The divine takes skin in us human beings


23 Apr 2019

God takes skin in us human beings and the ordinary encounters of our days are filled with the divine, so the Ignatian retreat leader and author Andy Otto writes in his book God Moments. During this Easter season of rejoicing, there are signs of God’s presence breaking into the world all around us.

We may notice the people eating fish and chips on one of Australia’s glorious beaches and be reminded of Jesus eating similarly with his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. In the conversations of family and friends with one another there is a certain warmth being kindled, just like the charcoal fire of that first Easter (John 21:9).

We might experience the generous listening of a friend over a meal when we are beset with troubles. This friend acts as a sign of God’s love and affection. As my friend sees my innate value and preciousness, reminding me of the same, I may become aware, with awe, that their eyes see as God sees (Isaiah 43:4). I may even remember, on walking away, how Jesus was made known to Cleopas and the other disciple at that inn near Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).

These become God moments for us. Through a build-up of these moments, we gradually become conscious of the ways God takes flesh in every unique day of everyday life. It may be our spontaneous meeting with the owner of a lively puppy bouncing along at the local oval. We may feel a special presence in meeting eyes with a fellow traveller on a tram, train or bus, a familiar face smiling in recognition of having spoken before. It may be stopping for a person experiencing homelessness on a cold night, and in the back and forth feeling more connected to a shared sense of vulnerability and humanity. It may be an uplifting conversation with the local barista who calls you by your name.

When I doubt Jesus’ risen presence among us, like the disciple Thomas I am encouraged into a new and deeper faith in my Lord and God taking skin (John 20:19-31). I open my self to who I am experiencing. Later, I take time to attend to my memories of the people I meet in a given day, I begin to notice that there is a closely loving presence deep down in my experience. I notice this especially in encounters and conversations, and sometimes become aware that even I have been giving God skin. ‘Do not doubt but believe.’

This awareness gives me a sense of the responsibility I have to be attentive to how I receive and interact with other people. The God of life works through me when I am with friends, family, colleagues, and strangers alike. I am invited to reverence these people, behold them as precious in God’s sight, and treat them how I would wish to be treated. As God’s life-giving Spirit hovers over my experience, and I take time to abide in God’s love (John 15:9), I hear the words of Jesus in a new way. ‘I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete’ (John 15:11).

James O'Brien is an Editorial Assistant with Jesuit Communications.
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