A Call to Action

Even if you’re not really into religious art, you’ve probably seen this picture of Jesus, just because it’s an incredibly popular picture of Jesus! In fact, I think the last time I went to the thrift store, I saw a copy of this picture.

…did I mention that it is a very popular image?

Here is the picture!

Christ at 33, by Heinrich Hofmann, c. 1889. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
Christ at 33, by Heinrich Hofmann, c. 1889.

I’ve seen this picture before and didn’t really think much of it, honestly. It is a very nice devotional picture, of course, because Christ has such a loving gaze and it is nice to contemplate the fact that Jesus loves us. That’s why it’s such a popular picture, in fact!

What I didn’t know was that this picture is actually a detail of a much larger picture. This is the larger picture:

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann, c. 1889. Riverside Church, New York, New York, United States.
Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann, c. 1889. Riverside Church, New York, New York, United States.

It is an illustration of this Sunday’s gospel, which goes like this:

So, the reason why Christ’s face is so poignant and full of love? Because He does love the man. The gospel says so!

But, at the same time, Jesus is not simply content with loving the man. He wants to call the man into action. In the picture, He looks directly at the rich man with love. But Jesus also gestures behind Him, where there are some poor people standing into the shadows. There, we see a man who is dressed in rags and a widow, her face twisted in anguish and her head veiled in black. In this way, Christ suggests that the rich man, who is dressed with finery, give what he has to these people, who are standing and watching the interaction.

And the rich man’s expression? He is looking away from Christ’s loving gaze. He is looking away from the poor people in the shadows. Instead, he seems to be reconsidering things. Soon, he will go away, sad, because he realizes that he can never follow Christ, if it means giving up his wealth.

That look of love from Christ that is so evident on His face, in the context of the picture? It’s the love that Jesus has for the guy, knowing full well that this love of His will never be fully returned because the rich guy is just too consumed with his wealth and thus will not follow Jesus.

And, honestly, that just stabs me right in the heart.

And it makes me wonder: what is the treasure that I am guarding that keeps me away from Jesus?

What is holding me back from following God as much as I ought to?

How is God calling me to be a saint?

Am I really listening to Him?

Or am I simply following the commandments, not ready to actually respond to God’s call to action?

All of us are called to follow God and to serve Him in some way out of love for God. We all have gifts that we can use to help each other and build each other up. May we each use our gifts in accordance with God and never hesitate to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost.

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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