Below is an excerpt from a reflection done by Fr. Roger Karban in Celebration.
Scripture scholars frequently remind us that there’s not a lot of content in our earliest Christian writings. Our sacred authors were less concerned with giving us stuff to memorize and more about showing us someone to imitate: Jesus of Nazareth. They do this by showing him from multiple
perspectives: telling us about things he said, narrating his parables, showing his miracles, demonstrating how he argues with his enemies. They’re constantly trying to convey his frame of mind, which they expect their readers either to already have or be actively working to attain.
As a teacher and a pastor, I’m good at pointing out the ideals we all should be following, but I’m wise enough to admit I’m personally not very good at carrying through on those ideals. And often, when I do carry through on some of them, I’m always fearful I’m doing so because that’s what’s expected of me, not because I’m deeply committed to those ideals. If nobody was looking, I might do the opposite. I certainly don’t always “feel” like doing what I actually do. Many times I worry about being a fake.
Yet I remember what many psychologists advise in those situations, especially when it comes to spouses who claim they’re waiting and willing to show affection to their partners, but they just don’t feel like it. Experts almost always recommend they go through the external actions of showing affection, even without the feelings. Though we might feel we’re faking it, the feelings we want to have normally don’t surface until after the actions are performed, not before.
The late Fr. Ed Hays told a story I will try to paraphrase because it makes the point perfectly.
It seems there was once a boy born with the ugliest face anyone ever saw or could imagine. People avoided him, and as he grew older he developed a personality to go with his face: surly, sarcastic, and mean. He had practically no friends.
One day, a sympathetic soul approached him with an idea. He told the man about a craftsman in the next village who could make masks so lifelike no one could tell.
So the man traveled to the next village, met with the mask maker, and came away with a handsome new face. No one stared at him anymore. People began to treat him civilly. And, best of all, he gradually developed a new, pleasant personality, so pleasant that one day he began to date one of the local women.
After a while the woman asked him why he never talked about marriage. He revealed that he was wearing a mask and warned her that if she ever saw his real face, she would never marry him. But the woman persisted, telling him how much she loved him. So the man removed the mask and said, “Look at who I really am.”
To his amazement, the woman didn’t turn away in horror. She kept staring at his real face, and then said, “I thought you said you were wearing a mask. Your face doesn’t look any different now than it did before you took off whatever was covering it.”
He looked in a mirror. Over the years his face had gradually molded itself into the mask he had been wearing. He had become the person the mask had made him appear to be.
How did we imitate Jesus of Nazareth this past week? How will we choose to imitate him this coming week?