Our efforts to keep up with such a fast-paced world can result in a real poverty of presence – presence to one another, presence to ourselves, and presence to God. We are tempted to live in an idealistic future, in the days of our past, or in the world of technology that promises to make us happier than the here and now. Our memories, hopes, and dreams are not balanced by a sobering awareness of our present state. A poverty of presence manifests itself in our homes, in our social circles, in our spiritual life, etc., and it can hinder the way in which we bear witness to Christ in our everyday lives. Scripture gives us a simple instruction to help us be present: to behold (e.g. John 1:29, 19:26-27; Luke 1:38; Matthew 28:20; Revelation 21:5). Learning to behold another in our midst teaches us to slow down, to listen, to be with, to really hold another’s joys and sorrows as our own. Pope Francis reflects:
“Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.” (Evangelii Gaudium 88)
If we engage in this “revolution of tenderness”, we can enrich our image of encounter and nourish our communities. Members of a community permeated by this sense of tender charity learn to behold not only as individuals but also as a singular body. Belonging to the Body of Christ in the Church, an eschatologically oriented people, thus prepares her members to behold the Spotless Lamb.
How one actually practices beholding begins with a sacramental worldview. A Eucharistic vision of the world helps one to understand the words “Behold, the Lamb of God” as an invitation. In the Eucharist, Christ invites us to encounter him more deeply through this practice and to encounter the present moments each day of our life anew.
A notion of what it means to behold can also enhance how we imagine Christian witness because of the essential link between witness and presence. As witnesses to the Gospel, we must continually challenge how we live out our mission because “mission is a constant stimulus not to remain mired in mediocrity but to continue growing” (Evangelii Gaudium 121). We cannot witness to a faith that we have not been present enough to witness ourselves. Christ tells us that many “look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand…But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:13, 16). To see and hear in this manner requires attentiveness to Christ’s presence in our lives in the Word of God, in the Holy Eucharist, in the poor, etc.
We must learn to behold not only with our eyes but with our entire being.
We must learn to behold not only with our eyes but with our entire being. Our whole selves should be engaged in the present endeavor of witnessing to the faith. This mission presents the paradox that being more conscious in the present moment actually helps fulfill our future longing for heaven. By working to manifest the Kingdom here on earth we are simultaneously preparing for the heavenly Kingdom. In this manner we turn with Mary back to the Lord proclaiming “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38).
Featured photo courtesy of Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame