Becoming Veronica

If yesterday hadn't been a Sunday, we would have commemorated St Veronica. I discovered this within minutes of watching an item on Sunday Morning Live about acts of kindness, which focused on a group who buy and give away surprise gifts and flowers. Lovely, but... I was left thinking, instead, about all those largely unsung acts often known only to the recipient: the person who has fallen over, or dropped their purse, or been bailed out in some way by a kind stranger. These are the kindnesses which can happen in the spur of the moment: they might seem impulsive, or spontaneous, though usually, such kindness is in fact deeply ingrained, and part of a person's way of being.

And then I saw a tweet about St Veronica: the woman who, according to tradition, made a spur of the moment decision to wipe the face of Jesus with her veil - which must surely make her the patron saint of spontaneous acts of kindness! She is also a reminder of how profligate love needs to be - rather like the sower in yesterday's Gospel, throwing handfuls of seed onto unpromising ground. There is something wasteful - useless, even - about the transient relief of a face wiped clean of sweat and blood for just a few seconds: useless, but also immensely important. For a few moments, in his darkest hour, Jesus experienced the compassion and tenderness of a stranger - a reminder to us all that a "small" kindness can actually be immense.

The tweet quoted some words by Leonardo Boff: Veronica extends her towel & tells us: In this face devoid of grace & beauty God reveals his face. A face with a different kind of beauty, one which turns the nonhuman into a real human being, the disfigured into the image & likeness of God.

And so the question for me, as we begin a new week, is where and how do I see the face of God, especially where it is devoid of grace and beauty? Because the measure in which any of us can truly become people who affirm God's image and likeness in another, is the measure in which we too can become Veronica - a true image of God for all those we meet.