There is a popular local phrase often used to declare how impossible an achievement something will be for the individual. We say to others “that, and God face, you will never see”.
Today’s gospel challenges us to personally identify this face of God, and we do so against the backdrop of having celebrated the dignity of both labour and labourer on Labour Day, and the Real Presence of the Corpus Christi amongst us.
Jesus’ admonition to His disciples to go beyond how others identify Him and name instead their own version is a daily challenge, as many of us have been taught the precepts of our faith by some, while the task of living out that faith was demonstrated by others. The simple truth though is that at some point each one of us must respond to Jesus’ question: “Who do YOU say I am?”.
Who is this God we serve who speaks of reigning in glory and in the same breath speaks of His suffering and death? Who is this God we worship who says that to lead we must first love, and to save we must first serve?
Who is this God whose broken body and spilled blood have now become for us the source of our salvation? Have we seen the face of God that is both the epitome of gentleness and mercy, and is yet contorted with anger at those who would dare defile his Father’s house?
The Catholic Church is in crisis today, and many encounter grave difficulty in seeing in us the face of God. They cannot see the face of God in the scandals that continue to plague us. They fail to recognise the presence of God in churches that pay lip service to hospitality, in choirs that perform rather than minister, and in homilies that are bereft of substance and challenge.
The simple truth is this: if the Church is going to imitate Jesus, then we have to ask ourselves the questions ‘What do our faces communicate to those whom we encounter?’ ‘Do people leave our presence and our churches feeling like they’ve seen the face of God?’
Or do our faces tell people that they don’t matter much, because we are SO BUSY with incredibly important things, like checking out the status updates of some old acquaintance on the various social media platforms? Do our faces tell people that their differences render them unacceptable and unlovable, especially because their behaviour doesn’t match our opinion of “the right way to do things”?
The Catholic Church has an excellent opportunity to show the face of God to the thousands of migrants on our doorsteps. The same possibility exists within our prison walls, among our street dwellers, and among those left to die at hospitals and hospices. God’s face must be revealed to our politicians and business owners so that they too see people before profits, and vision before votes.
If we seize the opportunity, perhaps then others can say like Peter “You are the Christ”. Or they can look upon our Church and say like Jacob said to Esau: “For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God” (Gen 33:10).