- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories ~ What Face Do We Show?
Our faces are remarkably the same. Every face has eyes, a nose and a mouth. But at the same time, they are remarkably different, different shapes, colourings and sizes. Most especially remarkable is the capacity for our face sometimes, to express what we are thinking and feeling. We do not always appreciate that the face we show can greatly affect others. It can make a difference and bring life to those around us and can even plant a seed that goes well beyond us.
On 11 April 2015 Pope Francis made a proclamation calling the whole Catholic community and indeed the whole of humanity to a Jubilee Year focusing on mercy. The title of his proclamation was Misericordiae Vultus [The Face of Mercy]. He began by stating the reason for this call: Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him…. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God (MV 1).
What face do we show as a church and as a community? As individual Christians and as a community of Christian faith, what face do we reveal? St. Paul, writing to the Corinthian Christians issued a challenge (1Cor.2:1-5) telling them that what he revealed to them was not in “lofty words”, but “with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power”. In other words, by what he did more than by what he said.
The prophet, Isaiah expressed that same kind of declaration to Israel, calling for a faith that was real, lived and capable of effecting great change in God’s People and the world. The action that Isaiah called for was justice and liberation, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, and reconciling and healing relationships. With such action comes light, to all, a peaceful healing light (Is.58:6-10).
In Matthews Gospel, the “Sermon on the Mount”, chapters 5-7, offers the core of Jesus’s teaching. It presents how Jesus modeled a way of life to the disciples. It is one thing to describe what we do as followers of Jesus. We are called to reach out and “do good” in our world. Such an expression of goodness is wonderful but is there more to it than “doing”? The “more” is to recognize this is who we are. It is not just service to others or kindness in the moment. It is our very identity, and how we want the world to be.
The images of salt and light proclaim that we bring who we are, our identity to our world and all we meet. We re-create the world we encounter, building God’s plan, God’s dream. Like salt and light, walking with other, experiencing life with them, we can be the face of Jesus, the face of the Beatitudes for others. As individual Christians and as a Christian community our face builds God’s reign, a reign of justice and peace, of healing and reconciliation, marked by mercy, compassion and love for all. This is who we are. It is our face.