Images of Jesus

by Lisa Kelly

I was raised with Franco Zeffirelli’s blue-eyed, long-haired Jesus as the image in my mind at prayer time. It was an image that was comfortable because Jesus looked…well, like people I knew, people who were like me. Funny how I never questioned why a middle-eastern Jew two thousand years ago would have had blue eyes.

Christ the King in stained glassIgnatian spirituality allowed my imagination to feed my prayer life, not only by placing myself in the scenes of the Gospels, but by opening my mind to different images of Jesus. Scripture passages I had heard a hundred times instantly took on new meaning when Jesus was portrayed as an African, dark-skinned with dark eyes. Suddenly I became aware of how my image of Jesus was limiting my understanding of him. Suddenly what Jesus and I had in common was not having blue eyes, but having a love for God, compassion for the most vulnerable, and courage to challenge systemic injustice.

With each new image of Jesus I bring into my prayer, I note how and why that image makes me feel awkward. That is often my invitation to grow. The homeless Jesus, the Native American Jesus, and even the faceless Jesus all help me to see my relationship with others in society who share those characteristics as if they were Christ. What if Jesus spoke with a Hispanic accent? Or what if we imagine the words of the Gospel spoken by him in his native Aramaic instead of our own language? Suddenly when my experience of God was not just like me, I began to realize what it means that we were made in God’s image; God was not made in ours. It is humbling and yet exhilarating to realize that those characteristics we traditionally think comprise the identity of our Savior are facades, mere artistic license, taken to capture just a fraction of the six billion images walking on this Earth today.

The following two tabs change content below.
Lisa Kelly is a wife, mother, and Ignatian Associate living in Omaha, Nebraska. She works to help organizations integrate spirituality into their planning and systems. She and her husband, Tom, completed the 19th Annotation in 2005, just prior to spending two years living in the Dominican Republic with their three young children, supporting the work of the Jesuit Institute for Latin American Concern. Additionally they have lived in El Salvador and Bolivia for extended periods.

Latest posts by Lisa Kelly (see all)

December 11, 2013

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jan O December 11, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Thank you for a wonderful reflection.

Reply

Josephine Pace December 11, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Lisa: I like you always thought of Jesus as a person with blue eyes and light hair. I grew up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood. Just recently I have begun to see Jesus with dark hair and dark eyes, more like me. I have to say that the latter image brings me comfort. Just yesterday, I was wondering if He had olive skin as well. We have opposite opinions but I think Jesus is bringing both of us closer to him thru our images of Him. Your reflection is beautiful.

Reply

veronica teofilia December 12, 2013 at 3:15 am

But I think it is good too to have our own image of Jesus, it can make us to have a more intimate and a closer relationship with Him.

Reply

Helen December 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Beautiful reflection. Because I am Chinese, the image of Jesus was always someone who look different from me. It did not matter. I thought your words are powerful when you said:
What Jesus an I have in common is having a love for God, compassion for the most vulnerable, and courage to challenge systemic injustice.
Thanks.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: