Summary: The important thing is not to have just one image of Jesus. This would hardly do him justice. It would be the same as our parents showing their friend only one photograph of us.
Seeds for Sowing, Vol. IV, Issue 3, No. 18
Third Sunday of Lent (Year B)
March 26, 2000
* 1 Corinthians 1:18, 22-25
Jesus’ Picture Gallery
One of the first things that new parents want to have is a picture of their baby. Many parents take this picture and enclose it in a card announcing the arrival of their new bundle of joy. Maybe some of you even have such baby pictures your parents took of you. But as we know, the picture taking doesn’t stop there. As children grow and change, we want to capture their image over and over again. And as we mature the picture taking still goes on. We need to see them in their different moods and in different situations.
Imagine this: We have gone away to live in a foreign country and our parents have stayed here. A friend comes to visit--someone who has never met us. They want to see what we look like and so our parents pull out a picture of us. But it is the only picture they have of us--only one picture. The friend looks at that picture, and forever after, that is the only image that person has of us. How would you feel about that? I’m sure you would say it wasn’t fair--there’s so much more to who you are than can be captured in one photo. In fact, it would take hundreds of pictures to even start to show people your different moods and how you react in different circumstances.
Our Picture of Jesus
And even though we know this is unfair, sometimes we inflict the same injustice on Jesus himself. Only this time it is not the same photograph we have of Jesus. This time it is the same fixed image we have of Jesus. This image that we carry in our minds and hearts could have come from an actual picture of Jesus that hung on the wall of our parent’s home; or maybe it came from one favourite passage of scripture. For many people it was the image of Jesus dying on the cross; for others it was Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding a tiny lamb in his arms. Still others grew up with a picture of the Sacred Heart. All of these images are valuable. They all help us to form a picture of who Jesus is.
But the important thing is not to have just one image of Jesus. This would hardly do him justice. It would be the same as our parents showing their friend only one photograph of us.
Jesus in a Different Light
All of which brings us to today’s Gospel. There we see Jesus in a completely different light. He is no longer just the gentle and compassionate person. He is also the outraged and angry person. When he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves and the money changers sitting at their table, it became too much for him to bear. He made a whip and drove them out of the temple, poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. If our mental gallery of pictures of Jesus does not contain this picture of the outraged Jesus, then our gallery is not complete.
The Imitation of Christ
Why is it so important for us to have as complete an image of Jesus as possible? Well the reason is simply this:The imitation of Christ is still at the foundation of our spiritual lives. We are asked to model our life on the life of Jesus. Many of us frequently ask ourselves the question: What would Jesus do in this situation? We can’t possibly answer that question unless we have a thorough grasp of who Jesus is. And that understanding of Jesus comes mainly through the New Testament. Our image of Jesus must be based on the whole New Testament, not just on one or two word pictures that we consider to be our favourites.
One of the great dangers in leading a spiritual life is to base our ideas on what has in some cases come to be a typical presentation of the religious person. By this I mean the idea that a religious person is one who at times lives in another world, a faraway land where nothing is ever really challenged; where real life issues are not dealt with--they’re just swept under the rug. The real world of marital conflict, hunger, poverty, injustice, labour disputes, racial prejudice--this world tends to be ignored as outside the realm of spirituality. What could be further from the truth?
A Passive Society
Many social critics are saying that we are becoming a passive society. We prefer to leave things to other people. Our motto is becoming: "Let George do it!" As followers of Jesus we are asked to be active members of this world that God has created. If we always and everywhere leave matters of injustice and poverty to others we will have given up our right to call ourselves Christian.