By Jessica Martin
We live by faith, and not only by sight.
That’s how we live in the whole of life. It’s not confined to our faith in God, and it’s not about some heroic effort of believing in six impossible things before breakfast. It’s as natural as believing in the sustaining presence of a parent who is absent from your eye. It’s as fundamental as knowing the stairs are still there when the light is off and it’s dark outside.
As we get older, the things which give us meaning and structure in our lives are more and more of them invisible. We are held in love by memories of things and people gone from us, by buildings long demolished, by internalized learning both factual and emotional, by webs of relationship with people and communities we can no longer see or touch.
During this pandemic we rely heavily on those invisible webs which shine with meaning, holding us in place and feeding us when all the visible signs of our lives’ connected structures – the meetings, the shared meals, the workplaces and cafes and groups – have disappeared. Everything we have, every relationship, every memory, every decision, is soaked with faith.
When Jesus was born, a lifeline was thrown between God’s invisible being and our world of sight and touch. And when he ‘withdrew’ from his companions and ‘was carried up into heaven’, the lifeline was still there. He had not stopped blessing them when he was taken into the heart of God’s being: the strong narrow web of silk between his love and our need still quivers in the air. ’Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?’ asked the messengers of God. The road is still open. Faith fills your heart even when sight fails you. Do not doubt but believe.
The angels’ words to Jesus’s companions are words for us now. We, even more than Jesus’s disciples, live in a world where touch and sight are marketed as the only means to belief, even though we also live in a world where what we see is often a skillful illusion, and – for the foreseeable future – where we are forbidden the reassurances of touch. But there is much, much more to truth and love than touch and sight, powerful though they are. We are beings who live upon memory and hope, and without those powerful messengers of joy we cannot thrive.
So don’t be afraid to hold tight to your lifelines, to memory and to hope. Though Jesus is withdrawn from our sight, his blessing is for ever continuing, extending into the world of time and space across centuries and miles, coming down upon us like the showers that water the earth.
’This Jesus… will come in the same way as you saw him go’ said the angels: memory and hope offer the same promise, of meeting and touching, of knowing and being known, of love and joy and hope and peace.
All that you have loved, all that makes you the person you are, all the hopes that you foster or have ever fostered, come together in the God who joins past and future to make even a barren and lonely present beautiful. Do not doubt but believe: Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and for ever.
Jessica Martin is a teacher at All Saints Episcopal School, Tyler, Texas.