July 18 Reflections

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
It was 7 year old Ricky who got my vote for “best entry” when he made me laugh out loud as I read his comment. It was the last of a 10 item list of “Kid’s Comments about Love” that I found on Facebook. This is what Ricky wrote: “Tell your wife she is beautiful even if she looks like a truck.”
Granted that Ricky will one day, along with us, have to con- cede that things like love and bodily appearance change with time, and that beauty is often only skin deep, remaining mostly in the eye of the beholder.
But a question arises from time to time related to this matter of
beauty, namely “What does God look like?” Without any full
scriptural description of Jesus to go by, we only have hints, as in Our Lord’s famous answer to His apostle Philip: “He who sees Me sees the Father.” But we’re not as fortunate as Philip was, even without the details we might yearn to have. Yes, we do have the holy Shroud of Turin, but that at best gives us an idea of what Jesus our God looked like in death, and not in life.
So along come our imaginations, as varied as there are people living on the planet with us. Add in the portraits of great artists. Then we have to factor in the faces of the many actors who have taken on the role of Jesus for movies about Him. You may have a favorite.
The 4 evangelists who grace our world with their gospels apparently had no interest in this subject, which means that neither did the Holy Spirit who is, after all, their inspiration. The gospels are mainly interested in being cate- chetical instruments for their readers to get to know and love Jesus. To acknowledge Him as the “Way, the Truth and the Life.” But every now and then the Holy Spirit lets us deduce certain characteristics of Christ that lead us to picture His face and enhance our devotion. Take the words of St. Mark today: “Jesus saw the crowd and His heart was moved with compassion, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” I picture a look of concern on His Face, and the look of love in His Hebrew eyes.
Reflecting further, we also have here a clear refutation of all those portraits of God as a hardened old man, white- whiskered and watchful for His next opportunity to pounce on us for our least infraction. What a tragedy to carry around such an image of God!
I’ve often thought how it’s such a shame that we have few painted portraits that capture Jesus smiling. He had to look that way when He was with the children, or they might have stayed away from Him. I bet He might have smiled as He pulled St. Peter out of the sea as the Big Fisherman had to be rescued from his short-lived walk on water.
But then there is our belief that we can see Him in the face of others. The people around our dining room table to start. Then on to the faces of our friends old and new. Strangers everywhere. Perhaps even in the face of an elderly bishop whose story fits well with the current Year of St. Joseph.
During Vatican Council II, an aged bishop from Yugoslavia shuffled up to the podium and appealed to the assem- bled bishops to include the name of Joseph in the First Eucharistic Prayer, or traditional Canon of the Mass. To the majority present this seemed unimportant at the moment. They were concerned with major changes and ex- pressed their disapproval in the routine fashion they had of slapping the bench in unison to the chant, “Non ad rem!” (not to the point).
The old bishop then left the podium and tottered back to his place. But in the papal apartments, Pope (later Saint) John XXIII (who watched all the proceedings on closed-circuit TV) was not amused. He knew that this old bishop had been imprisoned for 9 years in a Communist jail, and that his captors had broken both his legs and simply left him in his pain. During this ordeal the agonizing bishop had prayed to St. Joseph.