Spirituality for Today – Spring 2019 – Volume 23, Issue 3

Investment in Beauty

Reverend Raymond K. Petrucci

Billions are spent every year by countless men and women in an effort to maintain youth and beauty. Apparently, human beings have concluded that remaining young and sustaining physical attractiveness are among the most important pursuits in life. One might agree that youth is that time in life in which one possesses the characteristics associated with vitality as well as those features which lend themselves to accomplishing whatever degree of fitness and beauty one will attain. What, really, is the beautiful? What is it that makes someone truly beautiful as a person no matter the age or body shape? The answer to this question and to any question like it is to be found in one's faith, moral character, and that which measures both of them: one's capacity to love.

Most people, I believe, would agree that beauty that is only skin deep does not define what a beautiful person truly is. Yet, I would be surprised to discover that most people put as much effort into being inwardly beautiful as they would devote to being outwardly beautiful. If a person really is concerned about the impact of their live on others and what others thought about them, I should think that the inner grooming of spirit and mind would be of far greater importance. This task is much harder to achieve or, at least, demands more attention. Inner beauty requires much more focus than checking yourself in the mirror. This brand of beauty calls for constant awareness of how to reveal that inner beauty in all situations and interactions. If you are feeling a bit queasy about your ability to succeed in sustaining that lofty goal, remember that repentance and healing are part of the essence of inner beauty. God knows that, as earthly beings, we shall have an all but impossible task in radiating celestial light. God gives us the "make-up" that does not cover up or mask our flaws, but soaks a healing ointment of mercy and love into every pore.

I pray thee, O God, that I may be beautiful within.

At this point, we might consider ugliness. Humans are attracted to beauty; humans also are attracted to ugliness. Circuses used to have "freak shows" and horror movies explore the full array of how scary, repulsive, and disgusting expressions of ugliness can raise revulsion and terror in our beings. We have set before us - the monster. Interestingly, we may feel compassion for the state of ugliness in the figure depicted. We may recall the caring shown by Esmeralda toward Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and we are touched by the scene in the movie, Frankenstein, in which the monster sees his image reflected in a pool of water and he grimaces and tears at the water with his hand. Yet, in the end, it takes an exceptional individual who can value the personhood of one who is seen as ugly as well as the ugly person himself who can maintain a sense of dignity and confidence in facing the world.

We may be familiar with the phrase, "Ugly as sin." Now, we see the person's heart and soul disfigured by sin. There can be no more fearful ugliness than a soul misshaped by sin. Although operating within the person, its outer expression can even darken outward beauty. Reversely, an individual considered by most to be physically ugly can find their unattractiveness mitigated by the revelation of interior beauty.

To invest in beauty is an investment in making the entire person a manifestation of God's creative hand and what the mind of God envisions a true human being to be. God, society, and the individual can most benefit from a person's investment in beauty when that person pursues piety, wisdom, and understanding as primary acquisitions in the portfolio of their life. This resolution is energized by the Great Commandment. Can anything in the experience of being human reflect beauty more than love? How do we tap into that beautiful love? Is it a matter of attitude, feelings, choice, or a combination of all of them and much more? Perhaps, if one just opens mind, heart, and soul to God's grace, the invitation itself might provide the way. In the end, it may be a matter of courage. Lent calls us to have the courage to face the ugliness of sin; Easter calls us to be awed by the beauty of Easter. Both the season and the event show God's love for us and what we can become for God, others, and ourselves. The Great Commandment comes to life and the investment in beauty producing gain. When people resolve to make God's love the most dominant force in their lives, they truly will be beautiful in the eye of any beholder.