At the turn of the millennium, we find a world that has become increasingly secularized, yet amidst the darkness there remains great hope. Saint John Paul II led us into this new era with a culture he described as “a culture of death.” However, the Holy Father was also the one whose hope remained firm as he spoke of a “new springtime for Christianity.”
How do we combat the evils of our times? We experience wars, abortions, morality issues, justifications of sin of every sort, threatened religious liberties, attacks on the institution of marriage, the rise of atheism and agnosticism and the explosion of pornography. The list could go on. What gives? What are we to do? What is our plan?
Fully aware of the evil at hand, John Paul II had the boldness to speak of hope as he presented Christians with an earth-shattering plan. “To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘programme’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization” (Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucaristia, #6).
At the heart of the matter, the Holy Father pointed us back in simplicity to the Way, the Truth, and the Life; namely Jesus Christ. The world’s problems are solved in a heartfelt return to the face of Jesus Christ. The statement above also shows us quite simply why the world is experiencing such difficult times and massive evil, precisely because it has turned away from the face of Christ. When we turn from the Lord, everything unravels and evil gets a foot in the door. When we turn from the Lord, we are left to ourselves and our firm foundations turn to sand. As such, we cannot weather the storms of time alone. When we turn from the face of Christ, the Evil One outsmarts us every time. Every sin becomes justifiable in our eyes. We settle for comforts and creatures rather than the love of the Creator. In essence, when we turn from the face of Christ, we become lost. Lost in the culture, lost in our own humanity and lost in our journey to eternal life.
The Holy Father provides the simplest of solutions: contemplate Christ. When we contemplate Christ, we find love, not love that we find in the modern world, but divine love. “Merely to look upon the crucified God is to begin to understand that what passes for human love is often nothing more than a front for the sheer egoism of the self-centered self” (Regis Martin, Still Point). Christ teaches us the meaning of life. His sacrifice on the cross can’t help but remind us of sin and the human condition. It reminds us that we need a Savior.
The second aspect of the “program” that Pope John Paul II left with us challenges us to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary. Why? Because Mary knew Christ the best! She always contemplated the mysteries of Christ in her heart (Cf. Luke 2:19). Her heart was more closely united to the heart of Christ than any other heart. She was there when he was conceived. She was there when he was born. She was there when he started his public ministry. She was there when he emptied himself upon the cross. She witnessed the Resurrected Christ not only as a bystander, but also as a mother. She was there at Pentecost for the gift of the Holy Spirit. And she was there for thirty years of his hidden life in Nazareth. Who could possibly be a better model and companion for us as we contemplate the face of Christ?
Who first contemplated the face of Christ with Mary? You guessed it – Joseph. St. Joseph most perfectly lived these words. He was the first to gaze upon the Savior, to look into the eyes of love and mercy, to bring Christ into his heart and his home and to see the Word become flesh. There is no doubt that his mind was in constant contemplation through his everyday experiences. He witnessed all these things contemplatively with Mary at his side. Together, they entered into the greatest mystery of love the world has ever known. Through the Holy Family, Salvation himself entered into the world.
Another way to understand the ‘program’ put in place for this new millennium and new evangelization is to enter into the mystery of St. Joseph. He is hidden in Scripture and is even hidden in John Paul’s statement. Although veiled in obscurity, he is present, and he is fruitful. Joseph once again teaches us a great lesson in humility. It’s not about making sure you are known or making a statement in this world so that others may praise you, it’s about being close to God and gazing upon his face. That is precisely when God can fully accomplish his will through you.
One of the most practical ways to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary is to contemplate the mysteries of Christ’s life through the Rosary. Together with Our Lady, you draw deeper into the glorious story of our salvation filled with great sorrows, lasting joys and final victory. Consider incorporating the Rosary into your daily spiritual life and ask St. Joseph to be with you as you enter into the contemplation with Our Lady.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of the Holy Family. Help me to enter more deeply into their life with Christ. Please forgive me for the times I have turned to the world for answers instead of gazing upon the face of Christ. As I seek his face today, I already experience the peace. Ease the doubts, fears and distractions in my life.
St. Joseph, take me to Nazareth and train me in your ways. Help me to exclude all evil from my heart and my home. Amen.