It is striking that the readings today hinges on some incapacities. The Responsorial Psalm says it all: “Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord.” There is an enabling or empowering process. First, we begin with a limitation. The man was crippled from birth. The disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus who joined them on the road. Their hearts were overwhelmed with disappointment and grief. The stories of the resurrection begins at predawn, just before sunrise. The women have not seen Jesus yet. And in the liturgy, the darkness before the blessing of the fire becomes a symbol of our incapacities: issues that cripple us, sins that imprison us.
In the Season of Lent, we have been asked to look at aspects in our lives that paralyzes us. The fear that comes from our traumas controls our decisions and actions. Our addictions whether chemical or psychological disable our minds that we do not have control over their irresistible power. We are constantly in paralysis. And like the man at the Beautiful Gate, we need to beg for help from someone else.
Second, the enabling link is an invitation to look. Peter and John looks intently on the cripple who begged for alms, and invites him to look intently on them. Jesus reminds the disciples to look closely on what the Scriptures said about Him; and in turn, the disciples invited Jesus to stay with them. The women at the tomb were invited to look intently at the empty place were the body of Jesus was, and to see what it all meant. And in the liturgy, the fire that becomes the only source of light attracts us to focus on it. In the end, our hearts that has been stuck seeks enlightenment and freedom.
To intently look at each other is a call to focus at the demand at hand. If one dreams to pass an exam despite the fear of failure, one has to pour attention on one’s books and notes. If we envision ourselves as successful people, then all our efforts should lead towards its fulfillment. And this means that we have to discern, amidst all the distractions around us. This means that we need discipline. Discipline that demands repetitious actions such as studies or practice. At prayer, the repetitious vocal prayers are meant to focus our minds on the prayer matter, just like Hindus repeating their ohms at the beginning of their meditations.
Finally, enabling and empowerment is a response to the invitation. The cripple paid Peter and John attention, and with trust reached out his hand and placed it on the hands of the disciples. His response to the grace of Christ gave him the power to move his knees and walk again. In the Gospel, the disciples requested Jesus to stay and join them at table. Because of this, they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Their love of Jesus moved the women to visit the tomb, and thus was given the grace to see Jesus alive firsthand. And in the liturgy, we begin to experience the significance and beauty of the Easter Vigil when we consciously and actively participate in the worship.
The same way with our lives. We are enabled and empowered when we participate with God’s grace. Our heart burns like fire; this enables us to seek what we desire. But its demand is to cooperate, to contribute to the talents and abilities that we all have. We develop if we “add” to our givens in life by constant practice, like musicians slowly becoming excellent, or by steady study, like students who graduate with honors. Then, like the cripple who finally walks through the Beautiful Gate, we soon discover the beauty of being free, like Someone who has been dead and is now alive.