I have often found it baffling: How could they NOT recognize him?! Yet, how often have I been in his presence and also didn't recognize him?
Like many Catholics, I was born into the Catholic Church. I was baptized as a baby. Catholics believe baptism actually does something. We believe at baptism, we receive the presence and fullness of God through the Holy Spirit. So, because I always had the Lord in my life, I didn't know what it was like not to have him.
I also spent many weekends at my grandparent's house in Frankenstein, Missouri and often went to church with them. My grandfather helped lay the stones of the Catholic Church there. It is a very beautiful church, but when I was younger, I don't think I appreciated the beauty of it. There were a few things about the church however, that even as a child, left me in awe! One being that when you walk into the church you are greeted by two huge angels holding holy water fonts. Another thing I remember is the beautiful stations of the cross and big mural paintings on the wall. They seemed to draw me in and I remember often staring at those instead of listening to the homily.
When I was 19, I had an "Emmaus" type experience and recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, through the consecration of the Eucharist. That was the first time I realized Jesus was in the bread we ate at communion. It also was the first time I realized God knew me and wanted to have a relationship with me.
As many of you know, Tom and I left the Catholic Church a couple years into our marriage and were away for about 10 years. We stopped recognizing that he was there and gave up hope that he could resurrect what appeared to be a sleeping giant.
When my grandma died, I went back to Missouri for her funeral which took place in the Frankenstein church that I attended a lot as a kid. Through the beauty all around me, the memories came flooding back. I then recognized that he was there and he had always been there, even when I wasn't aware of it.
After being away for 10 years, Tom and I realized the grass wasn't greener on the other side. We missed the sense of the sacred, the beauty and the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Being away gave us a longing for these things that we once took for granted.
In 2007 we came back and gained a deeper appreciation for the beauty and the presence of the Lord in the Catholic Church.
I think there is something to be said for beauty. God created us with a physical body, not just a spirit. He gave us senses. He often speaks to us through our senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. The physical world can draw our eyes upward and point us to the supernatural and something bigger than ourselves. There is something to be said for using incense, bells, sacred music, chanting, beautiful art, and what appears to be bread in liturgy. The things of this earth can mirror and magnify the things of heaven. We can know that whatever beauty we encounter in this life, it is only a glimmer and taste of what awaits us in the next!
Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - meditate on these things."