Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Gaze of Christ

I want to think some more about that gaze that Peter and John had for the beggar (mentioned in this post). What is that? Clearly, it was the gaze they had known from Christ, and it was the gaze they were enabled to have because of the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a fully human gaze. It was a gaze that penetrated to see the ultimate destiny of that beggar, the ultimate meaning of that beggar as one made for relationship with God. As one made for intimate communion with God. Not as a notch in a belt: "Here's another sinner we can reach for Christ." Not as a mess to clean up: "What a shame he's here begging. Let's heal him so he can be productive for a change." Not as a pawn to exploit: "Hey, convincing him he's healed could make waves for us around here. Just think of the PR possibilities!"

The man initially receiving this gaze misunderstood it. He expected goods. He expected the sort of thing he begged for daily. The disciples also largely misunderstood Jesus' gaze, didn't they? The "sons of thunder" wanted to call down judgment on sinners. Peter wanted to be Jesus' manager. Judas wanted to carry out his own greedy plans. The apostles had had time to reflect on their imperfect following of Christ, and Pentecost had revealed to them the difference of not only having this divine gaze physically upon them, but now also the power filled them from the inside out. I think they understood, from their communal failures, what was in a man, just as Jesus had known it by the divine power of his gaze.

The gaze Peter and John had for the beggar led the beggar to encounter Christ. And this encounter had a significant ripple effect, even limiting ourselves to what we know from what was recorded for us. Who knows what effect this encounter had on the man's friends, relatives, on all who happened to be at the temple that day.

How do I offer that gaze? How do I look with that gaze that Peter and John did? First, I need to be looked at with the gaze of Christ. I wonder -- is the perceiving of this gaze with the "eyes of flesh" (as we used to say) inescapable? Are we bound to always misunderstand at first? Or perhaps at some point we can simply be satisfied to lack an understanding instead of taking the wrong one. I think it is an issue of purity of heart.

But then, having experienced the gaze of Christ to some degree, what do I do? I see with new eyes. There is an intentionality with which I look. There is a desire with which I look. There is a love that does not originate with me but which flows through me with which I look. And it seems to me a significant danger if I get selective. If I want to see with the gaze of Christ (or so I think) when I'm looking at one person or group of people, but not another.... Somehow, that's not how a pure heart gazes. The gaze of Christ looks with love, tenderness, compassion, interest, on all. "If you love those who love you, what recompense will you get? Do not the tax collectors do the same?" (Mt. 5:46).

So, again I beg for a pure heart. Not for my own consolation of beholding God's face, although surely that will follow. But so that salvation may be announced through my gaze, through the gaze of the Church, as Christ as willed it.

Lord, melt the impurities from my heart that keep me from looking, that keep me from the gaze of love. Open my heart to your presence and your call in every person.

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