How others see us is a common concern. We try in various ways to make a good impression. We try to present ‘our good side’ through words and behavior.
Over the next year and a half, Catholics are being called upon by the Bishops of Australia to focus on a different question: ‘How do people see us reflecting the face of Christ?’ They invite Catholics to join them in asking questions such as:
- ‘How do I reflect Christ to my spouse, family, friends, work colleagues and everyone else I meet in daily life?’
- ‘How do my daily activities relate to reflecting Christ to others?’
Ideally the year will be a time of personal reflection for perhaps five minutes each day before an image of Christ.
The expressive face of Christ
The face of Jesus Christ in the gospels expressed his responsiveness to people in different life situations. We need to ponder, for example: ‘How was Christ’s face seen by
- the young rich man who persisted with his questions [Mark 10:17-22]
- the centurion who asked that his servant be cured [Luke 7:1-10]
- those possessed by demons [Mark 5:1-20]
- the disciples who left everything to follow Jesus [Mark 1:16-20]?
Then there were those who saw Christ’s face as he
- dined with them, even though they were rejected socially because they were tax collectors and public sinners [Mark 2:15-17]
- healed the sick [Mark 1:32-34]
- refused to join those condemning them because of their sins [John 8:1-11]
- forgave their sins [Mark 2:1-12].
How do we think Christ’s face would have been seen by:
- the widow whose only son was restored to life [Luke 7:11-17]
- Mary, Martha and the crowd as Jesus let out a sigh of grief at Lazarus’ tomb [John 11:35-37]
- the man born blind, as his sight was restored [Luke 18:35-43]?
Then there was the patience of Christ when
- the Apostles continually failed to realise who he is [Mark 10:35-40]
- Philip still asking questions, despite being with Jesus for three years [John 14:9].
What was it in Christ’s face that encouraged
- the woman with the blood complaint to touch Jesus’ cloak to be healed [Mark 5:25-34]
- Peter to get out of the boat to walk on water [Matthew 14:28-33]
- Zacchaeus to pay restitution well in excess of the money he dishonestly had acquired as a tax collector [Luke 19:1-10?
We can wonder what was the expression on Jesus’ face that moved Peter to sobbing tears after denying he knew Jesus [Matthew 26:75]?
Finally, what was the expression on Christ’s face, while suffering on the Cross, as he:
- prayed that those who crucified him be forgiven [Luke 23:34]
- told the repentant thief he would reach paradise [Luke 23:39-43]
- entrusted the Apostle John with the care of Mary, Jesus’ mother [John 19:25-27].
The Year of Grace
At Pentecost, we began the Year of Grace – or the Year of Christ. He is the Son of God, who is his Father’s greatest gift or ‘grace’ to humanity.
Each of us is invited to reflect on the face of Christ and to examine ourselves as to how well as Christians we reflect his face daily to others. The ‘others’ may be:
- our husband or wife;
- our parents, children; work colleagues or fellow organisation members.
Then there are
- those who are lonely,
- those who have hurt us and
- the sick.
- those who frustrate us and
- those who have hurt or offended us.
Finally, we are invited to reflect also on how we reflect Christ’s face to others as we play our roles in wider society –
- our students, if we are teachers; our parishioners, especially those who have given up religious practice, if we are priests; our work colleagues, if we are employed;
- those we serve, if we are deacons; and
- fellow team members as well as to those against whom we compete if we play sports.
Coming to know Christ better personally
We come to know others better through our experiences of them. It is with Christ. And who among us can claim to express Christ’s face in every situation that arises in our lives?
If completely honest with ourselves, we realise that we fall short at times. Love struggles against selfishness; forgiveness against resentments; goodness against temptations. We are divided within.
We have experiences of Christ as he helps us to rise above such divisions as we open ourselves to his power, especially through daily prayer and the sacraments. As we experience his power, increasingly we come [Philippians 3:10]
…to know Christ and the power of his resurrection
A year of growth
Let each of us reflect for five minutes each day on what might be the expressions on Christ’s face in different situations. We could start with the above Gospel examples, taking a different one each day.
Being Son of man as well as Son of God, Christ is the model human person. We grow to be more like him – and more fully human – as his power changes us from within. May the Year of Grace become an experience of personal growth towards this ideal in all our lives.
Most Rev Gerard J Holohan
Bishop of Bunbury