Cereus, technically called hydrocereus undatus is considered one of the ten ugliest plants in the world. There is nothing exceptionally attractive about it. “It is a succulent plant that belongs to the cactus family, and though it spends most of the dry season looking like a dead bush, it will suddenly produce waxy blooms that only open at night.” Until it produces flowers, it appears so ordinary and unexceptional. Consider also Aloe Vera, a plant that has so many health benefits. Yet, it has nothing stately about it. It is so simple, unassuming and not easily noticed. You cannot compare it with Poinsettias or Sunflower or Queen of the Night that easily draw attention either by their luxuriant color or by their perfumed smell. The simplicity of cereus and the unassuming structure of Aloe Vera tend to hide their beauty and healing powers.

The story of the woman caught in adultery (Jn. 8:1-11) reminds me of how our mistakes and sins and addictions, just like Cereus and Aloe Vera, can hide and cover up our beauty and greatness. Like the world that voted Cereus as one of the ugliest plants in the world, so do we focus our attention on our sins and mistakes, and want to stone ourselves and others. Yet, behind our mistakes, our sins, our addictions, our bad habits, is a beautiful person, a beloved child of God. While those who caught Mary Magdalene in adultery saw only her sins, Jesus looked at her and saw her inner beauty, the beauty of God’s child which no sin or mistake can take away. That is how God looks at each of us His children. When He looks at us, He sees His child. Yet, this child whom he wants to give everything often prefers junk food than the real and healthy food of His love that He is ever ready to give. This is the pain of God our Father.

But like Mary Magdalene, once you begin to see yourself as God sees you, beyond the ugliness of your conduct and the mess in your life, you begin the journey of reclaiming your beauty, and life takes on a new face, the face of joy, peace, excitement and fulfillment. Having been touched by Jesus, having been shown her inner beauty, Mary Magdalene refused to look for cheap and life-draining love again; those so-called lovers who use her and whom she uses to fill up the emptiness in her heart. When she accepted that she is beautiful in the eyes of God, she became different; she left her old ways of self-destructive path and followed the Lord with passion and dedication. She has become a true disciple of Jesus Christ. She tasted the Lord and really believed that He is good! (Ps. 34:8)

You may have made many mistakes in your life or have considered yourself a lost soul because of what is going on in your life. Remember that your mistakes only cover up the beauty in you. God wants you to take back your inner beauty. He sees your beauty and goodness and wants to free you from excessive obsession with the “ugly things” in your life. He wants to give you true freedom – from yourself and the mess you have put yourself in; He wants to set you free from the judging eyes of the world which want to condemn you so easily; He wants you to feel His love, to feel His gentle touch, to experience His loving gaze upon you because He knows that once you accept His unconditional love for you, you shall be truly free. Then you can honestly follow Him, for you will then know for sure that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn. 14:6). God bless you