How many are the faces that surround us!
The toothy grin of the political candidate who wants your vote.
The porcelain perfection of the fashion model, beautiful yet cold.
The resigned expression of the disaster victim, eyes heavy with despair.
We are surrounded by these faces, and a thousand others. We encounter them in shopping malls. They invade our homes through television. We meet them nightly round the dinner table. Both faces alien to us, and intimate.
It is through our faces that we recognize each other. Some are masks, others are invitations. But even when makeup’s artfully applied, even when sincerity is faked, our faces tell the truth. The reveal who we are to those with eyes to see.
Your face reveals what you look at, what you honor, what you desire. This becomes increasingly true with the passage of time. It’s said that for our first fifty years, we wear the face that nature gave us, but from then on our face is our responsibility; it is the sum total of our choices, our defeats, our victories, and what it is we love.
Spend your time with pornography, and your face will show it. Look on another race with hatred, and your face will show it. Fail to recognize that everything is holy, and your face will show it.
But see the beauty that surrounds you, even on ordinary days, and your face will show it. Recognize that God’s children come in different colors, that each of them can enrich your life, and your face will show it. Fulfill your desire for intimacy in sound and sacred ways, and your face will show it.
Yes, to those with eyes to see, our faces reveal who we are. They reveal what we look at, what we honor, what we desire. Thus our faces also declare the way we will behave, how we will put into effect what is written in our faces.
A gift is given to three disciples who climb with Jesus to the mountaintop: they become able to recognize him for who he is. His clothing, his body, his face radiate the light of God, and the surrounding rocks and sky shimmer with unearthly color. These disciples gaze upon his glory.
And in his face they see the one he looks at, the one he honors, the one he loves. The light flowing forth from him comes from the Father. It is in his prayer that Jesus gazes on the Father. It is because his existence is unbroken prayer that the divine light surrounding him can become visible even to sleepy disciples.
They see in his face not only where he comes from—the Father’s infinite depths—but also the place where he is going. His face is set toward Jerusalem. There at Jerusalem, by giving up his blood and breath, by emptying out his life, he will free forever the children of God, you and me among them. There the light shining from his face will illuminate the midnight of human sin.
His light will fall upon both the dead and the living, that they may waken from his stupor and enter endless day.
All this is shown to three awestruck disciples up there on the mountain as they gaze on his glory.
Every day we see around us a world of human faces. On this Last Sunday after the Epiphany, we see the face of Jesus brilliant with eternal light. But we have faces, too.
And like the faces we see every day, and like the transfigured face of Jesus, our faces reveal what we honor, what we do, who we are.
And does your face reveal? Does something keep the light of divine love from shining there? It could be a burden of guilt you have yet to drop, or a refusal to respect yourself, or a grudge that lingers. What keeps you from having a redeemed face? Lent is not a time to look grim and terrible, but to give up that terrible and grim look we already have. It is a time when our faces can be redeemed. We need to look at Jesus. We need to reflect his light.
Do you want to behold the face of Jesus? Do you want to reflect his light? The season of Lent is a time to do this. Bible reading and prayer are ways to do this.
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You can start in a simple way. Read the Bible passages for each coming Sunday, read them slowly, read them more than once, and reflect on them. You will find them listed on the back of the church calendar page for each month.
Through these readings you can encounter Jesus, meet him face to face. Your own face can begin to reflect his light.
Use material from the Prayer Book to inform and guide your personal prayer. Canticles, collects, and other texts can lead you to less structured prayer where you swell on a word, offer up a concern, or simply listen in silence. Here too you can encounter Jesus. And you will be enlightened by his shining face.
Through these simple forms of prayer and Bible reading, we climb the Mount of Transfiguration and look on the face of Jesus so that our own faces can be redeemed.
Once there on the mountaintop, we do not linger. We soon return below, to that world of human faces. There we offer to those around us the hope and testimony that reach beyond words, that only a redeemed face can provide.
— Copyright 2001, The Rev. Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission.