Following Jesus by Bringing Beauty Into the World

On the Sundays of Lent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections by New Ways Ministry staff members. The liturgical readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent are: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51: 3-4, 12-15; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33. You can access the texts of these readings by clicking here.

“The world will be saved by beauty.” Several years ago I saw this quote on a poster at a Catholic Worker house. I’m told that it’s from The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I think he’s on to something.

There’s something transcendent when you’re in the presence of beauty. Imagine the last time you experienced an epic natural landscape, admired a skillful work of art, or were in the presence of a lovely person. How did you feel? In the presence of such beauty, I sometimes feel like my soul is opened up and overwhelmed by the sight, blurring the edges between myself and the universe, making me feel a little intoxicated… it’s like briefly touching the infinite with my finite senses, if such an experience could be adequately expressed. And I think that gives us some insight into today’s Gospel.

Beauty is the key to understanding Jesus’ statement: “I will draw everyone to myself.” Jesus lived a profoundly beautiful life — perhaps not in a visual sense of beauty, but insofar as he showed us how to live a fully human life. He demonstrated compassion to the most vulnerable and marginalized members of society. He affirmed the best in people while encouraging them to overcome the worst. He shared and forgave and laughed and loved. The beauty of Jesus’ life attracts and amazes us, just as a mountain landscape or piece of timeless artwork does. That beauty inspires us to imitate his example because we too wish to be beautiful. That means overcoming our frailties and limitations, and claiming our shared identity as beloved sons and daughters of God. And that’s how beauty saves us.

To follow Jesus is to know and imitate the beauty of his life. Good disciples are signposts along the way who point others to Jesus. They are like Phillip and Andrew who, when approached by the foreigners in today’s Gospel, show the way to Jesus. As LGBT Catholics and allies, do our own actions point others to Jesus or away from him? Do we bring beauty into the world by imitating the example of Jesus? Do we practice compassion and forgiveness? Seek out the most marginalized and vulnerable?

The struggle for LGBT equality in our church and society can be disheartening at times. But you have an opportunity right now to inspire and encourage fellow blog readers by answering one or both of these two questions:

1) How do you, like Jesus, bring beauty into the world?
2) How do you see others following Jesus by bringing beauty into the world?

Write your response in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry

4 Responses to Following Jesus by Bringing Beauty Into the World

  1. This so chimed with my recent meditation on Lent as I struggle with my inadequacies, distance and inability to do more for my mother who is dealing, in her nineties, with the infirmities of age.http://dawnmorais.com/2015/03/14/lent-letting-in-light-and-beauty/ Thank you.

  2. Chris Thomas says:

    Matt,

    Could I have your permission to use your article on BEAUTY for a prayer time at my church? It’s just what I’ve been looking for.

    Thanks,

    Chris Thomas

  3. Thomas Smith says:

    My second favorite book is the Irish poet John Donohue’s “Beauty”. It clearly illuminates and helps us to revel in all forms of beauty (God’s Grandeur as Hopkins put it). Thanks to Matthew for this reflection, which reminded me that, as GLBT Christians, we are often gifted with an extraordinary eye for Awesomeness. I believe it is our responsibility and our privilege to share this gift by pointing out and recreating (through our artistic endeavors) the beauty of God expressed in both Jesus’ gentle message of unconditional love and in nature, our primary source of grace (Aquinas). I write poetry and do work art. My Love is a potter. We decorate our home gayly and invite neighbors and friends and strangers alike to share in our abundance and be touched by the beautiful environment we have created together. But ultimately, it is the beauty of our relationships with Jesus that inspire us to live authentically and help “bring beauty into the world.” As Jewel sang: “In the end, only kindness matters.”

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