How does Jesus appear to me? Two different ways God intervenes in our life

During the Easter season we read at Mass different stories describing how Jesus appeared to His disciples.  When considering these stories, we can ask, “but… how does Jesus appear to me?”  Even in the Gospels, we see that there are variations in Jesus’ appearances.  Sometimes He shows Himself in a direct and bold way, like with Mary Magdalene at the tomb or the apostles in the upper Room.  At other times, however, Jesus appears to people in a gentler, more indirect manner.  This was the case with the disciples along the road to Emmaus.  They walked with Jesus and never knew it was Him until they finally recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.

In the Old Testament, God intervenes in people’s lives in two main ways, one forceful, the other less direct.  When God revealed Himself to the prophets, He did so in a powerful way.  Think of Moses at the burning bush or the dream of Isaiah when he was first called to be a prophet.  They had no doubt that they met God.  As a result of God’s powerful intervention in their lives, they spoke His words to people in an equally bold and direct way.  They passed on God’s revelation in the same way that they received it.  In what we call the Wisdom Literature (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon), however, we see a very different way of perceiving God’s revelation than with the prophets.  There are no visions or fantastic dreams.  Rather, the sages who wrote these works began by observing nature and human experience.  Grounded in the belief that all this was made by God, they were able to perceive an order in creation.  They then became convinced that the best way to live was in accord with this order.  In transmitting what they discovered to others, they used a very different mode than the prophets.  They did not speak forcefully.  Rather, they expressed the revelation they had perceived in creation through proverbs and beautifully constructed poems and stories.  In this way, they led their audience to ask questions, ponder and discover for themselves the order that they had found and choose to live in accord with it.

God sometimes speaks to us like He did to the prophets.  When describing how they knew what important decision to make in life, some explain that they had an incredible experience.  For example, maybe someone knew that their spouse was the right person to marry after having a profound and moving experience on a retreat.  Oftentimes, however, God reveals himself to us as he did to the sages who wrote the Wisdom Literature.  If we take the time to prayerfully ponder creation and our experiences, we too can perceive the order in it that comes from God.  We discover slowly which actions will lead to our well-being and the well-being of those around us.  God reveals Himself in different ways. No way is better than another.  The important thing is to approach life prayerfully, with an open heart and mind, confident in the fact that God is indeed revealing Himself to us.