Year B – 2nd Sunday of Lent

The Holy Face of Jesus

(Gen.22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18; Rom.8:31-34; Mk.9:2-10)

What did Jesus really look like? Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t tell us, and we have no 1st Century pictures of Him.

One guess is that Jesus looked ordinary (Is.53:2), and much like other Palestinian men of the time. That might explain why Judas had to point Him out in the Garden of Gethsemane (Jn.18:4-9).

Whatever Jesus’ appearance, though, we know from today’s Gospel that it changes there on Mt Tabor. For but a moment, Jesus is transfigured. His clothes become dazzlingly white, His ‘face shines like the sun’ (Mt.17:2), and the disciples briefly see Jesus as He truly is: the Son of God.

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Ever since then, people have been fascinated by Jesus’ Holy Face. Today there are so many icons, paintings and statues of Jesus; most depict Him as tall, lean and handsome, with long hair and a beard. This image was heavily influenced by the Shroud of Turin, which was discovered in France in the fourteenth century. [i]

At about that time, a Eucharistic miracle occurred in Walldurn, Germany. A priest accidentally spilled the Precious Blood during Mass, and an image of the Crucified Christ mysteriously appeared on the corporal, surrounded by eleven identical faces of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns. Pope Eugene confirmed this miracle in 1445, and it spurred great devotion to Jesus’ Holy Face. [ii]

This devotion spread further in the 1840s, when a young Carmelite nun, Sr Marie of St. Peter, in Tours, France, reported receiving messages from Jesus. Jesus encouraged her to spread devotion to His Holy Face, and said to her: ‘Those who contemplate the wounds on my face here on earth will contemplate it radiant in heaven.’

Jesus also described to Sr Marie the pain he feels when people blaspheme against His Holy Name. He called it ‘a poison arrow’ that pierces His heart. Then He gave her a prayer called The Golden Arrow, and said that anyone saying these words would pierce Him delightfully, and would help to heal the wounds that have been inflicted on Him:

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      May the most Holy, most Sacred, most Adorable,
      Most Incomprehensible and Ineffable Name of God
      Be always Praised, Blessed, Loved, Adored and Glorified,
      In Heaven, on Earth and in Hell,
      By all the Creatures of God,
      And by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
      In the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. 

In those days, Leon Dupont was a wealthy man living in Tours. He knew Sr Marie well and took great interest in her revelations. He dedicated his life to encouraging devotion to Jesus’ Holy Face, and when he died in 1876, his home was turned into the Oratory of the Holy Face. [iii]

Sometime later, St. Louis Martin, the father of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, visited that Oratory and enrolled his family as members. It had quite an effect, because when Thérèse joined the Carmelites, she formally adopted the name ‘Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face.’

Jesus’ image was everything to her. It inspired her to look for his hidden face everywhere, and she wrote many prayers expressing her love for him. In her Canticle to the Holy Face (1895), Thérèse wrote, ‘Jesus, your… image is the star which guides my steps… Your sweet face is for me heaven on earth.’

She also wrote, ‘Make me resemble you, Jesus!’ on a small card and put a stamp of the Holy Face on it. She kept it in a little box pinned near her heart.

In the 1890s, photos of the Holy Shroud of Turin were first published and interest in the Holy Face of Jesus grew even more.

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At about this time, another child was born in Milan, and in time she, too, became very devoted to Jesus’ Holy Face. In 1913, she joined a convent and took the name Sr Maria Pierina de Micheli.

In 1926, she started getting visions of Christ in which He asked her to spread devotion to His Holy Face. He wanted reparation for all the insults He had suffered during His Passion, when He was slapped, spat upon and kissed by Judas, and for all the ways He is dishonoured today through neglect, sacrilege and profanity.

‘Whoever meditates upon Me, consoles Me,’ Jesus said, and He asked Sr Maria to have medals of His Holy Face made. She achieved that, and today these medals include an image from the Shroud of Turin.[iv] [v]

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The transfiguration of Jesus is not just a historical event. It’s an invitation to each of us to get to know Jesus much better, by adoring His Holy Face.

