When was the last time you had a vision? When was the last time you saw into those distant realities of faith and hope and saw the heart and mind of God? When did you last see the heavens open even the tiniest sliver that let you see its hidden kingdom? When was the last time you had a vision?
Rare as they seem to us, visions mark the first and second readings of this Sunday. Stephen 'gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God', while John heard voices speaking to him. What is it about these early disciples that allowed them to see and hear the heavenly realms, while we for our part find it so difficult to listen to one another? I'm sure there must be a reason why they could 'tune into' God's glory even as they faced death. Why is it that they could see what we find so difficult even to glimpse?
Perhaps the answer is to be found in the Gospel of John and Jesus' Great Prayer for unity: 'May they all be one.' So simple a prayer, the unity of Christ and all who believe. There is a mystery to this oneness that seems so strange to us yet incredibly alluring, like a haunting, distant melody on a summer's night: we are captured by its sound and drawn to its source, but we do not know its source. To be one. How haunting and charming a thought, but this is for the ancient ones who believed, holy apostles and brave martyrs: certainly it doesn't include the likes of us.
Yes, now that is settled, so much nonsense. It isn't meant for us, so why should we dream dreams, why should we, in our anguish and our struggles, strain our eyes to see God's glory? Best that we leave it beyond us, off there somewhere, in the distance on a summer's night, and not take it all too seriously. And yet, the Master's voice whispers to such folly in our hearts. "Be one," He tells us, "May they all be one."
The Master speaks to us, to each one of us who through the faith of those who loved us, taught us to believe. It is His words, floating through the chambers of our hearts, that will not let us put it aside. It is this sweet and haunting melody, Jesus' words, which drift out of the pages of time and speak to us, that bid us too to be one. But why? Why do our hearts even care? For as much as we try to deny it, we know from within our denials are false. No matter how much we deny it, we care because to us these words are sweet, they open new possibilities from within. We care because the Master has told us simply this: 'YOU ARE LOVED.'
It is amazing what we can see, what we can hear, when we know that we are loved. So many people in our world can tell us of this mystery. A child who knows the love of mother and father, a spouse who knows the other's care in good times and in bad, a person dying of AIDS attended by family and friends, they have seen a glimpse of God's glory. Stephen knew the love of Christ and saw the glory of God, even to the point of forgiving his killers. The Church too, amid her struggles and challenges in a world grown weary of religion, who knows herself as Bride and continues to preach and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is in this love that we see and hear rightly, not in the static and blur of our consumerist and materialistic culture but in the simple new-born belief that comes with being loved.
When was the last time you had a vision? The question now makes sense. For the vision is not about the spectacles we see and hear out there but it is much closer to our hearts than we know. For it is the voice of Jesus, our Master, who prays:
I have made your name known ... so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so I may be in them.