Shining Like The Sun
On March 8, 1958, the Christian mystic Thomas Merton had a vision at the corner of 4th and Walnut Streets in Louisville, KY. It is the only such experience that is commemorated with a historical monument.
The vision that Merton had would change his life, his calling, the entire direction, and the focus of his writing, reflection, and subsequent actions.
And what was that vision, exactly?
Merton suddenly saw everyone on the streets around him "walking around shining like the sun." He also realized that his heart was so full of love for them all that it was about to burst.
The vision continued for some time, overwhelming him and transforming the way he saw his own purpose in the world---to become more engaged with issues of social justice and human flourishing.
Later he would write about this experience, and said this:
There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun... If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other...The gift that Merton was given on that day was the gift of being able to see everyone on the streets as image-bearers of God, filled with the light of the Divine presence.
And even though his vision eventually faded, the memory of it sustained him for the rest of his life. He never saw people in the same way again. He also was filled with a longing that everyone should catch a glimpse of what he'd seen, and at times was struck with the sorrow that they could not.
It's hard for me to imagine looking at everyone the way that Merton saw them that day.
There are some people who I imagine would never shine, no matter what kind of vision I was having.
There are people I know who seem to have so denied the image of God within them that whatever spark, whatever light might be there would be faded to black.
It's good for the world that God sees people differently than I do.
Jesus once shared an analogy with his followers about how the eye is the "lamp of the body" and how if the eye is healthy, the whole body will be filled with light.
He was trying to get his followers to learn how to see the world and others differently. Jesus was essentially saying to them:
If you look out on the world with an eye filled with the expectation of light and goodness, truth, and beauty... you will see it more clearly and easily.
But if you look out into the world expecting to see nothing but ugliness, difference, darkness, and evil... you will miss the light, miss the goodness, miss the beauty, and what you will see instead is nothing but what you expected...What do we see when we look around you at the people you encounter? Is it possible to imagine them shining like the sun? If not, then we have work to do if we are going to see the world through Divine eyes.
If we can only catch a glimpse of the imago dei (God image) shining through, it might just be enough to change our view of everything. And if enough of us begin to use God vision, who knows? It might change the world.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.