Last Sunday’s Gospel told us that after a period of confusion or uncertainty the disciples reached a point of clarity. It is at the moment when he breaks the bread that they know for sure it is Jesus. They recognise the Lord in the profound and sacred moment in which they have become accustomed to meeting him. This, for me, is one of the most moving stories in the Gospels. The disciples are so low, so disappointed, so downhearted. It is into this darkness that the Risen Jesus walks gently beside them. There’s a sense in the explaining of Jesus that it’s not enough to convince them that it is he. We are told later that their hearts were burning within them. What was this burning? I believe their hearts have burnt before. They burnt before in the company of Jesus as a result of his word and action. I believe the burning is love, joy and peace. Of course he is the Bread of Life that is broken for us. One of the things that this story got me thinking about is the idea of recognition. How do we know people? How do we distinguish one person from another? So many things come into play here: smell, accent, voice and so on. However with all this there is something very distinctive about the face. Our face, with our hands, are usually the most visible parts of us, the most exposed, the most commented on. It might be argued that the face is our individual map to our heart. True, we can disguise our face not just in what we cover it with externally, but the controls we place on it from inside. The face is a study within itself.
From a face that launched a thousand ships to the ordinary frown to the little smile that tells us it’s alright, it seems there is no limit to the power of the face. There’s not much greater an insult than to say that someone has as many faces as the town clock. We do not like people that are ‘two-faced’. We often comment on another’s face. Grumpy. Funny. Always smiling, always scowling. A face that would melt anyone. A face like thunder. Unfortunately a lot of the time we make a total judgement based on a glance. This is partly because our social norms do not allow us to take time to study another’s face. Have you ever taken time to slowly and gently examine your own face? Your skin, your nose, your mouth. I did this exercise yesterday and what really held my attention was my eyes. I had not realised how green they are. I was also very conscious that at times they are bright and clear whilst at other times they are tired and worn.
However as my reflection continued I found myself being led to deeper consideration about both my own face and that of others. How many words have my mouth uttered? How many of the words that my mouth has uttered built people up, brought them hope or joy? What have my eyes looked upon? Often I had little or no choice regarding what my eyes saw. Other times I had. What choices have I made with regard to reading, movies? Somewhere in this reflection I found myself wondering about the face of Jesus.
What would it have been like to actually look at the face of Jesus? To actually hear his voice. To see his smile. To be familiar with his expression, verbal and facial. In the Gospel we hear the phrase that Jesus looked hard at him. Of course this is not about a severity in Jesus but rather an intensity. In the case of the rich young man, he looked steadily at him and loved him. What was it like for Mary and Joseph and the family and friends of Jesus to see the developing face of Jesus, from baby to toddler, from child to adolescent, then to the face of the man. What would it be like to gaze at the face of Jesus? To see his eyes, nose, mouth…the eyes of Jesus! It is through the eyes of Jesus that he sees the world but not as you and I see the world. It can be difficult to understand Jesus as God and Man. Perhaps the eyes of Jesus may help us in this regard. Think of it like this, it is through his eyes he sees the people, places and events of his life, but it is with a divine look. His is the divine stare. His is the glance of God. He sees with human eyes, but he sees as God. Therefore it is safe to assume that the look of Jesus is a look of complete love. Jesus looks at us as a teacher, brother and friend, not forgetting Jesus looks at us as Lord, Saviour and Messiah. I think of three particular ‘faces’ of Jesus, at the Last Supper, from under the Cross and standing beside the Empty Tomb. Why not take ten minutes in the quiet and imagine the face of Jesus looking at you, relax knowing that he looks at you as no other can. Jesus looks at you with complete and utter love.