The face of God

Third Sunday of Easter.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob is the God of Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus Christ is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He is the God of Israel who became flesh and dwelt among us. In him we see the face of God, His face shines on us.

That the face of a person is what enables us to recognize them, to enter into a relationship with them, that it is a window into that person’s soul should be easy for us, who live in the age of face recognition technology, to realize.

Our body makes our humanity visible, but our faces not only show our human nature, they also show our mood, they can telegraph to others the state of our souls, our emotions, our feelings and our mindsets as well.

In Jesus, we see the human face of God. Because He is true man he has a face that is unique, because He is God, to look at his face is to see the face of God. The Holy Father Benedict XVI explained in a catechesis delivered in January 2013 how and where to look to see his face.

“Jesus does not tell us something about God, he does not merely speak of the Father but is the Revelation of God, because he is God and thus reveals the face of God. In the Prologue to his Gospel St John wrote: “no one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” …

God has a face — meaning he is a “you” who can enter into a relationship — and who has not withdrawn into his heavenly dwelling place, looking down at humanity from on high. God is certainly above all things, but he addresses us, he listens to us, he sees us, he speaks to us, he makes a covenant, he is capable of love…

Something completely new happened, however, with the Incarnation. The search for God’s face was given an unimaginable turning-point, because this time this face could be seen: it is the face of Jesus, of the Son of God who became man. In him the process of the Revelation of God, which began with Abraham’s call, finds fulfilment in the One who is the fullness of this Revelation, because he is the Son of God, he is both “the mediator and the sum total of Revelation”, the content of Revelation and the Revealer coincide in him. Jesus shows us God’s face and makes God’s name known to us…

The desire to know God truly, that is, to see God’s face, is innate in every human being, even in atheists. And perhaps we unconsciously have this wish simply to see who he is, what he is, who he is for us. However, this desire is fulfilled in following Christ, in this way we see his back and, in the end, we see God too as a friend, in Christ’s face we see his face. The important thing is that we not only follow Christ in our needy moments or when we find a slot in our daily occupations, but in our life as such. The whole of our life must be oriented to meeting Jesus Christ, to loving him; and, in our life we must allocate a central place to loving our neighbor, that love which, in the light of the Crucified One, enables us to recognize the face of Jesus in the poor, in the weak and in the suffering. This is only possible if the true face of Jesus has become familiar to us through listening to his word, in an inner conversation with him, in entering this word so that we truly meet him, and of course, in the Mystery of the Eucharist. In the Gospel of St Luke, the passage about the two disciples of Emmaus recognize Jesus in the breaking of bread is important; prepared by the journey with him, by the invitation to stay with them that they had addressed to him and by the conversation that made their hearts burn within them, in the end they saw Jesus. For us too the Eucharist is the great school in which we learn to see God’s face, we enter into a close relationship with him; and at the same time, we learn to turn our gaze to the final moment of history when he will satisfy us with the light of his face. On earth when we are walking towards this fullness, in the joyful expectation that the Kingdom of God will really be brought about.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid