The Indian man with the glistening hair. He was my inspiration at the start of this Lent, my “aha” moment. It was so beautiful.
I should have you know that my tendency to be negative is one of my greater flaws. I’m very critical – sometimes that’s a good thing, like when I’m doing my job as an interior designer. It helps me to amplify the good and eliminate the bad in a client’s home and ultimately create a beautiful space. However, my critical nature doesn’t limit itself to the aesthetic, but instead sneaks right over into my perception of other human beings. I am often unaware of how judgmental I am, but it generally manifests itself as I pick apart things that could be improved in others. Remember that old TLC show, “What Not to Wear”? I identified with the hosts…so critical am I!
But this is not what God teaches us to do. Rather, quite the opposite – he says, “…do not judge and you shall not be judged…” (Luke 6:37). Instead, He calls us to love. “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22) Love each other deeply, He commands.
In a recent message from Pope Francis about Lent, the representative of Christ begs each of us to work together to shatter the globalization of indifference. He urges us to instead look at each man, woman and child as our brother and sister. “In each of our neighbors, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well. Similarly, all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity.”
(You can read his entire message here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/lent/documents/papa-francesco_20141004_messaggio-quaresima2015.html)
Do you know how differently the world would look if we saw each other through those lenses? If we saw not only the best in each other, but saw each other as future Saints in Heaven? We are indeed images of God, you know. C.S. Lewis once wrote on this subject in The Weight of Glory:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.”
How much more beautiful an existence would we have if we saw each person in that way? How much more poignant?
It’s been snowing quite a bit the past few days, and especially last night as my husband and I were on our way to the Ash Wednesday Mass. Like a child, I secretly enjoyed the large snowflakes landing on my lashes and hoped, like a romantic, that my husband would notice and take delight. He didn’t, of course, as he was busy jumping into the snow drifts like his interior child. Such a beautiful walk it was. But then I got into the sanctuary and was sitting there praying, or admittedly, being distracted by all the bundled up children, when this elderly Indian gentleman slid into the pew a few rows in front of me. He glistened. Really, truly…. those big snowflakes that had landed in his soft hair were glowing in the candlelight and all I could do was stare at how beautiful he appeared. I thought – THIS MAN, this man is God’s child!
I wish, and I pray, that I will have that interior sense with everyone I see, regardless of their exterior presentation. One day, when I’m gray and wrinkled, and most likely wearing something the hosts on “What Not to Wear” would cringe at…I hope that I’m the most loving version of myself I could ever be.
So here’s to a blessed Lent for everyone. May it be cleansing, and may it, as Pope Francis says, be an opportunity for us all to shirk off the attitude of indifference. May we truly love God and love each other.