Monday, 20 September 2021

Sins will eventually show in our faces

I RECENTLY saw a painting which I cannot get out of my head.

By Diana Drew, it is a head-and-shoulders of a woman in a hat but it is the title which draws you in.

The painting is called Living the Dream and what we are seeing is not real at all.

The woman’s face is calm and remote; her eyes are closed because she is dreaming.

The picture shows what she is seeing behind closed lids: the stylish hat, the pure white fur collar, the diamonds.

As we look at the painting, we see how the woman would really like to present herself to the world.

In Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, the subject of the painting is able to live out all his debauched dreams while retaining his youthful, innocent looks: the portrait bears the burden of his wild and cruel life instead.

Most of us don’t go in for Dorian Gray‘s life: our sins are likely to be greed, pettiness, intolerance — things we can easily think don’t count because everyone is like that.

Unfortunately, they do ultimately show in our faces and there is no portrait in the attic to hide them.

There is no portrait of Jesus but the Bishop of Oxford suggests that we have his self-portrait in the words of the Beatitudes.

These sentences from the Sermon on the Mount (“Blessed are the poor...”) recounted in St Matthew, Chapter 5, are a huge challenge to everyone, Christian or not.

They turn our values on their heads, telling us to forget about ambition and assertiveness, acquisitiveness and rank and instead to focus on God’s dream for the world.

When God created us, he was not dreaming of a mankind ruled by material things like the woman in the portrait but of a world where the body and its dreams are led by the body.

Bishop Stephen has reduced the eight statements in the Beatitudes to three concepts: contemplation, compassion and courage.

If we seriously spent time each day contemplating God, if we viewed people as they see themselves, with compassion instead of judgment, and if we had the courage to stand up for what is right, we would create a completely different world, the world which God dreamed at the Creation and still dreams today.

We are His dream and we choose whether or not it should become reality.

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