HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID
Our faces tell others all they need to know about the faith. We can witness to the goodness of God in a look.
Some time ago I was about to visit a family that had had a new baby. When they heard I had a cold, I was politely invited not to come. From thinking I had a low-level illness I suddenly felt unclean. One can, however, understand the anxiety of the new parent as it is remarkably easy to pass on infections from sneezing, kissing, touching, holding and brushing the same surfaces. Proximity is the key and nature does the rest.
Contagion is not just about disease however. Human behaviour is caught from being in the presence of others. Take laughter. Have you ever sat at home watching a comedy on TV and wondered why the studio audience is roaring with laughter while you can barely break a smile? I used to think that producers packed studios with easily amused people. Yet if you put a group of people in the same place, behaviour is not just copied, it becomes infectious.
Yawning is highly contagious. Even just talking about yawning can make you feel like doing it, as you may realise on reading this sentence. If you smile at someone they will usually smile back not just through good manners but because it is contagious.
When Moses encountered God on the mountain top his face shone so brightly with the reflected glory of God that he had to wear a veil. In 2 Corinthians, St. Paul says that this veil has been removed in our encounter with God: ‘all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of God as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit’.
We do not veil our faces in the Christian faith in part because the human face reflects something of the glory of God. Our faces – not always and not perfectly, but often enough – show love, joy and peace. These are contagious qualities that witness to the presence of a living God.
If you put a lot of people together in one place, infection spreads quickly. If you send them out of that place, the chances are the infection will spread exponentially. This is exactly what God is looking for when his people gather for worship and then are sent out in peace to love and serve the Lord.
I have heard many people say that when thinking about whether the Christian faith was true or not, they could actually see something different about another person that helped them to make up their minds. They may not have been able to put their finger on it, but they found something about them (which in practice means something about their face) which attracted others to the faith. St. Paul would tell us that the ‘something’ they could not identify is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the other person’s life. Smiling, yawning, loving, rejoicing – each are caught more than they are taught. We are infectious. Let’s go and spread it.
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