Symbols carry layers of meaning that are peeled away as strength and insight grow. A crucifix hangs in our parish church, one that shows a corpus nailed to wooden beams. Crowned with thorns and wrapped in a gilded adorning the drape at the waist, the corpus and cross easily dominate the sanctuary. For years,it seemed to me a tender tribute to the Passion story; and then, it simply blended into the familiar and unseen. This week, it spoke of suffering as the cost of unconditional love and then intimates the certainty of God’s love for each of us. To love, then, means to suffer on some level. It implies simultaneously a freedom and a connection. That means sharing respect, empathy and understanding. Unconditional love is priceless; it cannot be bought or negotiated. It simply is. It exists outside the limits of fear and anxiety, spirals deeper than observations or judgement, and dares even the most skeptical to become accepting. It exists independently of actions or reciprocity; it is unearned, freely given, and faithful beyond fault. It is what nurtures human souls and comforts the lost, soothes the broken. It is the sense that in a world mad with circumstance and complexities, there is something, someone, who deeply cares. The cost of that kind of love is the the agony of the cross.
To believe that there is a God who is simply Other is to imagine the tenderness, the reality, of Jesus’ message. In the readings this week, there is the energetic strength of a God enabling the deaf to hear, the blind to see, the mute to speak. That is followed by Letter of James pointing to the need to reach out, to truly see one another as special. The Gospel shows Jesus performng those same miracles and transforming lives, offering hope to those who had none. Each of those persons gains and becomes more whole from a gift freely given, a healing without price or cost. Each of the readings testifies to the ways that God is present in the world. Each also testifies to a deeper truth: none of us is invisible to God. Seen as we are, we are loved and accepted by a God who trusts that we are more than our worst moments and better than our best moments. No matter what we do, that unconditional love is there, waiting.
The implications are profound: for instance, no person can be invisible, unseen or unnoticed. That sense of being unimportant, meaningless, unworthy or unwanted has no traction in this understanding. Every human being matters. Every action makes a difference. Every failure and every hope has a place, can be anchored in human lives without fear of desolation. Because beyond the interactions of flawed human beings, there is an outpouring of encouragement from the source of unconditional love. While that sounds so intangible, there are symbols everywhere waiting to reveal their layers, share their purposes, wanting to be noticed and understood.