Clones of Jesus

by Gilles Côté



One of the catechumens of an RCIA group in which I was involved as a catechist was grappling with a way of expressing how she understood what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. I don't recall her exact words, but I do remember her using the expression "clones of Jesus." Despite the many negative connotations attached to this expression, it is very suggestive of a profound truth about discipleship: we are to be so much like Jesus that when people see us, they cannot but see Jesus at the same time.

Over the course of several years, two, three or more children from the same family may attend the same school. As a teacher I was always struck by the family traits that singled these children out as belonging to a specific family. Even if each child was very different from his or her siblings, certain family traits and attitudes were unmistakable, so much so that one could see them and listen to them for the first time and say: "That's one of the Jones' all right … one of the Smith's for sure."

What traits should a Christian have? What family traits should be so obvious as to make others say, "That's a Christian all right… that's a disciple of Jesus."? If a Christian is someone who strives to become more and more like Jesus, what DNA blueprints can a Christian follow to ensure that he or she becomes a "clone of Jesus", a person who has the same attitudes as he did, who acts as he did, who thinks as he did? Where can we find such blueprints?

I once read a story about a very young shepherd boy who often brought his sheep to the same clearing because he was fascinated by an unusual feature in a cliff nearby. The wind and rain had sculpted a large stone on this cliff, as they sometimes fancifully do, into the shape of a man's face. The young shepherd was fascinated by this figure and would sit staring at it for hours on end. Years passed, and the shepherd became a man. One day, as he was bending over a small pond intent on quenching his thirst, he saw the reflection of the face in the stone on the still waters. He looked over his shoulder and was puzzled when he could not find the stone where he expected to find it. He then remembered that he was nowhere near the clearing or the cliff. He realized that the face in the water was his own.

As teachers involved in a process that, we hope, will help the students under our care be transformed into disciples of Jesus, we also need to be conscious that our role is to help the students turn towards Jesus with such a fascinated gaze that it will, eventually, help them be transformed into a reflection of the Master.

In 1972, a 33-year-old Australian geologist attacked Michelangelo's Pieta with a hammer. One of Mary's hands was broken off and extensive damage was done to her face. A team of experts was brought in to restore the sculpture. They did not set to work right away. They spent the first weeks simply studying the statue. They wanted to be so immersed in the spirit behind the master's work that when they began the restoration process, they would do so with the mind of Michelangelo and not simply with their own.

Each of our students is also a masterpiece. God is the master who has created them. This creation process is ongoing: they are masterpieces in the making. And, yes, they are sometimes in need of restoration. As teachers, we are invited to cooperate in his creation and restoration of the little masterpieces he entrusts to us. It is essential that we enter the spirit of the master and see the masterpieces that they are to become with the eyes of the master. Saint Paul uses the expression "to put on the mind of Christ". If the restorers had not entered the mind and spirit of Michelangelo, what would have been the result? I can just imagine a Picasso rushing to repair the Pietà using his own style. The result would not have been a masterpiece, but a monstrosity.

I believe that there is a discipleship blueprint: the beatitudes. In them we find the "attitudes" of Jesus. To meditate upon these few verses of scripture is to "gaze" upon the traits of Jesus. As we do this, we are slowly transformed into reflections of Jesus. We become ever more fully his disciples and, at the same time, ever more fully the masterpieces we were meant to be. The more we let ourselves be carved by the wind of the Spirit and the water of our baptism, the more we will become for our students fascinating "clones" of Jesus and they, in turn, will slowly be transformed into His disciples as well.

©Gilles Côté, 2001
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