And as we do that, remember that our adoration and prayers will help to heal His terrible wounds.

[i] Edward Lucie-Smith. The Face of Jesus. Abrams, New York. 2011:14-18.





Year B – 1st Sunday of Lent

Busy, Busy

(Lev.13:1-2, 44-46; 1Cor.10:31-11:1; Mk.1:40-45)

In 1930, the British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that we’d all be living in a ‘leisure society’ in the 21st Century.

He thought that because of growing populations, rising incomes and modern technology, we’d all be enjoying a 15-hour working week by 2030.[i]

He was wrong, wasn’t he? Today the standard working week in many countries is 40 hours, but many of us work much longer than that. The social researcher Hugh MacKay says we’ve all become obsessed with the idea of appearing busy, and ‘busy, busy’ has become a kind of mantra in our lives. [ii]  Why?

One answer is that our society thinks it’s important that we ‘have it all’ and that we look successful. So, we work long hours to pay for everything, and working hard has become a sign of success. But some people are now so successful that they don’t even have time for their families.

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There’s another reason why we’re so busy. Geoffrey Plant, in his book Releasing the Captive, says we often keep ourselves busy to avoid listening, for frantic busyness can be a wonderful hiding place. He says that if you stay busy for long enough, you might never have time to listen and you might never have time to look at the things and the people you’d rather not see. You also might never have to face the situations or questions you’d rather avoid. [iii]

In his book Christian Reflections, C.S. Lewis tells us how to dodge these awkward things. All we have to do, he says, is ‘…avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads us off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you’d be safer to stick to the papers. You’ll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or snobbish appeal.’ [iv]

So, keeping ourselves distracted is a good way to side-step the truth of our lives. However, the Tibetan teacher Sogyal Rinpoche says this is a form of laziness. In his Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, he contrasts Eastern and Western types of laziness and says they’re quite different.

Western laziness, he says, ‘consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there’s no time at all to confront the real issues.’ [v]

Is that you? Are you constantly filling time and killing time?

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Many people today are so fed up with their frenzied lives that they dream of a sea-change or a tree-change. I expect, however, that what most of us really need is a ‘me-change.’

In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Galilee after 40 days in the desert, and he tells his followers to ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel’.

Now, repentance doesn’t mean being sad and miserable and feeling guilty for our sins. Repentance means changing the way we think, changing the way we feel, and changing the way we do things.

Today is the first Sunday in Lent, and in Lent we’re all called to follow Jesus into the desert. Not a physical desert, but a spiritual desert, a quiet place where we’re alone with Jesus in our hearts.

But why a desert?

Well, the desert is many things. It’s a holy place. It’s where the Jewish people found their way to God. It’s where they first discovered that God loved them, and it’s where they learnt to become faithful and loving.

The desert is also a place of silence and solitude. It’s a place of blue skies, bold colours and sharp contrasts. It’s where there are few distractions and the truth is plain to see. And importantly, it’s a place where everything slows down.

We don’t need a sea-change or a tree-change to find inner peace. Instead, let’s try a ‘me-change,’ by withdrawing with Jesus into our spiritual hearts.

Jesus wants us to step off our ‘busy, busy’ treadmills, and start spending quiet time with Him, listening to Him and learning from Him.

We don’t have to fear what we might find. Jesus was tempted in the desert, but He was also comforted by God’s angels. And when He left the desert, He was crystal clear about what he had to do.

Let’s do the same this Lent.

Let’s spend some quiet time with Jesus in the desert.

[i] John Maynard Keynes, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren. 1930.   


[iii] Geoffrey Plant. Releasing the Captive. Garratt Publishing, Melbourne, 2011.

[iv] C.S. Lewis, The Seeing Eye, from Christian Reflections, Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. 1995:167-169, 171. 

[v] Sogyal Rinpoche. Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Ebury Publishing, London. 1992:19 

Year B – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus’ Hands

(Lev.13:1-2, 44-46; 1Cor.10:31-11:1; Mk.1:40-45)

Leprosy was a big issue in ancient times; that’s why the Bible mentions it 68 times.

