Feb. 19, 2016 Friday: Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus
Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus
By Fr. Miles Walsh, Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Baton Rouge
One of the most oft-quoted verses of the Old Testament is a blessing which is found in the Book of Numbers 6:24. (In fact, it is one that many of you may know by heart:) May the Lord bless you and keep you; may He let His face shine upon you and give you peace. Notice the reference in that verse of Scripture to the face of God. To be sure, seeing the face of God is the supreme blessing that we all hope one day to receive.
when God became man in the Person of Jesus Christ, He assumed a human face. Because of Christ’s incarnation, we can now behold the face of God in the face of His Son. And I bring this up today because in our Catholic tradition, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, is the feast of the Holy Face, a special day of devotion to the wounded face of Jesus Christ. (Approbation given by Pope Pius XII in 1956 and by Pope John Paul II in 1986.)
In 1844, Our Lord appeared to a French Carmelite nun, Sr. Marie of St. Pierre, and confided the following message to her: Those who contemplate the wounds on my face here on earth…will one day behold my glorified face in heaven. In the course of this private revelation, Sr. Marie of St. Pierre felt herself transported to the streets of Jerusalem on the day of Our Lord’s Passion and witnessed the moment when Veronica took her veil and pressed it to the wounded face of Jesus as He carried the Cross. She witnessed as Veronica wiped away the mud and the spit from the wounds on His face. In that moment, she was also given to know that the insults and the blasphemies which Our Lord received that day did not cease on Good Friday, but that the blasphemies uttered against Him and His heavenly Father have only continued and increased throughout the ages.
Does that surprise any of us?
The message of Divine Mercy is very much a message of love for Jesus Christ, reverence for his earthly image, and reparation for the sin of the world. In her Diary, in entry number 926, St. Faustina writes on Shrove Tuesday (or Mardi Gras) in the year 1937, the year before her death: During the final two days of this carnival season, I have experienced an overwhelming flood of chastisements and sins. In a single instant, the Lord gave me to know of the sins that are committed through the world during these days. I nearly fainted from fright, and even though I know the depth of God’s Mercy, I was surprised that God allows humanity to exist. But the Lord also gave me to know who it is that upholds mankind’s existence. It is “chosen souls.” When the number of chosen ones is complete, then the world will cease to exist.
My friends, when Faustina speaks about “chosen souls,” she is speaking about individuals like you and me: those who willingly unite themselves to Jesus, who consciously choose to draw near to Him, and who desire to avoid offending Him by deliberate sin—those who willingly offer their own lives in union with His perfect sacrifice as an act of reparation for the sin of the world. Just as Veronica once consoled Our Lord by her willingness to follow Him on the road to Calvary, so we can choose to take the place of Veronica, we can choose to take the place of Simon of Cyrene, we can choose to take the place of the Apostle John, and stand with Mary, the Mother of God, beneath the Cross of Christ, in the world today.
Pope Benedict wrote that true reverence for the face of Christ means this: first of all, that we recognize His wounded face in the faces of our wounded brothers and sisters, those individuals on the margin of society who are the victims of violence and war, those who are homeless, those who are mentally or physically ill, those who are suffering greatly at the present time--we consciously choose not turn our gaze from them. Second, we reverence the face of Christ, Pope Benedict says, by contemplating His Passion, the Way of the Cross, as we do especially in the season of Lent. Third, that we reverence the face of Christ by recognizing His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist and adoring Him in the Sacrament of the Altar.
I invite you in a moment of silence sometime today to unite yourself to Our Lord Jesus by gazing prayerfully upon His Holy Face. -Fr. Miles Walsh