Two Perceptions of Jesus: Both True

Third Sunday of Easter-A

In 1953, the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein used a simple image of the iconic duck-rabbit drawing to illustrate what philosophers called aspect perception. Aspect perception studies how a human being’s perception influences their understanding of the world. Especially important for those philosophers is how aspect perception plays a vital role in religious belief.

For those who have faith, it is easy for them to look at the world around them and see the creative hand of God in nature and their fellow human beings, even though they do not physically see the invisible God they adore. Similarly, an atheist does not see God either and can only visualize the duck or rabbit, but not both.

The same dynamic of tunnel vision occurred on the first day of the week when some of Jesus’ disciples walked from Jerusalem to the small village of Emmaus, conversing about all that had happened in the past few days. Jesus drew near them, but they were unable to recognize him. Jesus asked them what they were discussing, and the one called Cleopas replied,Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” The disciples continued to recount what they heard about the women who told them angels told them the one they were searching for in the tomb was not there. They also went to where Jesus was buried and did not find him there either. Jesus then told them how foolish they were.   

Jesus then began to relate the history of the scripture from Moses, describing all that was prophesized in the past, which referred to him and how Jesus would suffer, die, and be raised from the dead. The disciples, who were still unable to recognize the risen Lord, asked him to stay with them for a while. While they were at supper, Jesus took the bread and said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to them. Immediately the disciple’s eyes were opened, and they saw the risen Lord. Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

When they finally saw the resurrected Lord in the breaking of the bread, the disciples realized their initial perception of Jesus on the road was incomplete. When the disciples experienced Jesus’ death, they immediately forgot what he had shown them about God’s love for his people. Long forgotten was the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves meant to supply a remedy for the human need to be fed both physically and spiritually. Little did the disciples realize at the time that the solution to human want was not just a physical cessation of hunger but answered the more critical need for spiritual nourishment.   

When Jesus said the blessing and broke the bread again, their eyes were opened, realizing the one who made an impression on them before his death was again with them in the present. Being able to see not only the duck but the rabbit as well, the disciples searched out the eleven and proclaimed to them, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”    

When we receive the Eucharist, are our eyes opened to see the small unleavened wafer as the body of Christ?  Or has our shortsightedness led us to conclude that the Eucharist is nothing more than a symbol of Christ’s promises? There are still many people who cannot see the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and willingly remain in darkness even though they may be weekly churchgoers. Somewhere in their spiritual formation, they cannot bridge the gap between God’s outpouring of love shown through the Paschal mystery and God’s endless love given to each generation through the gift of the Eucharist. For those who can, their eyes are opened to perceiving Jesus as the resurrected Savior who lives in heaven and Jesus who offers himself when we receive his body in Communion. Two real and genuine perceptions of Jesus, the Son of God who died and rose from the dead and offers his resurrected body through the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Only when we see both can our hearts burn within us.

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