THERE is a newly restored painting in the National Gallery called The Ambassadors. It’s a large, four-hundred-year-old canvas, by Holbein.

Over the course of the centuries it suffered substantial deterioration.

The paint had become badly cracked and the varnish had blackened. A TV documentary charted its restoration. Under close scrutiny the painting looked in much worse shape than a casual glance revealed. When the blackened varnish was removed, things looked even more hopeless. The art restorer had to possess huge patience, a great range of skills, vision and love.

And that is just how God, the supreme artist and art-restorer, looks at us. He lovingly scrutinises every aspect of our lives, not to expose our faults to shame or embarrass us, but so that the work of restoration may be perfect. He wants to make us whole again, ‘to lead the good life’.

Lent is the time when we are invited to let God peel away the blackened varnish and take a really close look at the damage that the past year has left on the canvass of our lives. Fortunately, unlike the artist/restorer in the National Gallery, we have an idea of what the perfect work of art should look like, for Jesus Christ is the perfect original, whom all of us are called to emulate.

“God loved [his work of art] so much that he sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be [restored and] saved.”