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Jul 07, 2023 1769 Donna Marie Klein, USA
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How Shall We Be Beautiful?

Timeless beauty is not a distant dream anymore…

Our longing to look attractive is universal. Since biblical times, men and women alike have sought to beautify their bodies through grooming, diet, exercise, cosmetics, jewelry, clothing, and other adornments. Because we are made in the image and likeness of our Creator, Who is Beauty, it’s no wonder that we aspire to manifest aspects of His loveliness in our physical appearance—in effect, glorifying God in our bodies, as we are exhorted to do (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Yet our present secular age loudly proclaims our deficiencies each day: we are not pretty enough, not handsome enough, not thin enough, not buff enough, not young enough, not stylish enough, etc. Each year, impressionable consumers purchase inordinate amounts of unnecessary cosmetics, beauty products, and related services. Sadly, invasive surgeries, injections, fillers, and other dubious cosmetic procedures are becoming increasingly commonplace, even among those under forty.

Flawless Beauty

As Christians living in the world but not of the world, how shall we be beautiful? Saint Augustine, grappling with this very same question centuries ago, gave us this timeless answer in an ancient homily: ‘By loving Him who is ever beautiful. And the measure that love grows in you, in the same measure will your beauty grow. For charity is truly the beauty of the soul.’ (Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Ninth Homily, paragraph 9)

True beauty emanates from the love that shines from our eyes, the “lamp of the body” (Luke 11:34), not from the color of our hair or lips. Indeed, Jesus calls us “the light of the world” (Matthew 5-14)—our smiles should radiate His love and brighten the lives of others. Ultimately, the beauty of our Christian witness should attract others to the beauty of Christ and His Church, our main mission in this earthly life.

Still, though our spirits are willing, our flesh sometimes succumbs to the world’s false gospel of inadequacy. During such moments of human vulnerability, I am uplifted by God’s unmistakable message in the Song of Songs: “You are beautiful in all your ways, my friend. There is no flaw in you” (4:7).

While I may have worn my body for several years, I am grateful to have lived long enough to receive my gray “crown” (Proverbs 16:31) and, yes, the wrinkles, which represent a multitude of experiences and blessings that I would never trade in for smooth skin.

Perhaps you are a mother, and your figure has changed with pregnancy. But your body is miraculous—it conceived, carried, and gave birth to a child of God. May you rejoice in your fruitfulness that has increased His kingdom!

Perhaps you are a teenager, and your body is undergoing uncomfortable changes; to compound matters, maybe you feel you don’t fit in with the popular crowd. But you are God’s work in progress—a masterpiece that He is making wonderfully unique to fulfill your special purpose. As for the ‘popular’ crowd, may you be prompted to pray for them; goodness knows, they have their insecurities.

Perhaps you are middle-aged and have put on some excess pounds over the years, or maybe you have always struggled with obesity. Though diet and exercise are important in achieving and maintaining a healthy body, God loves you exactly as you are—may you be patient with yourself and entrust yourself into His gentle hands.

Perhaps you are battling a disease such as cancer and are bearing the visible effects of its treatment. As your body falters, Christ bears the Cross with you. Offer your suffering with Him, and He will give you enough strength and resilience to make you a beacon of hope to those around you facing their own challenges. May you take comfort in God’s good work accomplished through your courageous example.

Perhaps you have permanent scars or disfigurement from a previous or current health challenge—may you take solace in the knowledge that Saint Kateri’s pockmarks miraculously disappeared after her death. Indeed, in our true home of Heaven, Christ will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21), and we will shine like the stars (Daniel 12:3).

Perfectly Adorned

For now, we are the way God wants us. We don’t have to change our exteriors or improve on the beauty He has already given us. We must accept ourselves as we are and love ourselves as we are. The most important thing we can do is to love Jesus. To the degree that our hearts are filled with His love, our bodies will reflect His beauty.

But it’s not a beauty contest. Though the world typically operates on the principle of scarcity so that we feel we must compete to get our fair share, Christ operates on the principle of abundance so that there is always more than needed—“to the one who has will more be given” (Matthew 13:12). If we trust in the Lord who “clothes the lilies” (Matthew 6:28), we will be satisfied with the body God has given us. Moreover, we will recognize that our God-given beauty is not only sufficient but abundant.

Also, it’s not a comparison game. Although we are often tempted to compare ourselves to others, we are unrepeatable; God did not fashion us in our mother’s womb to look just like anyone else. Indeed, we are each at different points on a journey toward becoming distinctive luminous reflections and attractive witnesses of the consummate beauty of Jesus Christ. God the Father has adorned us perfectly.

The next time you look in the mirror, remember that He has created you wonderfully well, and He rejoices to see how you reflect His Beauty.

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Donna Marie Klein

Donna Marie Klein is a freelance writer. She is an oblate of St. Benedict (St. Anselm’s Abbey, Washington, D.C.).

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