Friday, 23 November 2012


Most of us look in a mirror at least once a day. For us men, it's usually while we're having a shave. The mirror helps us avoid cutting ourselves. Women need a mirror so that they can put on their make-up and do their hair. Looking in a mirror is part of our daily routine.
But what do we see? Now that sounds a stupid question! Ourselves, of course! More important, how do we react? Some of us may be very dissatisfied with our appearance. We compare ourselves with super-models - male or female - and find ourselves wanting. But we will never have peace of mind unless we can accept what we see in the mirror and say, 'That's me! I'm glad!'
Or we may be so pleased with what we see that we become like Narcissus, who fell in love with his image, reflected in the still water. That can lead to our becoming so conceited that we're completely absorbed in ourselves and have no time to appreciate other people; so we may well find that they have no time for us. And if our happiness depends on our good looks we will feel very insecure. We know that with the passage of time we will all lose the freshness of youth. And yet the wrinkles etched by age and experience can give us a much more interesting appearance than the characterless smoothness of a young face. Any way that's my comfort in old age!
When we look in a mirror we see not only our own image, but also God's. The first book of the Bible  -Genesis -tells us that He made us in His own image and likeness, and that he was very pleased with His handiwork.
To illustrate this I have painted a cartoon of a very ugly wild-haired man, with a blue, stubbly chin and a large red belly, perched on his spindly legs.  As he looks in the shaving mirror he sees a reflection –not of himself, but of Christ. Amazed, he exclaims, “What me? -an image of Christ! Who’d have thought it!”  
Each of us can and should repeat his astonished surprise, “What me? –an image of Christ!” And even, “What him, her? –images of Christ!  Who’d have thought it? -God”  That insight should change the whole way we look at ourselves and each other.
But even though the likeness is much more than skin-deep not one of us mere human beings could ever claim to be the perfect image of God. Only Jesus, as the Son of God made man, is the perfect image of the invisible God, (cf. Col. 1.15). As Jesus told Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father," (Jn. 14.8).
So, in and through Jesus, God could be seen, touched and heard; in Jesus divine love is perfectly embodied and expressed in a human form, readily accessible to us.
Imperfectly, we mirror God's likeness in our capacity to know and to love Him as He really is -the One Who is supremely good and true, loving and lovable. In such loving knowledge of God lies the happiness for which He has created us and to which He calls us.
He loves and respects each one of us so much that that He has sent His Son to share our human life and to lay down His very life for us, on the cross -precisely because He wants to remove the barrier of sin, which prevents us from sharing His own divine life and happiness. God could not have paid us people a greater compliment than by His becoming one of us.
Our way to perfection is, then, to strive, with God's help, to become ever more like His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our way to meeting God.
So, as I look in the mirror I see someone loved by God, Who has gone to such painful lengths to rescue me from making a compete mess of my life -from distorting and destroying myself as God's image. If God can love me so much, who am I to despise myself or, indeed, anyone else? God has convinced me that not only am I lovable, but also loved. The same is true for everybody else. Even when my sins have distorted His image in me He still loves me and is eager to repair the damaged image.
As I look in the mirror I realize that God has given me all that I have, all that I am. Without God's creative love I simply would not exist. If I achieve anything in life it's only because He has given me the ability to do so. Without God I can do nothing. Without God I am nothing.
So, as I look in the mirror I mustn't become like Narcissus and fall in love with myself. Instead, I must see myself as reflecting God, and should fall in love with Him. My perfection is to become ever more like God.
A final thought. In the musical, 'Les Miserables' there's a beautiful song with the line, "To love another person is to see the face of God."
Love is the key to discovering something of the glory of God, mirrored in each one of us. It's sad but true that many people will only get a glimpse of what God is like by seeing Him reflected in the love, mercy and care we show each other.
Isidore O.P.

Friday, 9 November 2012


Those were glorious childhood days!  Each summer our parents would take us for a holiday at the seaside. There my brothers and I would process to the beach with our buckets and spades.  Naturally our eldest brother was Chief Architect and Clerk of the Works, as we set about building a magnificent sand castle.
With delicate precision one of us would gently shape the walls with his hands. Another of us would cut a channel to bring water from the sea to the moat, dug by another brother with his wooden spade. Once these tasks had been completed we would fill our buckets with damp sand, then turn them upside down to make the turrets. The ‘moment of grace’ came when we adorned our beautiful castle with shells and sea-weed. Construction completed, Union Jack hoisted on the largest central turret, and then, that special moment when the Master-builder, our eldest brother, would remove the sand dam from our channel. Imagine our delight and pride when the water rushed up the channel and surrounded the moat one of had dug. 
But, then as we stood back to admire our magnificent edifice, a large wave rushed in and swamped our beautiful castle.  What had taken hours to build was washed away in seconds.  What a shame; what a loss.  We were distraught.
But much later in life I reflected on other buildings -the much older, beautiful medieval cathedrals of England…far more substantial and vastly more worthwhile than our ‘play-time’ sand castles! These ancient places of worship were labours of love, expressions of deep faith and devotion. Skilled craftsmen constructed them. These were experts in carving stone and wood, and making stained glass. They devoted their skills to the glory of God.
No rush job for them!  They were prepared to take their time in producing the best they could. God, they thought, deserved only the best. A cathedral might well take decades to build. And over the centuries there would be additions and modifications.
But, horror of horrors, these masterpieces were as vulnerable as our childhood sand castle, destroyed by a not-so-giant wave. We only have to think of Coventry and Dresden cathedrals, bombed to ruins in the Second World War. Laboriously produced masterpieces were reduced to ruins in a matter of moments.  More recently, ancient monuments, thousands of years old, were shattered to pieces in the war on Iraq –the cradle of civilization.
How laborious and time-consuming it is to build; how easy and swift it is to destroy!  If that’s the case with buildings made with wood, stone and mortar, it’s much truer and more devastating with people, made of flesh and blood.  A single bullet can instantly put an end to a life; a vicious, perhaps careless, word can destroy a person’s reputation or self-confidence. These may have taken years to build up. In an instant they can be shattered.
Jesus came to restore and renew our lives shattered by sin.  He is the Good Physician who came to heal us people, who have been damaged, wounded, in so many ways.  He wants to give to us, restore to us, the fullness of life.
Certainly I meet Jesus by recognizing my need of Him, and then by turning to Him for the balm of His healing mercy. But He has also called you and me to work with Him in building people up, when they’ve been brought low. 
Though a devastating word may give us a great sense of power and satisfaction, being demolition experts has no part in our Christian vocation. We have been called to be re-construction workers, restorers of God’s damaged masterpieces. 
In such casualties I meet the wounded Christ.  With love and care, and above all with the grace of God, our task is it to build people up, not tear them down.  Thus St. Paul writes in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, “Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up,” (2 Cor. 12. 19).  That is especially true when we have to correct someone, as Paul again says, “So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. (2 Corinthians 13.10).
Isidore O.P.