by Marjorie George
It was a long line at the check-out, and the woman in front of me was amusing her baby by playing peek-a-boo. The little boy, maybe six months old, sat in the cart facing his mother, giggling hysterically each time Mommy covered her eyes with her hands, then quickly pulled them away and said, “Peek-a-boo.” Then he’d raise his little hands to his eyes in an effort to mimic Mom, shouting “pee-boo!” More laughter, from both of them.
I was amusing myself by watching them and thinking that all of this reminds me of the Gospel stories for the past 40 days. Jesus has been playing peek-a-boo with the disciples since the Easter resurrection. First they see Him; then they don’t. Now He’s here; now He’s gone.
Mary sees him at the tomb but doesn’t recognize Him until he calls her name. “I’m here but not really,” he says. “Don’t hang on to me” (Jn 20:16-17).
The disciples see Him that night as they huddle in a locked room wondering what to do next. Suddenly He is with them, bringing them peace and saying He is going to send them out just as He was sent (Jn 20:21). Then he breathes on them and is gone.
That same day Jesus walks along with two of His followers headed to Emmaus. Together they “examine the Scriptures,” but the disciples don’t know it is Jesus until He breaks bread with them. Then He “vanishes from their sight,” but the sense of His presence remains (Lk 24:13-32).
Later Jesus watches from the shore at the Sea of Tiberias as Peter et al conclude a frustrating and unproductive night of fishing. “Cast your nets on the other side of the boat,” calls the stranger on the shore to the fishermen. When they do, the catch is so abundant the boat can hardly contain it. At once, they recognize Him (Jn 21:1-8).
The check-out line is moving now, and Mommy and baby have headed for their car. I walk across the parking lot, still processing. The game of peek-a-boo is more than an amusement for little ones, I think. In peek-a-boo, babies learn that Mommy is there even when you can’t see her. Open your eyes, she’s there. Close your eyes and open them again and she is still there. In a few more months, that baby will learn that Mommy is there even when she is in the next room. Cry and she comes running. Physically present or not, Mommy (or Daddy) is there on your first day of school, there on your first overnight, there when you head off to college and get married and have babies of your own.
This Thursday we celebrate the Ascension – the end of Christ’s earthly ministry and His return to the heavenly realm. But He is not gone. We recognize Him when He calls us by name, when He comforts us, when we spend time with Him in the Scriptures, when we break bread with Him in the Eucharist, when we feel blessed by Him. Present but not visible.
And if that’s not enough, get ready for the big blowout ten days from now when we celebrate Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Christ will be there, and you will recognize Him.
Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.