By JENNIFER BURGIN
Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus. Then when they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them, they could say nothing in reply.
I love the scripture readings during the Easter Season. The Apostles preach and teach with zeal and gusto. They finally understand the Lord's calling as they travel from town to town converting, baptizing, and healing. We witness a dramatic change in perception. The Gospel of Mark characterizes the disciples as if they are more like DUH-ciples! Consistently afraid and prone to disbelief, Jesus teaches his chosen ones the Truth by example. However, the DUH-ciples have trouble understanding....
Eventually, the DUH-ciples develop into bold and confident Apostles. They get it at last!! What's changed? The Resurrection Light, as bright as sunlight, transformed their hearts and souls while The Holy Spirit flooded their minds with insight and a new-found maturity. The leaders, the elders, and scribes were "amazed" by the miraculous cure of the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate. But, along with this amazement came a serious warning to no longer speak in Christ's name. Will the Apostles stop preaching and teaching the good news? No way!
Perceptions How many times do we perceive others in a negative manner because of the way they look, behave, or even smell? How many times do we classify someone as stupid or ignorant because he/she doesn't have a college degree or may come from a poor family background? I imagine the elders and scribes turning up their noses at Peter and John with an air of arrogance. These "uneducated and ordinary men" couldn't possibly amount to much! I mean, didn't they hang around with Jesus Christ, the so-called King of the Jews? But, wait a minute: They performed the miracle on that cripple who's begged outside the temple for years. Now that's something to pay attention to.....but with a tad bit of caution. The elders and scribes don't want the companions of Jesus to get out-of-control. It's dangerous if too many Jews (and even a few Gentiles here and there) convert to this new Christian faith!
In modern day, people can perceive the disabled as useless in society. I think of the couple who finds out their child in the womb has Down Syndrome. Do they choose to abort? The child will be a burden to society. He will not live a very long life. You can always have another baby! The couple already loves their pre-born baby! He or she is a beautiful gift from God! The loving couple decides to carry the baby to term and will take care of the precious life despite the challenges.
Misconceptions Paralleled closely with perceptions is the idea of misconceptions. The Disciples clearly had no idea what Jesus alluded to as he regularly "hinted" at his own death and resurrection. They assumed that Jesus must be fatigue and exhausted since his words didn't make any sense. How could he possibly predict his own death? How could he possibly leave his beloved followers? What is he talking about?
Throughout Christ's life, the Pharisees and Scribes misconceived Jesus as a blasphemer and a false prophet. They refused to believe that he was the real messiah the prophet Isaiah spoke of. It's easy for us today to notice the similarities between the writings of the Old Testament Prophets and the actions and words by Jesus Christ himself. However, at the time the political and religious climate wouldn't accept such conclusions. The hope remained for a different Messiah, a man closer in line with Judaic Law.
Recently on CBS Sunday Morning, an episode highlighted the works of the young artist Jeffrey Owen Hanson. At birth he was diagnosed with a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis which led to the development of an optic nerve tumor, impairing his eyesight. However, God blessed him with an incredible gift: The ability to paint beautiful works of art! Through this young man's disability, he creates acrylic paintings that earn thousands of dollars for his own philanthropy goals. Yes, he donates all of his proceeds to charity! By the age of 20 he donated over $1 million dollars. He calls his work "a sight for sore eyes."
Jeff Owen Hanson focuses on what he can do instead of what he can't do. Wow, who could ever perceive or misconceive this brilliant artist as anything but amazing?
(Note: The picture on this blog post was painted by Jeff Hanson and is titled Monte Carlo Sunrise.)
Nobody should ever doubt or judge the capability of another human being. God blesses each one of us with unique gifts and talents. Sometimes we may not realize such blessings until much later in life. Perceive with caution and keep misconceptions at bay. It's a daily challenge, but it can be overcome with the help of the Holy Spirit.
"What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” ― C.S. Lewis
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin, a Lay Dominican candidate associated with St. Albert the Great Dominican Priory in Irving, TX. Please follow her blog: Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality