April 12, 2024

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

Would you recognize Jesus if he returned to Earth today?

Kimberly PohoveyOn the heels of Jesus’ glorious resurrection on Easter, I began to watch a Netflix series titled Messiah. I’m only a few episodes in so I am not endorsing the series, but I have to admit it has me thinking. I wasn’t really sure of the content before I started watching, but the title was enough to intrigue me.

Messiah is a work of fiction. Its central character is a CIA agent who begins to pay attention to an Arab figure who has peacefully led 2,000 Palestinians through the desert to the Israeli border, where they sit hoping for humanitarian aid.

This man is arrested by the Israeli government but vanishes from his jail cell only to appear on the steps of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where he performs a miracle. He again vanishes and turns up in a small Texas town ravished by a freak tornado. He appears as the tornado passes right in front of him, and seemingly, orchestrates the survival of a town church, the only building left standing, untouched.

The CIA agent believes him to be dangerous—potentially a cult leader attempting to amass an army of believers, or a foreign operative wanting to start a war in the Holy Land.

Obviously, the viewer is meant to not only draw a comparison to Jesus, but question if this character really is Jesus. It’s really got my brain churning. It’s also got my heart hoping.

We hear the Gospels every time we go to Mass, and we know how the belief of Jesus as Messiah stirred in the hearts of the first Apostles. We take it as “gospel,” so to speak, that the Apostles believed. But have you ever pondered what a gigantic leap of faith that must have been for them?

I marvel that these simple men believed that God was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became a man who dwelled among them. I wonder that if Jesus returned to Earth in human form today, would I recognize him? Would I believe?

In Jesus’ time, his actions were deemed radical and revolutionary. The Messiah’s lead character, although peaceful and calm, is also misconstrued as radical. In a world of false prophets, cult leaders and everyday crackpots, how would I recognize the Lord?

When I’ve pondered this in the past, I’ve thought I would know him by his love. But having attended Holy Week liturgies, I am all too reminded that Jesus’ love led to his crucifixion. I hope upon hope that in the presence of our Lord that my heart would burn as the disciples who recognized Jesus after their walk to Emmaus.

I read the following quote, written by Casey Cep for The New Yorker, in a review of the book, Seeing Jesus: Visionary Encounters from the First Century to the Present: “The visions of Jesus that Christians are explicitly told to look for are not supernatural or spectral but humble and human: we are commanded to look for Christ in the faces of one another.”

I pray to have eyes that see Jesus in everyone I meet. I think that is how you recognize the Lord, today or at the second coming. You treat everyone as if Jesus dwells in them. In that case, you will never not recognize him.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of major and planned gifts for the archdiocese.) †

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