Penitent Magdalene

Who is the Person in the Mirror?
Advent Reflection for Catholic Central
Padre Serra Church, Camarillo, CA
December 8, 2012

Georges de la Tour
The Penitent Magdalene
National Gallery of Art
Washington, DC

The discipline of examination of conscience, the season of Advent, and the Feast of Immaculate Conception come together in the following art, music and poetry: Michael Jackson’s song, “The Man in the Mirror;” a painting called The Penitent Magdalene by an 19th century artist, and a poem by Thomas Hardy.

Man In The Mirror

I’m gonna make a change,
For once in my life
It’s gonna feel real good,
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right . . .

As I turn up the collar on my
Favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin’ my mind
I see the kids in the street,
With not enough to eat
Who am I, to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs
A summer’s disregard,
A broken bottle top
And a one man’s soul
They follow each other on
The wind ya’ know
‘Cause they got nowhere to go
That’s why I want you to know

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have
Been any clearer
If you wanna make the world
A better place
Take a look at yourself, and
Then make a change

I’ve been a victim of a selfish
Kind of love
It’s time that I realize
That there are some with no home,
Not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me,
Pretending that they’re not alone?

A willow deeply scarred,
Somebody’s broken heart
And a washed-out dream
They follow the pattern of the wind, ya’ see
Cause they got no place to be
That’s why I’m starting with me

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and
Then make that change!

Michael Jackson

This song is an introduction: the desire to change oneself and to make a contribution to in the world. Change does start within, but as Christian Catholics, we believe we cannot make the change on our own. This discipline of self-examination and self-knowledge is also God’s work. The following poem by Thomas Hardy refers to an unseen “who” that throws us back on ourselves.

Moments of Vision

That mirror
Which makes of men a transparency,
Who holds that mirror
And bids us such a breast-bare spectacle see
Of you and me?

That mirror
Whose magic penetrates like a dart,
Who lifts that mirror
And throws our mind back on us, and our heart,
until we start?

That mirror
Works well in these night hours of ache;
Why in that mirror
Are tincts we never see ourselves once take
When the world is awake?

That mirror
Can test each mortal when unaware;
Yea, that strange mirror
May catch his last thoughts, whole life foul or fair,
Glassing it — where?

Thomas Hardy

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