No doubt you’ve heard of the 80-year-old woman in Spain who recently turned a valuable fresco of Jesus into an unrecognizable blur. The thought occurred to me that this is a metaphor for what we sometimes do. We attempt to be Jesus for the world–other Christs. Our intentions are good. But then we make a mess of things. The Gospels give us a true picture of Jesus. He was patient, kind, forgiving, wise, loving, and good. Is that what people see when they look at me? Not always! A work of art is the result of a combination of talent and plain hard work. To be a Christian, a genuine likeness of Christ, we who are baptized have the potential. The sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit with all his gifts is at work in our hearts. However, the task still requires effort on our part.
An artist who has a natural flair also needs training. He or she takes classes, ponders masterpieces, perhaps studies under a master. How do we train to be like Christ? We study him in the Gospels, and we spend time with him in prayer. We learn about people who were like him, the saints. (How well do you know the recently canonized saints like St. Marianne Cope and St. Kateri Tekakwitha?) And we associate with people who are Christlike. This is the point of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Great Stone Face.” A village is overshadowed by a craggy mountain which has the features of a wise and gentle man. Supposedly a holy man who has those features will come to the village someday. Young Ernest longs for the prophet to come. He works and plays in the presence of the face in stone. It dominates his thoughts and haunts his dreams. Each time someone comes who promises to be the awaited one, Ernest is disappointed. Meanwhile, he does much good for people. Finally Ernest is an elderly man much revered and the prophet hasn’t come. One day a poet visits and on seeing Ernest’s face exclaims, “Behold. Ernest himself is the likeness of the Great Stone Face.”
Educator Thomas Groome says that the word disciple really means apprentice. We are all learners when it comes to living like Christ. Luckily we’re not made of stone but of clay. We can constantly reshape ourselves.
When has a person inspired you to be more Christlike?
If you were to choose one quality of Jesus to practice this week, what would it be? How could you show it?