At the last supper Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In a short time the world will no longer see me; but you will see me because I live and you will live.’ And it came true on Easter Sunday: ‘God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people’ but only by the disciples whom God had chosen beforehand to be witnesses (cf. Ac 10:40-41). He says something similar about the Holy Spirit, in today’s Gospel too: we know him but the world cannot see him (Jn 14:15-21). And ever since then, there has been a difference between what the world sees and what we see as believers. The world sees an empty tomb, we see the risen Christ. The world looks at the sacraments and sees just a jumble of rites and doctrines; we see a waterfall of light and grace from heaven that irrigates our lives. They see the Church as an institution, we see the Body of Christ. We see the Holy Spirit, they see nothing at all.
It’s as if the world is colour-blind. Do you know anyone who is colour-blind? It must be tough. On my daily bit of exercise I have been enjoying the beautiful spring colours – and the colourful rainbows in people’s windows too. Colour-blindness must be hard. But spiritual colour-blindness is so much worse!
What is it that makes us different? What is it that cures our colour-blindness and allows us to see Christ in his risen victory? to see the Holy Spirit at work in the Church, in the sacraments, in our lives? It’s CHARITY. It’s love, but not just any love. It’s charity. What is charity? Not just any love, it is the love that comes from Jesus. It’s a love that obeys Jesus’ commandments. It’s a love that loves like Christ loves. It’s Christian love. Not just warm fuzzy love but the love that puts Jesus and his commandments at the centre of our lives. A love that goes around doing good, being close to those in need; a love that forgives; a love that is capable of purity and sacrifice; a love that doesn’t shirk responsibility but gets involved; a love that is full of patience and hope and kindness. A love that loves because of Jesus.
“When you see the Trinity, you see Charity.” – St Augustine
When we begin to love like that, when we start loving with charity, we begin to see in colour. We see in the sacraments not just religious ceremonies but the hand of God touching earth. We begin to understand who the Holy Spirit is and to sense his power; we begin to see that Jesus is truly risen from the dead. ‘When you see charity, you see the Trinity,’ said St Augustine, because charity can only come from the Holy Spirit working in us. When we choose to love in the way Jesus taught us, in faith in his words as the Church teaches them to us, he shows himself to us more and more: ‘Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me; […and I shall] show myself to him.’
When I was little we had a little old TV that had a colour saturation knob on it. You could twiddle it down and get black and white, and then you could turn it up slowly and colour would dawn onto the screen. (I’m sure you can do it on modern TVs too, but you need to know how to work the remote control!) Well in the same way, as we grow in charity all these things the world cannot see become clearer and clearer to us. We begin to see the “green” of the life of God present around us. We see the “blue” of the depth of his wisdom. We see the “red” of the flame of the Spirit. We see the “yellow” of his joy in this earth that he loved so much and that he still delights in. We discover ‘a whole new world, a new fantastic point of view,’ as the Disney song says. The different liturgical colours the priest wears are to remind us of that.
I was thinking of this recently in my (very beautiful) local park, West Ham Park: the ornamental gardens are so beautiful in the spring sunshine, they’re a riot of colour after the drabness of city streets in lockdown. When – please God – we get to heaven, it will be awash with these glorious colours. And by living charity on earth we begin to see what we will contemplate in eternity: the beautiful, colourful Trinity.
– Br Philip-Thomas Edwards, CSJ