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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Jesus’ Photo Album

Baltimore Provincial Patrick Woods reflects this Christmas on the annual tradition of taking family photos around the holidays. Though he may be a little hard to see sometimes, Jesus is in those pictures…

(P.S. — Be sure to watch Fr. Woods’ Christmas message, available on our homepage beginning Christmas Day.)

I have it heard it said that families take thousands of photos of their first-born child. Almost every moment is photographed and captured. We have pictures of the little ones in their Halloween costumes, at their first birthday parties, at the zoo, riding a pony, and with food covering their smiling faces. They say that the second child has a beautiful photo album, but there are very few pictures in it. When the third child comes along, he or she doesn’t even have a photo album. I think it is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.

It could be said that we have no pictures of God. No one has ever photographed God, nor has anyone every painted his face. In the Old Testament, we are told that no one can see the face of God and live. It was forbidden to try to develop an image of God since they were considered idols and false gods. It was once considered wrong to try to capture the mystery of God with human images.

Certainly, as Christians we have moved away from that practice of not seeking to capture images of God that may help us pray and deepen our love for Him. Since God took flesh and came among us, artists and painters, sculptors, and creative men and women have sought to use very human elements to capture Jesus Christ. In almost every art museum, there are magnificent works of art that capture scenes from the life of Jesus from the Annunciation, to his birth, life, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.

But, suppose we want a picture of Jesus. Suppose we want to use our new Christmas present digital camera to capture the wonder of God and his image. I believe you can capture, at least in shadows and glimpses, the face of God. Go out on a starry night and look up at the heavens in all their glory and wonder and you will see the face of our God.

Go take a picture of the trees at autumn in all of their glorious colors and you will have a glimpse of God. If you are lucky enough to see the Grand Canyon, the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, the blue Caribbean Sea, the sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean, the pulsating power of Niagara Falls, you will see the face of God.

You will see him in the rose in your backyard, in the sheltering trees of Central Park, in the warmth of a cup of coffee in the morning, or the taste of chocolate or a good glass of red wine. These are images and reflections of Him.

Take pictures of people. In the Scriptures we read, “Wherever there is love there is God.” As we hear sung in the Broadway musical, “Les Miserable” — “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Take pictures of soup kitchens, hospice workers, support groups, rescue workers, crossing guards, homeless shelters, young soldiers and firefighters, police officers and teachers, kind neighbors, home care attendants and the millions of people who seek to treat and care for one another in our society. Wherever there is love there is God.

Take pictures of the horrors of the destruction of the earthquake in Haiti because even in the darkest suffering, we believe that God is present and alive. But most of all take pictures of your spouse, your parents, your grandparents, your brothers and sisters, your friends, your co-workers, your fellow parishioners, and your neighbors, and you will see a shadow of the wonder and mystery of God. We are told in the Book of Genesis that human beings are made in the image of God. You want to see the face of God?  You will see him in the goodness and humanity of others.

Don’t miss Jesus. He is in the picture also. The God who chose to become a baby and be born among us, who took flesh and became like us in all things but sin is with us in those very special Kodak moments of family gatherings, just as he is with us in all the days of our life. When the angel Gabriel described Jesus, he quoted the prophet Isaiah: “He shall be called Emmanuel,” a name which means “God with us.” God is with us in all the moments of our lives because of his birth, his life, death and resurrection. He is Emmanuel. So enjoy the new camera, take lots of pictures, and know that the Lord God is smiling in all of them.

Merry Christmas and all God’s blessings on you in the New Year.