By guest blogger – Dr. Julian(Jules) Ferdinand

“For we are human, weak and prone to wrong, and by Thy grace alone are we made strong.” Henry Coyle, Thankful Heart

Several years ago, I came across a story that had been penned by Bonnie Chamberlin. It  is alleged that Bonnie had heard it from an old priest. The story is repeated her with the expectation that it could be as much a source of encouragement to this column’s readers as it was to me when I first read it:

Centuries ago a great artist was engaged to paint amural for the cathedral in a Sicilian town. The subject was the life of Christ.For many years the artist  labored diligently, and finally the paintingwas finished except for the two most important figures: the Christ Child andJudas Iscariot. He searched far and wide forsuitable models.

One day while walking in the city he came upon some children playing in the street. Among them was a 12-year-old boy whose face stirred the painter’s heart. The artist took the child home with him, and day after day the boy sat patiently until the face of the Christ Child was finished. But the painter still had found no model for the portrait of Judas.

The story of the unfinished masterpiece spread afar,and many men, fancying themselves of wicked countenance, offered to pose for Judas. But in vain the old painter looked for Judas, as he envisioned him—a man warped by life, enfeebled by surrender to greed and lust.

Then one afternoon as he satin a tavern, a gaunt and tattered figure staggered across the threshold. `Wine,wine,’ he begged. The startled painter looked into a face that seemed to bearthe marks of every sin of mankind.

Greatly excited, the old painter said, `Come with me, and I will give you wine.’

For many days the painter worked feverishly to complete his masterpiece. As the work went on, a change came over the model. A strange tension replaced the stuporous languor, and his bloodshot eyes were fixed with horror on the painted likeness of himself. One day, perceiving his subject’s agitation, the  painter paused in his work. `My son,’ he said,`what troubles you so?’ 

The man buried his face in his hands, sobbing. Aftera long moment he lifted pleading eyes to the old painter’s face.

`Do you not then remember me? Years ago I was yourmodel for the Christ Child.’

Stories like these often remind us of how fragile life is. They often encourage us to pause and to be thankful for God’s grace and His mercies.We could quite easily and readily say, “But for the grace of God that person in the story could be me.” When the tragedies and trials of life visit us so much depends on how we react at that stressful, traumatic moment. Those with resolve may stagger and even fall but find the courage to getup and to continue the journey. Others, under similar circumstances, may wallow and whine – allowing the tentacles of self-pity to stifle hope. Some turn to alcohol, drugs,  and gambling. Others seek to deaden their senses and erase memories by engaging in a host of immoral and self-destroying behaviors. However, there is always reason to hope and to keep faith alive if/when we pause long enough to realize that God’s grace and His mercies are beyond our comprehension. His love is wider than the ocean, deeper than the deepest sea, higher than the highest mountain, and His arms ever outstretched to welcome and accept the wayward, the worn, the dejected, and the sinful.

So many of us may be able to identify with the model in the story. There may have been those precious moments when we were innocent and pure. However, with the passing of time we may have drifted away and may have given in to the temptations to do wrong. We may have sought to justify the infractions having concluded that these were “small indiscretions”. With time those “little transgressions” took root and, before we realized it, we were so far along the road to destruction. But God is a good God.Sometimes a story is read, a telephone call is made, a letter is written, an e-mail message is sent, a Facebook entry posted, or a newspaper article appears … to intercept with intent. We are reminded of God’s grace and His mercy and we are forever thankful that we had not gone beyond His reach. He reminds us that we are still His valuable creation even though we may have drifted far from His care and protection. His grace is ever sufficient to meet our every need. We could have been much worse of but for His grace.

Guest Blogger – Dr. Jules Ferdinand