Lent 3, 7 March 21
Where in London can you see The Queen, Usain Bolt, Beyoncé, and even John Lennon, all under the same roof?
Well done if you’ve guessed it correctly - the answer is Madame Tussauds waxworks museum! For anyone who is not familiar with the concept of a wax work museum, it is essentially a place where you can go to see all of your favourite celebrities in the form of ultra-realistic wax sculptures. It is a funny thing to do when you actually stop to think about it, but nevertheless, Madame Tussauds is one of London’s top tourist attractions.
In the last verse of today’s Gospel reading we are told Jesus knew “what a man had in him”. We can be thankful that we have alot more going on in our bodes than the hollow wax works at Madame Tussauds. For we are told in the Bible that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. Jesus does not need to be educated on human nature and the workings of our minds. In some ways that is absolutely frightening when we realise that God knows all of our thoughts. In other ways, it is completely liberating. It is not our goal or job in life to work out exactly how our individual minds work. Who we are? What we are about? What is my neighbour thinking?
I count myself guilty of this, many of us today like to think of ourselves as amateur psychologists, attempting to understand exactly how the minds of ourselves and those around us work. God equips professional psychologists and therapists to guide us and help us understand and cope with complex mental problems. But for the rest of us who have not had this particular calling, we can only scratch the surface when it comes to understanding our characters and motives. We can receive much comfort knowing that Our Lord understands the depths of our hearts like no one else. Christ sees us, our uniqueness and our foibles, but does not judge us like the world does. When we try to imitate this perspective in the way we view and interact with others, we realise that ultimately our goal is to do things out of love. As the Psalmist says, following God’s precepts and commands “gladden the heart” and “give light to the eyes”. Imagining the way Christ would have looked at, and loved things with his eyes and heart gives us great inspiration. Especially when we imagine the way He looks at and loves us!
My family gave me a book one year for Christmas called, “Finding Jesus”. I don’t know if you have heard of the “Where’s Wally” cartoon picture books, where on each page, you have to spot the man in the red and white striped clothing amongst a crowd of hundreds of people. Well, “Finding Jesus” is a similar thing, where you are required to spot Our Lord amongst large gatherings from well-known Biblical scenes. In today’s second reading, we are challenged as to how we look for God. It says how some people demanded “miracles or wisdom”. How easy it is for us to put God in a box. We might start off with good intentions in seeking Him, but so often stop too soon when we think we’ve found Him. I remember the first time I learnt the Lord’s Prayer off by heart. I proudly thought, “That’s it! I’ve reached spiritual perfection! I can sit back and relax now. Surely it is not possible to know God any more than this!” It is our intention to the prayer that matters. For example, “Do we genuinely seek God’s kingdom on Earth as in Heaven?” I’m sure we would all admit, so many times we would rather things go our own way then God’s. Our attitude to prayer and aligning our will to that of God’s is a lifetimes work. We are all works in progress, and thankfully, God does not expect us to get it right overnight.
Just like in my book “Finding Jesus”, we must remember that Christ walks among us. In fact, He goes even further and looks for us. He knows “what is in man” and seeks to clean out the clutter that is in our hearts and minds, so that we can love Him and our surroundings better. A bit like in the temple in today’s Gospel reading, we need to allow Christ to throw out the things within us that hinder us from relationship with Him - again, not something that happens overnight.
This brings us on to Lent. This is a season where we let God help us realign our dependance on Him. It is not a chance to prove to God how much we can give up - like a contest where we try to win his favour by making ourselves suffer. God knows what we need and what we are capable of. By honesty and confession, we open ourselves up to receive Him. By making small sacrifices we allow ourselves to focus on greater things. Lent should be a time which is shared too. Focussing on our individual fasting is not really enough. Are there ways in which we can encourage others around us? It does not always have to involve grand gestures. Simple acts like sending a letter or a text message, or popping a bag of sweets or book in the post for someone can go a long way.
I would like to end this talk back in the waxwork museum, and think about where we find our identity. Wondering around the halls of Madame Tussauds we see our favourite people. Those we admire and look up to. This is not a bad thing at all, but we all know that the celebrity culture of our age can distort the way we view ourselves. In the 10 commandments in our first reading, we are quite literally told not to make likenesses of anything in heaven or on earth. Now, I can’t see a problem with making sculptures of things, but when our focus becomes on the thing - on how we want to be it, look like it, have as much money as it; then we don’t help ourselves by making comparisons. We are told in numerous ways how our identity is in Christ. When we gaze on Him on the cross, we initially become aware of our sinfulness, but ultimately, we know we are new creations, redeemed by His blood. This means that we are enough for God. He took more care in creating each of us individually, than the most talented artist on their sculpture.
As we continue on our Lenten journey, let us not forget how Christ sees us and others. Let us strive to find Him and be found by Him each day.