Christ in Human Form
Two weekends ago, I had the joy and privilege of leading a weekend retreat for the women of First Church in Sterling. It was a beautiful weekend of connection, prayer, rest and reflection. We used the film, ‘Chocolat,’ as our guide throughout the retreat. This wonderful film is an allegory, of sorts. In the course of the quirky story, which pits the mysterious owner of the local Chocolaterie against the all-powerful mayor of the village, many questions are raised, including: What is God’s desire for us? Is it pleasure or penance? Is it rules or relationships? Is it joy or hard labor?
At the end of the film, the priest of the village offers his Easter homily. It goes like this:
I’m not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be.
Do I want to speak of the miracle of our Lord’s divine transformation?
Not really, no.
I don’t want to talk about his Divinity.
I’d rather talk about his humanity.
I mean – you know – how he lived his life here on Earth. His kindness. His tolerance.
Listen – here’s what I think. I think we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do; by what we deny ourselves; what we resist; and who we exclude.
I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace; what we create; and who we include.
. . . what we embrace, what we create, who we include . . . In these days of dualistic and divisive public rhetoric; in these times of church decline and the rise of the ‘nones’*; in this world of continuing violence in so many places . . . where is the model, the vision, the inspiration for living a life of kindness and tolerance and love?
As a Christian, my primary model is the life of Jesus. Who did Jesus embrace? All those who came to him with open hearts. What did Jesus create? A following of people who risked their lives to live as he lived – where love, not law, was the guiding force. Who did Jesus include? The lost, the marginalized, the children, the sick, the women, the despised, the least of these.
Through all the violence, and division, and loss, and confusion in the story of ‘Chocolat’, a new life emerges at Easter. Relationships are restored, harmony is created, new life arises out of the ashes of despair. Simplistic? Perhaps. But the power of an allegory is to illuminate what is in our story, in our lives; to teach us what is real and true for us.
St Teresa of Avila, 16th C mystic, puts it in the most direct terms.
“Christ has no body, now, on Earth but yours. Yours are the hands with which he does his work. Yours are the feet with which he goes about the world. Yours are the eyes through which his compassion can shine forth upon a troubled world. Christ has no body, now, on Earth but . . . ours.”—Teresa of Avila
I say ‘yes.’
*religiously unaffiliated Americans, per the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life Project