In Plain Sight
Shamefully, at times, it is equally if not strangely true: He was in the Church, yet the Church did not know him.
In describing this icon [see: above], Br. Robert Lentz emphasized that he was hopeful it would inspire all those who “see the Christ among the least of these," so that they/we might "serve the Christ that lives in the margins of this world.”
Teasing out the meaning, Br. Lentz wrote:
“The icon does not make clear which side of the fence Christ is on. Is he imprisoned, or are we?”
I suppose any Christian engaging this particular piece of art, critically, must ask that provocative question. How we see the Christ of the Gospels—where we see him—in our 21st-century context, in our daily life, within our here and now, in our social, cultural, or national version of this beautiful-mess-of-a-human-drama, will determine the answer.
On the one hand, if we're honest, there are any number of chains a person can (and does) place on Jesus. We imprison him. We restrict his flow. We keep him in a kind of bondage—at a distance from having a transformative encounter with us by way of our neighbor.
On the other hand, perhaps we are the ones in prison. The cells and bars are of our own individual, cultural, or, yes, even political making. Yet there he is, still visiting us in that person or in those people: the most vulnerable; the ones pushed off to the side.
But whether we've imprisoned him or whether we are the ones in prison, this matter of seeing Christ among the least and along the margins is not self-evident. And, for me, religious affiliation, including erstwhile Christianity, can (potentially) help or (quite severely) hinder.
I believe Br. Lentz has offered this image to Christians to remind us that to recognize Jesus for who he is is most of all about finding his humanity wherever humanity is found. In fact, it seems that only when we learn to love what we find there can we realistically begin to say that we know this Jesus.