February 19



In 2012, a Catholic church in the village of Borja in northeast Spain suspected someone had broken in and vandalized one of their 19th century frescos. The fresco in question is a traditional Catholic icon, Ecce Homo, which is Latin for “Behold the man,” the phrase uttered by Pilate when he presents Jesus to the angry masses (John 19:5).

Who would do such a thing? As it turns out, no one—at least not intentionally. The fresco was not vandalized but the victim of a restoration gone wrong. Horribly wrong.

The original version is on the left, the deteriorated version in the middle, and the “restored” version on the right.

An elderly woman eventually came clean, confessing that she was the one who had made the alterations to one of her favorite depictions of Jesus. In her spare time, she practiced painting and she was upset that moisture on the church’s walls had caused parts of the image to flake off so she thought she could help. She began with the tunic. That went pretty well. Then she tackled the face. That is when things started to fall apart. She got caught in a spiral of painting, repenting, repainting, repenting–until the face of Christ resembled an ape more than a human being.

Social media lit up when this story broke. You can imagine the fun people had with the newly named, “Borja’s Monkey Christ.” It became a media sensation. This link gives you an idea of some of the Internet reactions. 

Have you ever had this happen to you? Not the part about becoming a media sensation, but the part about how your good intentions went bad. I have. I think of all the times I thought I knew what was needed and I stepped in, usually uninvited, and the results were not what I intended. Most times, I made things worse.

Being Human connection: We all mess up. That is one reason I love the season of Lent. It reminds me of my failures. You may think being reminded of failures would make one dislike Lent. But God invites us to let the reminder of our failures drive us to the cross, not to despair. To convict us, but not condemn us. We do not appreciate the grace of God fully until we realize how much we need it. I need it often. Praise the Lord it is there for the asking. Repentant, forgiven, and free!