We all remember those famous words of the queen from Disney’s classic, Snow White: Say it with me, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” The mirror always told the truth to the queen whether she liked it or not…and, that’s how the saga began. Wouldn’t it be nice this Lent to have a mirror to do the same for us?
We do! Instead of having a genie trapped in a mirror to speak back to us, we have Jesus. Sound a little far-fetched? Blessed John Paul II didn’t think so. He loved to quote, Gaudium et Spes 22:1,
The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. [My emphasis]
Mirrors are meant to reveal ourselves to us. Unfortunately, they only show us what is placed before it; and so, with physical mirrors, only our physical appearance. However, I would suggest that by looking at Jesus, He reveals not only the outer-me but who I am per se. Remember when the prophet Samuel went looking to anoint a new king of Israel and found none until Jesse’s son David stood before him?
…the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
What I am about to suggest is terrifying and takes courage. It is one thing to ask ourselves or our friends, “What do you see,” but to ask the living God…that is quite another!
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)
Not fear in the sense of fearing judgment or His wrath but a fear that is awe and wonderment. We should be experiencing that fear or awe and wonderment every time we see the Blessed Sacrament. If we don’t, then our hearts have grown callous and cold and are in need of this Lent. To be that cold means we are almost spiritually dead.
It may be terrifying to consider this and yet, that is what the Lord through His Church asks of us this Lent. And how is this accomplished? We need to steal away to a quiet place and mentally draw into the presence of the Lord; invite the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray and reveal our heart, and then, gaze upon Jesus in Sacred Scripture. Now, this cannot be a drive through prayer. We need to dedicate time daily. At least 15 minutes may be 30 if this is not new to us. It is here, in this time of revelatory prayer that he will reveal our hearts to us through Sacred Scripture. Because it is also written:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
He who is an All-Consuming Fire (Hebrews 12:29) desires to purify us in his crucible of love (Sirach 2:1-10) so that we might be changed from “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18) to resemble the Lord. The devil tried to accuse our Lord in the Gospel today of these sins but discovered that these were the sins of Israel, not of Jesus. To the devil’s dismay, Jesus chose to redeem Israel’s sins.
Let’s be honest, the prospect of our Lord revealing all our attachments, hidden sins and wounds is not comfortable. In fact, St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the introduction of his work, “The Steps of Humility and Pride” states that this is how the Lord imparts to us the gift and virtue of humility: by the bread of sorrow (Psalm 126:2) and the wine of compunction (Psalm 59:5).
It is also true that we have nothing to fear! St. Bernard also gives us a great deal of consolation by saying,
This first food, then is humility: bitter and medicinal; the second is charity: sweet and soothing…
The first is bitter so that he may cleanse the wounds of our sin to make way for His wounds of love. The second is that love poured from the cross which becomes our strength to choose Him over all other things. Why does the Lord do this? That we might experience the profound depths of His mercy and His love and hear His tender voice. As Isaiah said in yesterday’s first reading, He is the “repairer of the breach” (Isaiah 58:12) and wants to heal the breach between us and God the Father.
Join me this Lent. I am committed to make this Lent different from every other. If you usually look back over Lent and realize that you want more, you need more – this is the way for you. I invite you to join me this Lent and take a long deep look at our Catholic mirror, the crucifix and Sacred Scripture in order to let our Lord reveal you to yourself. It is frightening. It is painful. It is even troubling and uncomfortable. But, then again,
The world promises you comfort, but YOU are not made for comfort. YOU are made for GREATNESS. (Pope Benedict XVI)
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, The Steps of Humility and Pride (Cistercian Fathers Series) (Collegeville: Cistercian Publs, 1989), 31.