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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Down Wind

A deer’s sense of smell is at least 500 times greater than humans, and they can smell you up to a half mile away. Hence the sale of deer urine to squirt on boots, sent-blocking sprays, and laundry detergents, etc. I was reminded of all this because this past weekend I was on hermitage at an old farm house in the country where we make retreats…and there were tons of deer! 

As I sat on the front porch in the evening silently watching the suns shadow travel across the creek and green fields towards the wooded hillside in the distance, I heard the familiar sound of deer coming down the hill behind the house. On my right side two beautiful doe trotted out into plain view only twenty yards from where I sat on the porch, I just watched them as they ate cloves in the fields and wished that I had at least the single-shot crack-barrel 20 gauge shotgun my Dad made us start hunting with to learn to make the first shot count. The deer never noticed me and kept on their way. Then on my left a herd of at least a dozen deer descended the hill and entered the open roughly forty yards away. No sooner, however, did they walk past the house than all their heads popped up with noses raised – then they sprinted in the opposite direction. They never saw me, but they were down wind and smelt me, which led me back to the Gospel I was praying with before the glorious distraction of fourteen deer. 
I was reading through the various Resurrection accounts we have been hearing at Mass these days of Easter, and I was baffled by the recurring theme of intimate friends and disciples meeting Jesus face to face after the Resurrection and not knowing who he was! The Resurrected Christ somehow was not recognizable as he was in the overpowering manner of the Transfiguration or the miraculous manifestations of His power found in the Gospels. St. Paul tells us that the ability to see the unveiled face of Jesus is a work of the Holy Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18). The Church Fathers also spoke about how the Revelation of Christ was a work of the Holy Spirit, that is to say, without the Holy Spirit at work in us we cannot recognize Christ in His divinity. Throughout the Resurrection accounts we hear of a moment of revelation that comes to the disciples, whether upon hearing one’s name, the showing of Christ’s wounds, a miracle of fish, or in the Breaking of the Bread. The resurrected Christ is present before they realize it, and it is the Spirit of Christ that manifests this hidden presence to us. 

St. Francis was on to this very fact when he wrote to his brothers that “because God is a spirit, therefore it is only by the spirit He can be seen.” He went on to connect the disciples faith in the divinity of Christ while on earth with the gift of faith we have through the Spirit to recognize Jesus Real Presence in the Eucharist, or as the Gospel say, the “Breaking of the Bread.” This Easter season the Church proclaims boldly that the Lord is indeed risen. He is in our midst - in our everyday lives, our families, our work, nature, beauty, suffering, and most especially the Eucharist. He is here! The question is whether we are standing in the wind of the Holy Spirit who reveals to us His Presence, or are we up-wind eating grass unaware that “It is the Lord” who is before us. Come Holy Spirit and give us eyes to see the Risen One who dwells among us, especially in the “Breaking of the Bread”!

+ Br. Malachy Napier, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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