Dents and scars
We don’t have to look very far to see cars with dents in them. We may even drive a car with a few nicks and scrapes. But the reality of dents and scrapes is is far greater when we get personal. Personal in the sense of human beings with dents and scrapes. We look around and see most people carry their own share of dents and scrapes. If we are honest we can see lots of our own dents and scrapes, probably even more than we care to admit.
Can we get beyond them in ourselves… and others? Or do we get stuck on the surface?
St. Vincent de Paul invites us to look beyond the surface. Most visitors to this site are familiar with the image of the scarred coin used by Vincent.
“I shouldn’t judge poor peasants, men or women, by their surface appearance, nor by their apparent mental capacities. And this is hard to do, since very frequently they scarcely seem to have the semblance or the intelligence of reasonable beings, so gross and so offensive are they. But, turn the coin, and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, Whose will it was to be poor, is represented to us by just these people.” (XI Conference #19, p.32)
People with scars and dents reveal to us the God whom we await! Now that is a concept! In his mid 30’s Vincent began to look at people in a new way. His eyes opened when he looked deeper. He began to see Christ in every person. Taking another look changed him. And he “just about changed the face of France” as historians have reminded us.
Advent and dents
Taking another look is particularly relevant during Advent. We journey toward the birth of Jesus.
Mary and Joseph saw something that was not yet visible to the world. They saw a life waiting to be born. How much more did they see? As Joseph and Mary looked for a safe place to rest there was no room for them in the inns. The innkeepers of the day did not see who was asking for their aid. Would they have acted differently if they knew this couple would change history?
Jesus himself advised against premature judgments. Think of the parable of the weeds and the wheat. Matthew 13:24-30. In each of our lives, there have been moments we would not want to be judged by. Most of us recognize the truth and the hope of “Be patient with me!” I suspect we would like to think that we see beyond the obvious. But do we? As we look at scars and dents do we really see the face of Christ asking for our understanding and accompaniment?
One more thing in this year “Welcoming the Stranger”.
The following were all “strangers” to the United States. Albert Einstein, Joseph Pulitzer, Steve Jobs, Ruppert Murdoch, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Irving Berlin, Andre Carnegie, Patrick Ewing… Where to stop? Suppose their parents had arbitrarily been excluded from the United States? We can find similar lists for other countries.
Things to think about?
- Do I see beyond the surface of the people I meet to the reality of my brother or sister?
- Do I see beyond the scars and dents of my own life to the dignity of being beloved by God?
- What can I do this Advent to slow down enough to take a second look at others …and myself?