In those days, leprosy meant more than what we now call ‘Hansen’s Disease.’ It included many infectious skin disorders, and even mould and mildew on clothes. [i]

It was devastating to be caught with this condition, because under Jewish law all lepers were banished from their family and community – for life.

In today’s Gospel, a leper sees Jesus and says, ‘If you want to, you can cure me.’ His faith must have been strong because he risks being stoned for breaking the law.

‘Of course I want to!’ Jesus replies, and then He breaks the law Himself by reaching out to touch him. ‘Be cured’ Jesus says, and he is.

This simple act of touching and healing totally transforms this man’s life. He’s so excited that he tells everyone.  

But why does Jesus actually touch him? It’s because he needs more than a physical cure. He needs spiritual healing, too.

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Our hands, and our sense of touch, play a critical role in our lives. Scientists tell us that touch is the first sense we develop in the womb, and that social touching is critical to every child’s development. They also say that our fingers are more sensitive than our eyes, and that touching often communicates emotions more effectively than voice or facial expressions. [ii]

In his book, Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind, David Linden says that the experience of touch is intrinsically emotional, and this is reflected in such expressions as, ‘I’m touched by your concern’ and ‘I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.’ We also call emotionally clumsy people ‘tactless,’ because they lack touch. [iii]

Touching, therefore, is powerful. It can say far more than mere words, and that’s why Jesus chooses to touch this man.

Now, Jesus has remarkable hands. As an artisan, His hands are strong and precise, but they’re also calloused and weather-beaten. They are powerful, because they give life to the dead (Lk.7:11-15). They are gentle, for they wash His disciples’ feet (Jn.13:1-17). And they are cruelly tortured, when He is nailed to the Cross.

Jesus often uses His hands to heal people, including Peter’s mother-in-law (Mk.1:30-31), a 12-year-old girl (Mt.9:25), a blind man (Mk.8:22-26) and a deaf person (Mk.7:31-37), among others.

And some people find themselves healed when they touch Jesus (Lk.6:18-19), like the woman who touches His prayer shawl. ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asks, as He feels the energy drain from Him (Lk.8:43-48). He clearly understands what hands can do.

There’s a powerful touch in Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son, too. When the wayward son returns home, the father is so filled with compassion that he runs to his son, hugs him closely and kisses him (Lk.15:20).

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Pope Francis did something similar in Italy, in 2013, when he embraced and kissed a severely disfigured man. That man was Vinicio Riva, who suffered from a genetic disease called neurofibromatosis. Many were shocked, but Vinicio was so moved by being touched by the Pope that he described it as ‘paradise.’ He said it felt like his heart was leaving his body.

Vinicio wasn’t cured, but he was healed, for his life was utterly transformed. [iv]

St Teresa of Calcutta also used her gentle touch to transform the lives of others. Every day she channelled Jesus’ love through her hands when she cared for the poor and sick in the streets of Calcutta.

St Catherine of Siena did the same in the 14th Century. One of her patients was an unhappy woman with leprosy who abused her constantly. But by gently caring for her with her hands, St Catherine won her over and the woman died in her arms. [v]

Today, Jesus has no hands but ours, and He wants us to use them to transform the lives of others.

Many people today are reluctant to touch others because of risks associated with the pandemic and the abuse crisis. However, let’s not forget that the Gospels refer to ‘hands,’ ‘touch’ and ‘fingers’ almost 200 times, and healthy touching is important for our personal wellbeing.

It also remains a powerful way to express love and demonstrate our wholesome connection with others.

There are many healthy ways we can use our hands: like offering someone a warm handshake, giving them a hug or a pat on the back, writing them a letter, giving them a gift, or offering a helping hand.

What can you do to touch someone’s life in a meaningful way?

[i] Gillen, Alan L. The Genesis of Germs. Master Books, Forest Green, AR. 2007:143 


[iii] Linden, David J. Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind. Penguin Books, New York. 2016:3.