Several years ago, I came across a book called “The Faces of Christ.” This out-of-print picture book depicts images of Christ that were culturally based. I was fascinated at the images within that book, showing Nativities in African villages and images of the Last Suppers that contained chopsticks and rice! I found myself gazing at these images and reflecting on Genesis 1:27; that we are made in the image and likeness of God.
Historically, Jesus probably did not have blue eyes or blond highlights in his hair as much of Western art has depicted Him. But, at His birth, God became man and walked the face of the earth. Because of His incarnation – the Word becoming Flesh – humans were given a dignity far beyond that of angels. I find myself constantly pondering over this.
As I continue my series on prayer, let us muse over the first key aspect to prayer that Eamon Tobin writes in his book, “13 Powerful Ways to Pray” – Developing a positive Image of God and self.
In Scripture, we see God as a doting shepherd, as a grocer providing food for His people, as a mother cherishing Her child, as a teacher, a healer, one who calls out the rich and those who are self-righteous, as well as one who calls a disciple forth on a mission. All of these are mere glimpses of who our God truly is! Our feeble minds can never adequately contemplate the height, breadth and depth of God!
Of all the images that Scripture writers have given us about God, the most important, I believe, is an unconditional lover. As humans, we need others to love us. Remember, Jesus came to earth to show us the awesomeness of God’s love for us.
Tobin points out that Pope Francis “emphasizes the importance of us having a sense of God’s love when we pray when he says: ‘At the heart of prayer is the love of God, the source of our life, who constantly ‘caresses’ us with His love.’” In addition, Tobin points out, “When we doubt the truth of God’s love, it is as if the power of original sin (expressed in a statement like ‘I wonder if I am really loveable’) grabs hold of us. … The main reason we doubt that God loves us unconditionally is that we may never have experienced unconditional love on a human level.” 1
Tobin goes on to list three ways in which we can see ourselves as loveable. The following bold face examples are his, the explanations are mine.
We can use the Word of God to transform and shape the way we see ourselves. Ultimately, our self-image is formed by the loving Word of God or deformed by the destructive words of others.
It never ceases to amaze me how the Word of God is truly alive and forms us! Lectio Divina allows us to slowly “chew on” sections of Scripture. Prayerfully contemplating on the Word invites us to listen to the loving “heart” of God. Our loving relationship with God will deafen the harsh words of contempt, bullying and mistrust. The catch? Time. I encourage you to take time out of your day to spend it with a God who hungers after you!
We can learn to believe more deeply in our own goodness if we see and receive Jesus in the Eucharist as a tangible sign of his tremendous love for us.
Sometimes I wonder if the weekly experience of going to Mass and the knee-jerk response to liturgy has deadened our hearts to the reality that when we receive the Eucharist, we are receiving the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord. For precious minutes we are one sacramentally with God. This is the reality of what the True Presence is all about! Sometimes I ponder as I say to my Beloved, echoing Scripture, “It is good for me to be here!” Can He say to me, “I delight in you!”? If I believe that He cannot, then I truly need to seek His forgiveness and go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
We can learn to accept ourselves as good and loveable if we risk sharing our true and false selves with other people.
Acceptance of unconditional love requires us to remove the masks that we all wear in order to reveal our wounds to another. This level of transparency to someone who truly loves us brings about a profound healing; it creates us anew!
In striving and working to do this, not only are we created anew, but we also begin to resemble the Face of Christ. As St. Theresa of Avila says, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
Why should I be so surprised?
1Tobin, Eamon. 13 Powerful Ways to Pray. Beacon Publishing, 2016. Pg. 20-26.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness