The Face of Jesus
A worshipping community then does not seek aesthetic perfection. Rather, it seeks truthfulness and honesty, recognition of our own selves and our life together in all its complexity, ambiguity, vulnerability, brokenness, and doubt. It is a community that celebrates each person, not based on some kind of arbitrary definition of excellence but on the honesty of facing up to our own selves and being that person together. Here we discover beauty. What many people are actually searching for is authentic relationship, because in authentic relationship we encounter the Trinitarian life, the God of eternal self-giving relationship. In authentic relationship we see and celebrate one another for who we really are. This is where the disabled community speaks to us about beauty. John Paul II wrote,
“There is no doubt that in revealing the fundamental frailty of the human condition, the disabled person becomes an expression of the tragedy of pain. In this world of ours that approves hedonism and is charmed by ephemeral and deceptive beauty, the difficulties of the disabled are often perceived as a shame or a provocation, and their problem as burdens to be removed or resolved as quickly as possible. Disabled people are instead living icons of the crucified son. They reveal the mysterious beauty of the one who emptied himself for our sake and made himself obedient unto death. They show us over and above all appearances that the ultimate foundation of human existence is Jesus Christ. It is said (justifiably so) that disabled people are humanity’s privileged witnesses. They can teach everyone about the love that saves us; they can become heralds of a new world, no longer dominated by force, violence, and aggression, but by love, solidarity, and acceptance—a new world transfigured by the light of Christ, the Son of God, who became incarnate, who was crucified, and rose for us.”
Here we have a vision of beauty that is not defined by “ephemeral and deceptive” means but through the life of disabled people, a people who reveal that humanity are a people of all abilities. Here we see that we encounter the divine not through arbitrary notions of excellence but through the mystery and wonder of “love, solidarity, and acceptance.”
From the chapter “Beauty” in The Ghost of Perfection: Searching for Humanity.
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