Billions of Masterpieces

The greatest artists put themselves into their works. That’s why their choice of media is so important to them. It affects their art’s texture and therefore the message they wish to communicate through their work. As the artist of artists, God chose the medium of humanity to express His being. Look at His masterpiece: The Holy Family, featuring Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Together they depict the ideal expression of God’s love. That work was a hard act to follow, but He did so with every saint to whom humanity looks as a guide for their own expressions of self.

Of course, not every human being turns out to be a masterpiece, but as God’s chosen medium, humanity’s masterful potential is a miracle of beauty in itself. He lets our free will guide each brush stroke and shape each sculpture. The results aren’t always pretty, but God is like a mother who sees beauty in her ugliest child—therefore He never gives up on what He creates. As this Sunday’s readings imply, we are all works in progress.

That’s the beauty of God’s Wisdom, and our first reading is from that most beautiful book of His Bible (Wis 11:22-12:2).

… you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things! Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!

Sometimes a great artist’s purpose is a mystery, and the worth of their work is inextricably tied to his or her identity. As God’s works of art, our purpose is to reflect that identity, as St. Paul tells the Thessalonians in Sunday’s second reading (2 Thes 1:11-2:2):

Brothers and sisters: We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him.

God is proud of all His works, and signs each one—even the funny-looking ones—so they won’t be lost and their relationship to His earliest masterpieces will be understood. One of God’s more abstract pieces was Zacchaeus. It took the Artist’s own son to interpret the value of this portrait of a short, stocky tax collector who, in turn, recognized the source of the Son. The little guy climbed the tallest tree he could find to get a better look at the centerpiece of The Holy Family. Sunday’s gospel reading recalls their meeting (Lk 19:1-10). As with all faith-based events, it began with a calling.

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When [the people] saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

With all His works subject to the unpredictability of our free will, let’s hope The Master’s Museum has a huge Lost & Found.

–Tom Andel

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