When did you last see the face of God?

Seek His Face Always

Last weekend, my family took the time to watch the Tom Hanks’ movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  The movie is about the encounters between the popular children’s show host Fred Rogers and the magazine journalist Lloyd Vogel, who was assigned to interview Mr. Rogers. Those encounters ended up being opportunities for Fred Rogers to help Lloyd heal an old wound.   Prior to watching the movie, I did not have much expectation on the movie, and simply looked forward to a relaxing evening. However, I was pleasantly surprised at one scene in the movie. During the scene, Lloyd, troubled by his father’s hospitalization, looked for Fred Rogers. Fred took Lloyd to a diner and asked him to join him for a minute of silence, to think about the people in their lives who helped shape them to become who they are now. Mr. Rogers assured him that the faces of those people would come to mind.

Sure enough, I took the opportunity to try the exercise…and many unexpected faces floated into my mind.  For sure, I saw the faces of many family members, teachers, and close friends.  However, there were also faces of the odd acquaintances, whom I realized only at that moment, who had starring roles in my life.  Some of them went through events of their own and I found their reactions to those events admirable.  Others had randomly made a comment to me or asked me a question at some point that greatly impacted me. All those people in my mind cannot be more different from one another.  They have different personalities, belong to a wide range of age groups, and they have different cultural backgrounds and beliefs.  However, it was clear to me towards the end of the exercise that all of them played a role in shaping me.

We often read about seeing “the face of God” in the Bible as knowing God. We are often reminded to see the face of God in others when we serve them. However, it seems that God also seek us and shape us through others! There are no random happenings in life and Jeremiah reminded us of that. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord…” (Jer 29:11)  The people in our lives who shaped us, including acquaintances, are divine instruments, and their words and actions were sent our way as we need them.

Well, when do you think you last saw the face of God?

Just be silent for one minute and think about the people who came into your life and helped shape you. The many faces of God will float in your mind.

 

 

Defining ourselves in self isolation

The Pandemic Social Isolation is an opportunity for us to define ourselves in the most authentic way.

Years ago, at my very first meeting with a spiritual advisor, I was asked to introduce myself. I was quick to tell him my current endeavours and my previous projects. My spiritual advisor was patient. After listening to me rambling on, he reminded me that projects and work do not define us, but relationships do. He was talking about my relationships with others and my relationship with God.

Due to the pandemic in recent weeks, many people in the world are either laid off or lost their job. In-person meetings, conferences, arts performances and projects are cancelled, rescheduled, or on hold. Suddenly, people’s occupation and project titles became meaningless. It is obvious that we can no longer define ourselves according to our projects and work. To practice social distancing, many grandparents cannot meet with their grandchildren. Good friends who used to hang out every day cannot meet for a drink to vent after cooping up in the house all day. For those who are inept in using technology to communicate with others, social distancing puts a damper on personal relationships. It seems that what is left to define oneself is simply our own relationship with God.

I wonder if this is the time that we are supposed to focus on our personal relationship with God. Perhaps, we can now spend the time to reflect on who God is for each of us personally, and get to know who we are to God. Surely, it’s Holy Week right now and that’s what we are supposed to do. With the fear and anxiety that accompanies the pandemic, I am sure many of us are also praying, communicating to God more often than usual. However, maybe we have forgotten our own identity and really need to introduce ourselves once more in the most authentic way, and not base our identities on something that will not last, like our work or projects, or relationship with mortals. We need to see ourselves through our own personal relationship with God. If you were asked of who God is for you, can you describe that at this very moment? If not, let just say that self-isolating and social distancing is perfect for a retreat and a reflection.

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

saints front

On a recent morning, I captured this image of the early light shining through the stained glass window of one church and landing right among the pews in front of the icon of Christ. This image made me think of the possibility of the Angels and Saints visiting and listening attentively to the Lord in silence.

This morning, when I was attending Mass, the bright morning light shone through the church window onto my face as I was standing for the Gospel.

bright sunlight

The priest was reading the line about the Greeks coming to Philip and saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”.  I couldn’t help but think how the light forced me to close my eyes and, now, I would not be able to see Jesus. It was then that a conversation with the late Father Charlie came to mind.

Long ago, I asked about Purgatory and, specifically, why our souls would need to be in Purgatory.  Father Charlie thought that, perhaps, the light of God’s love would be so powerful that we would not be able to face the Lord if we were to head straight to heaven. We needed time to adjust to this brightness.  Thinking about the pews glowing in the morning light from a few days earlier, I think Father Charlie might be right.

Saints and Angels.jpg

The angels and saints, who are spirits or have been raised to life in heaven, may be fairly bright, just like those multi-coloured spots on the pews suggested. They are, therefore, able to stand in the presence of the Lord, seeing Him face-to-face, singing songs of praise! So, if you and I were to ask the same question as the Greeks and “wish to see Jesus”, we might want to look at the saints as our role models. Just like them, we can choose to follow God’s directions in life and embark on a journey of holiness.  Of course, we can always join in praising at church with the saints and angels:

“For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

Let the saints and angels accompany us and guide us!