I call it “mirroring” and I truly enjoy it when I see it. There might be a more technical term for the occurrence in behavioral science but I am not aware of it. It is when a child (young, teenager, older, even adult) does something that exactly mirrors what his or her parents do. It is usually something unconscious, we are not even often aware of it – a tilt of the head, a movement of the hands to emphasize something, a particular face that is made. I just saw mirroring not that long ago in a sacristy. Two young ladies were talking before Mass and one of them moved her head and arms in such a motion that as soon as I saw it I thought, “That is her mom. That is exactly what her mother does.”
Sometimes we even catch ourselves mirroring our parents and, believe me, that is a reality check. (Maybe we are more like mom and dad than we care to admit.)
I think it is fascinating. It points out how much we truly are connected and how much we do influence one another – in ways we do not often even think about. Yet, at the same time we are unique and different. And the mirroring does not deny the uniqueness, in fact our uniqueness enables the mirroring. The daughter in the sacristy was not pretending to be her mother. She was not consciously imitating her mother. She was just being herself and it was in that very uniqueness that she mirrored her mother.
I think that we can apply this to the life of faith. One of the greatest treasures we have in our Christian faith is the communion of saints and these men and women are all across the board. There is St. Louis – a king, Francis who embraced poverty and powerlessness, Joan of Arc who led armies, Maximillian who laid down his life in a concentration camp, Catherine who took a Pope to task, the Ugandan martyrs – to name a few. All races and languages. All personalities and temperaments. Each one completely unique and yet each one fully mirroring Christ in his or her life. To mirror – to be a saint as we are all called to be – does not deny uniqueness in fact it facilitates uniqueness. Discipleship is not about conforming ourselves to some sort of cookie cutter image of who we are not. Discipleship is about mirroring Christ in our very uniqueness which is made possible by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The more we live in the Holy Spirit – the more our uniqueness is made present and the more we mirror Christ.
I wonder if this is a work at the end of this Sunday’s parable (Mt. 22: 1-14)? It seems so odd that the king tosses this man out of the banquet who had just been invited in off the street because he was not wearing the right clothes. The question of the king is key, “My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?” The words are “a wedding garment” – something that is particular and unique to the individual. Not Francis’ garment, not Joan’s, not Maximillian’s, not our parents’, not anyone else’s – only our own.
The man came along for the ride to the banquet but he had no desire to truly know the king – so he had no wedding garment of his own. The uniqueness of his own lived faith, his particular mirroring of Christ, was lacking. All the man could do in response to the king’s questioning was be “reduced to silence.”
The saints, each in his or her own unique “wedding garment”, have preceded us and invite us to the wedding banquet. The question is, “What will our wedding garment be?” Discipleship is about mirroring Christ in our very uniqueness.