Mirrors, shadows and conscience
“Every man carries with him through life a mirror, as unique and impossible to get rid of as his shadow.” W.H. Auden
We all have a favorite mirror that reflects us as we would like to be seen. We carry that image with us throughout the day. I don’t always think of myself as a seventy-five-year-old responsible and mature senior. I often see myself as a younger guy who still legitimately carries some imperfections he’s not ready to part with.
But at the end of the day, if we make an examination of conscience, we need to confront our spiritual image, that Divine shadow of inner self that stays with us always. And just like the mirror image of our physical self reflects family traits and features, the Divine shadow or soul reflects traces of God in our spiritual identity.
Simply, we come from God, and through Baptism we are sons and daughters of God. This identity of God in us grows through prayer and spiritual practise. In time we become more like Jesus, aware of the poor, and aware of the physical and spiritual needs of others.
When others look at us, at our image, do they see grace and Christ mirrored in us? To answer this question let us consider an intriguing approach to the mirror that reflects us all.
“… the task of the mirror is simply to reflect what’s in front of it. But what if I were the mirror? What am I facing in my life that I would reflect? … If I were the mirror, my hope would be that there be at least a few times when I would be living my life in such a way that it would allow a glimpse of the face of God to shine through to the people around me.” (Megan Arteaga Living Lent Daily – March 26, 2020, Loyola Press).
Suppose again that I am the mirror; what am I reflecting back? When others look at me, what would I reflect back to them? And then, what does God see when he looks at me?
In “Mirrors of Dangerous Grace” Michelle Francl-Donnay asks us to imagine a mirror of grace that reflects us not as we are, but as we are seen through the eyes of Jesus who has redeemed us. Even as Jesus hangs on the cross we are drenched in Grace that allows us to become our best selves.
“It is a mirror that does not just reflect back what is, or even what has been, but like my favorite mirror, invites me to see my best self. This mirror of grace is not passive, but active. It challenges me to become my best self,” Francl-Donnay says.
In the above spiritual exercise of St Ignatious, Francl-Donny asks us to switch the focus away from ourselves, what have I done wrong?—and firmly on God: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ?
This contemplation now allows us to say yes to change, and in spite of our flaws, to change. Drenched in the grace that comes from the deep love of Jesus on the cross we can become the true image that we were always meant to be.
Christ enlivens us and renews us by his love. Walking with God enables us to be in alignment with our conscience. That is the best place to be if we desire a good self-image!