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God Has Created Us in His Likeness and Image

The Sistine Chapel is the highlight of the Vatican Museums in Rome and attracts millions of visitors every year. It is no surprise, since the chapel contains the famous frescoes of Michelangelo and other Renaissance painters. The most impressive of all the wall paintings is the monumental fresco of Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment.”  It spans the entire wall behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel. The painting depicts the second coming of Christ on the Day of Judgment as described in the Revelation to John, Chapter 20. Over the centuries the buildup of dirt on the surface had largely hidden the details and the colors of the paintings. The restoration of it started in 1980, when I was in the 8th grade and was completed in 1996, while I was already a priest for five years.

The restoration discovered the bright colors of the fresco and many interesting details. Now, Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment” is shining with an intensity and power, revealing the genius of the painter, and delivering the message of the justice and mercy of God at the end of the time.

The restoration project provides a helpful way to think about Lent. God wants us to be completely like Him. He created us in his image by giving us reason and free will. By grace, He brings us to a whole new level: to be his sons and daughters by adoption. However, sin dims and disfigures our glorious and supernatural dignity. Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that we offer in Lent – and at other times, too – we are making a restoration. This is not our work alone. Our Father in heaven is assisting us in this process of restoration. But individually, we must build the scaffolding, prepare brushes, water, and sponges to clean the beautiful image of God that has imprinted in every person on earth. He will help us, but He cannot substitute this work for us. Actually, nobody is able to substitute for our own lives, even the most loving members of our family or friends. May we never lose heart in this work.

The season of Lent and its disciplines will be with us for the next six weeks. During this time, may we all grow in grace and love, so that when Easter comes, we find that faith remains the adventure of a lifetime.

Fr. Mark Jurzyk