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Why isn't our Jesus happy?

I showed my students "Super Size Me" (the McDonald's documentary) Thursday to spark a discussion about, among other things, advertising to children. In one scene, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock shows a series of pictures to five children and asks them to identify them. The only image they consistently recognized was that of Ronald McDonald. The one image none of the kids recogized was Jesus Christ.

This Jesus had light hair and eyes--he looked sort of Danish--and had obviously just had his hair and beard trimmed. He was wearing clean white clothes and was smiling slightly, in a sympathetic way.

One of my Catholic students observed humorously, "That's not our Jesus. Our Jesus isn't that happy."

It was just a side comment, but I started thinking of the images of Christ in my son's Catholic school. Each room had a crucifix. There was a bust of Jesus pointing to his sacred heart with the crown of thorns. There are the stations of the cross in the church. In our church, the Holy Family is depicted, eyes lowered, looking somberly at the boy Jesus holding a little lamb. It is as if they are already contemplating Christ's death. They are not an especially happy looking bunch.

My son used to like the boy Jesus with his "pet lamb." It gave him a point of connection. Jesus loved his pet lamb, he loved his cat Geoffrey.

I let this fiction go on for awhile before I explained that the lamb was a symbol of Jesus human "flock," and also his sacrifice because lambs were sacrificed at the Temple. Kids are pretty literal thinkers, and the boy Jesus having his pet lamb ripped away and slaughtered in a church was probably more horrifying to my son than the crucifixion. One of my many stupid parent moments.

However, one of the things I personally have to thank Pope John Paul II for was the establishment of the Luminous Mysteries. I grabbed a couple of the booklets illustrating the mysteries when they were introduced. The pictures show Jesus interacting with people--something much of our Catholic iconography does not do, much as I love it and find beauty in it. Jesus is so often depicted alone, or conferring only with his mother, disciples and sometimes St. John the Baptist. Through the Luminous Mysteries and the pictures, my son could see a different Jesus.

During Lent, when we focus so much on Christ's suffering, his brutal treatment, the suffering of the world and the suffering our own sins cause, we might want to remember that Lent also invites us to think about how it could all be different if there were no sin. There would be no brutal treatment of prisoners, no executions, no hearts with thorns, no suffering because of sins.

A place, in short, where Jesus would smile a lot and a little boy could keep his pet lamb safe. And his pet cat, too.

P.S. Apologies to Fr. Imbelli, to whom my low-browand homely observations may seem something like an insult following his fine discussion on the Transfiguration and Rowan Williams' meditation on associated iconography. I didn't plan it that way.

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Dear Jean,No "apologies" needed. I appreciated your post, and the reference to the "luminous mysteries."They are indeed one of the spiritual gifts of John Paul's long pontificate.To think that for so many centuries, praying the rosary, we jumped from the "Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple' to the "Agony in the Garden," with nary a nod to the Lord's ministry.

A long time ago I read and now am plannig to reread here at the Library of Congress a book by Catherine Ponder, "The Millionaire of Nazareth", and she stated that Jesus was always in fund-raisers. If you check it out many of his friends were rich and he (and maybe his 12 disciples, that is why he was called Rabbi because Rabbis had only a small group of followers) were always being invited to eat and to have a good time. Check the scriptures, JC loved to have a good time and he must have a rabid temper look at what he did at the temple and to teach you have to be among people and if you go into a house you are fed in the middle east, so yes it is true, "for the Bible says it so," JC was always a people person.So there it is but start checking the Catherine Ponder book and you will see that she knows what she is talking about.

Don't forget that Jesus was the new Lamb of God, the old Lamb of God being the animal whose blood was smeared on the doorposts of the Hebrews in Egypt to let the Angel of Death know which houses to pass over. That's the origin of referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God.

The saddest thing of all is how you are brainwashing your child into believing any of this nonsense at all. And why? Only because you were so brainwashed by your own family, and so on...