“Jesus Sightings” By: Rachael Flanagan, Fiat Ventures

Third Sunday of Easter

Flickr User Anna & Michal

Have you ever spotted a celebrity in person, while out going about their normal business? I know people who’ve spotted celebrities in a crowded shopping center in New York City or at a restaurant in Los Angeles. My sister saw the Rock on an escalator in a mall once. I saw Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart coming out of a Broadway theatre after their performance in “Waiting for Godot.” (Granted, I paid a lot of money to see them in the show and then camped outside of the exit with a mob of other fans). It was a weird moment for me to lock eyes with someone I’ve been able to recognize my whole life, as Gandalf the Gray and Professor Charles Xavier, and have them look back at me with no clue who I am – just another person waving a program looking for an autograph. But still – it’s thrilling to encounter a celebrity! And makes for a better story if you get them to say “hi” to you, or acknowledge your existence in any way.

I like to brag that I bumped into rap artist 50 Cent in a movie theatre, and when I said “It’s nice to meet you,” he said “It’s nice to meet you too.” That’s right – 50 Cent thought it was nice to meet me. I am a nice person to meet. 50 Cent thinks so, and he is famous, and that makes me feel good about myself.

In the Gospel today, we hear about an exciting Jesus sighting. Yes, Jesus was famous, and it wasn’t because he had a long, iconic career recording music or acting in movies. In fact, he was only in the public eye for a short three years, and this was before mass media. Word traveled almost exclusively via word of mouth, but Jesus became a household name because of the impact he was having on the people he met. Not just the ground breaking messages he was preaching, the miraculous healings, raising the dead, undermining authority, or the shock that he was tried as a criminal and publicly executed….he became the talk of the town when his tomb was found to be empty just a couple days later. What happened? It was a mystery. The Romans were up in arms, pointing fingers and blaming each other. Who was responsible for losing a body? Especially the body of Jesus, who was quite the problem for the Romans as a disturber of the peace when he was alive; having his body go missing, was sure to make the problem even worse.

And then the sightings began to happen. No one could find the corpse, but people began to see him alive again, walking, talking and eating. And you’ve got to imagine that seeing someone alive again who you knew to be dead would be a lot more interesting than seeing Sandra Bullock eating a sandwich in a deli. In John 21, we hear the account of the Apostles fishing at sea, when they spot Jesus on the beach, watching them. They don’t recognize him at first, and are more concerned about how poorly their catch is going, but then Jesus shouts to them some advice – to cast their nets once more, but on the right side of the boat this time. They do so, and are overwhelmed by the amount of fish they drag into their boat. At this, the apostles immediately recognize Jesus for who he is – and Peter even jumps over board and swims to shore to greet him.

I think it’s important to consider the moment when they suddenly recognized the man who has helped them, to be Jesus. Another reported Jesus-sighting moment involved people walking along a road, traveling to another city when they recognize the stranger they’ve been chatting it up with to be Jesus. In these stories, there is an eye-opening moment where God is recognized.

When we go throughout our day, we might not think anything spectacular has happened. Certainly, no celebrity sightings or God encounters. However, if we take a moment at the end of the day to take a second look in reflection, we can undoubtedly have an eye-opening experience as well. Looking back, we can notice where God was in our day, whether it was a moment we experienced mercy or forgiveness, joy or inspiration, or love and gratitude. Jesus reveals to us that those moments were so significant because he was there. We have real, live Jesus encounters all day long, we just have to take moment to recognize him. And unlike Patrick Stewart, he recognizes you back.

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