I pass the bathroom mirror in my home and automatically glance at my reflection, once again stopping to stare in fascinated horror. My eyes are red and puffy, surrounded by raccoon-like purple bruises. My nose is bandaged and swollen, recently broken after I unexpectedly fainted and fell flat on my face. Surgery has repaired the damage, but it will be weeks until my appearance returns to normal. As I reluctantly leave the house to run some necessary errands, I grab a baseball cap, pulling it low over my eyes to avoid the shocked stares of strangers. This injury has certainly been a good lesson in humility!
In the car, I pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, and something compels me to meditate on the Holy Face of Jesus. I reflect on Jesus’ appearance during his suffering and Passion and suddenly realize that his face might have looked a bit like mine. The scourging and beatings he endured certainly resulted in swelling and dark bruises. In fact, the prophet Isaiah foretold that the Suffering Servant would cause men to look away as he passed:
“His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance… and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not… Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief.” (Isaiah 52:14, 53: 3, 10)
I pondered this revelation, wondering how I could use my temporarily altered appearance as an aid to grow spiritually. I certainly don’t expect strangers who stare at my broken nose to suddenly see the face of Christ, but I CAN look at others as if through the swollen and bruised eyes of the Savior. Jesus did not judge or condemn a single person he encountered on his long trek to Calvary. On the contrary, he begged, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)
I don’t think it is a coincidence that my healing and recovery will occur during Lent, and I ask you to join me in setting a Lenten goal to view everyone we encounter through the eyes of Jesus. Smile at the annoying woman talking too loud on her cell phone. Say a quick prayer for the rude driver who cuts you off. Put down your newspaper and listen attentively to your child’s rambling account of his day at school. We often do little things for Lent like give up chocolate or beer or some other temporary thing, small sacrifices that don’t really change our hearts and minds. This year try something truly challenging by practicing each day to become more Christ-like. Read the gospels and reflect on the words and wisdom that Jesus taught, then imitate his virtues.
My hope and prayer is that by Easter, we can all look in the mirror and echo the words of St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)
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