I feel the readings for today point to the sad fact that it takes a lifetime of experiences for us to grasp even a faint notion of the depth and breadth of God’s divine love and forgiveness. Joseph’s brothers never seemed to connect the dots. The Psalmist lays out a basic formula for enlightenment that has challenged all succeeding generations; “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple,” And at Bethsaida, where Jesus takes two passes to fully heal the blind man, the partially sighted man exclaims, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” What a telling description of the flawed vision that is a necessary part of our personal journey of faith.
When new to the city in 1994, I heard African-American mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at a service for Bishop Tutu at the Cathedral. It was an awesome, visceral experience in an awe-inspiring space. Following her recent death, a blogger posted an amazing video from the early 1970s of Verrett singing “Let us Break Bread Together” a cappella. I never remembered singing before the powerful final words, “have mercy, if you please.” At the end of the celebration of Absalom Jones’ Feast Day and Black History Month here at Ascension, Enid Harden grasped my hand as we began to sing that same spiritual, and suddenly, I felt an overwhelming sense of rightness, community and love. As we make our way through this life, sometimes alone and sometimes with hands clasped together, let us continually strive with humility to glimpse God’s glory and to manifest His merciful love and grace.