Tuesday, January 3, 2017

An image is worth a thousand words

The Road to Emmaus

And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad.
 One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. “But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”
 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them.  
 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.”  -
 Luke 24, 13-35

I have never been a big fan of pictures or images of Jesus. It’s not that I think it is idolatry. Idolatry is something you pray to. An icon is something you pray through. I like crucifixes. Unless you get to the larger ones the image on the cross is pretty vague. I know that it represents Jesus without it trying to show what he looks like.

No, the reason I don’t like pictures of our Lord is firmly rooted in the above story from sacred scripture. The disciples of this story were not just some people who followed Jesus here and there during his ministry. Catholic tradition believes that Cleopas was the brother to Saint Joseph, Jesus’ foster father. These were Jesus’ earthly aunt and uncle. These are people who would have known Jesus from his birth. Yet they were unable to “see” him for who he was after the resurrection.

The problem I have with every picture or image of our Lord is that it is someone else’s idea of what Jesus looked like. There were no photohuts or Polaroid cameras back in the day so the best we have are what other people imagine him to look like. If you look at an image long enough that is what you train yourself to see. Then when you see the real thing you may not recognize it because you are looking for that image you have been trained to see.

Jesus concealed his image from his aunt and uncle to see what they would say about him without knowing it was him. As Christians, we believe that each and every human being was made in the image and likeness of our creator. Jesus is in every one of us. He conceals himself in the gardener, the lawyer, and the homeless guy on the street corner. He is concealed in the ones we love and the ones we can’t stand to be around.

I do not want to train my mind to only see Jesus when he looks like that painting of him that hung in every room of the church I grew up in. I want to train my mind to see Jesus in everyone I look at. Cleopas surely would have acted differently if he had known it was Jesus walking on the road with him towards Emmaus.

How would you treat that homeless person or the punk with sagging pants if they looked like the image you associate most with Christ? We all would act much differently towards people if we could see the Christ within them.

Stop seeing what your mind is telling you is before you and yearn to see the hidden reality within.

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