ fate, Jesus’ life…” all do invite us and urge us and welcome us—but do not force us or compel us to believe.
What happens on Easter morning is precisely what all of us want to happen. Easter is God’s way of saying something which desperately needs to be said about the world we live in. Perhaps it is God’s response to what has become all too real for us in this “high tech…low touch” world of ours. The Good News, of course, is that, like Mary Magdalene, Christ comes to meet us face to face. There is no one who at some time or other has not needed to be raised from the dead. There is no one who at some time or other has not been raised from the dead. We do it to each other. We do it with one another. We do it for one another. My grandson did it to me.
As the Christ in us and the Christ in others meet face to face, thank God for Easter, for just as we know we are known, understood, and cared for by each other, such is most assuredly the case with the One who meets us face to face.
Craig M. Kallio has been the Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Oak Ridge since 2000. He studied Christian apologetics at Oriel College, Oxford University, and holds a doctorate in biblical studies and congregational development from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill. He is married to Pamela, and they have four grown children and four grandchildren. You may find more information at www.ststephensor.org.