THE FACE OF JESUS
In this Year of Grace we have been constantly encouraged to ‘start afresh from Christ’. For some of the time we have also been engaged in the Year of Faith in which we are encouraged to contemplate the
‘face of Christ’. These two themes are inseparably linked and find a moment of convergence as we rejoice in the Lord’s Resurrection.
So many matters of concern have emerged in the life of the Church in recent years. At times we can find ourselves confused and bewildered at the reports of allegations of behaviours that we know have no place in our community – as the disciples of Jesus. Very sadly we become aware that some of these allegations have substance. There is a sense of shame and discouragement and we are all hurt deeply in the very core of our belief. These sentiments are found frequently in our history. One can only imagine the depth of hopelessness and even despair that the Apostles experienced during the events that we have solemnly reflected on during our Holy Week observances. Yet somehow, throughout our reflection, we identify a need for finding again the source of our hope that still motivates us. Despite the issues that confront us we must also be aware that our community has done a great deal of good and has been earnest in our dedication to living a good Christian life.
At the time of Jesus the Apostles and the wider community were beset by similar feelings of distress but their hope was rekindled and kept alive by their engagement with Jesus. By remembering the time they spent with Jesus they were able to be strong enough to live through all those dreadful and public events that happened to Jesus. I have often reflected on their need to gather together “behind closed doors” to support and encourage each other and to discern the way ahead. We know that their hopes were confirmed in a special way when the Resurrected Jesus appeared to them.
This Easter let us take the time ‘to start afresh from Christ’ in our thoughts and prayers. Let us spend a little time with the Gospel so that we can get that fresh start. St. Mark’s Gospel is relatively short and doesn’t take much time to read. Look at the things that Jesus did and notice his attention to those who were struggling. Listen to the conversations He had with people – sometimes we can identify with what those people said to Him and His words take on a new meaning for us. Reflect on their circumstances as set out in the Gospel and we can often identify many similar themes that we experience today. In this way we can begin to renew our awareness of our need for Jesus in our own time.
Of course the images we have of Jesus are not photographs or even life-portraits. But the many images of the face of Jesus we have seen down through the years –even in our own day – are the result of contemplating the Face of Jesus. There are many different art-forms and they each a valid expression of an artist putting down the result of their contemplation. This might be a good time for us to seriously consider making our own image of what face we would like to construct of Jesus. The ancient form of icons essentially involves the artist spending time in prayer and meditation before and during developing the image. I believe that can be useful thing for us to do as well. Indeed there may be many images – but each one is valid and useful because it helps us focus on Him.
The real Joy that Easter brings is to be found in the fact that Jesus, who was sent by the Father to bring his words and love to us, persevered even in the face of the most negative of experiences. His message was and is always true. When we can break through our own experiences and recognise that truth we can again be filled with hope and truly be free again – free to be the community of faith and love that is centred on Jesus and His place in our lives.
This is the real face of Jesus today. The community of faith who knows and loves Jesus and who lives knowing that He is always present in their midst. It is this awareness of the presence of Jesus who has embraced us and all that we are, who has offered Himself to take away our sins, and who has demonstrated by rising from the dead that confirms that our instinctive hope is real and the promise of eternal life is fulfilled.
May we continue to be inspired by the example of Mary, Help of Christians, who persevered, endured and experienced the hope of her life fulfilled in her Risen Son, Jesus.