NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for March 3rd, 2014
Liturgical texts here
Jesus, looking at him, loved him…
AS I ponder these words in the Gospel, it’s clear that when Jesus looked at the rich young man, it was a gaze so full of love that it was remembered by witnesses years later when St. Mark wrote about it. Although this glance of love did not penetrate the young man’s heart—at least not right away, according to the account—it penetrated the heart of someone that day such that it was cherished and remembered.
Think about this for a moment. Jesus looked at him, and loved him. Jesus knew his heart; he knew that the rich man loved his wealth more than Him. And yet, Jesus looked at him, and loved him. Why? Because Jesus was able to see that sin does not define someone, but distorts them. For humanity was defined in Eden:
Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness… God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. (Gen 1:26, 31)
The same Creator who looked into Adam’s eyes looked into the young rich man’s eyes, and without speaking, seemed to say again, You are made in my image, and I find it very good. No, not the sinfulness, not the materialism, greed, or selfishness, but the spirit of the young man, molded and shaped in His image—with one exception: it was pierced by original sin. It was as if Jesus was saying, I will restore your heart, by letting My own Heart be pierced for your sins. And Jesus looked at Him and loved him.
Can you, brother, look someone in the eyes, past the distortion of their sins, to the beauty of the heart? Can you, sister, love him who does not share all your beliefs? Because this is the very heart of evangelization, the very heart of ecumenism—to look past differences, weaknesses, biases, and brokenness and simply begin to love. In that moment, you cease to be merely you, and become a sacrament of love. You become a means by which another can encounter the God of love in you.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. Which do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a gentle spirit? (1 Cor 4:20-21)
I remember one time a young man sat across the table from me. His eyes were intense as he began to rattle off his vast knowledge of apologetics. He knew the faith, knew the law, knew the truth… but seemed to know nothing about love. He left my soul covered in a blanket of cold air.
Last year, my wife and I met an evangelical couple. The Lord had already begun to move in their lives in a powerful way as they shared their testimony with us. Yes, it was clear that God was taking care of these two little sparrows in a profound way. Over the months, we have grown to love one another, to pray together, to share meals and delight in our mutual love for Jesus. They have inspired us by their childlike faith, spiritual wisdom, and acceptance of us—Catholic and all. But we have not spoken once about our religious differences. It’s not that I don’t want to share with them the immense treasuries of Catholicism, from the Sacraments to its deep spirituality. But right now, at this time, Jesus wants us to simply look at each other, and love. For love builds bridges.
However, it is precisely because of our lack of love, that God permits “various trials” in our lives. Trials humble us; they reveal our lack of trust, our self-love, self-centeredness, and ego. They teach us too that, while we fail and fall, Jesus is still looking at us and loving us. This merciful gaze of His, loving me when I am less than perfect, is what builds a bridge of trust to my heart. I cannot see His eyes, but I hear His words, and so want to love and trust Him because rather than condemn me, He invites me to begin again.
Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet you believe in him… (First reading)
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart in the company and assembly of the just. Great are the works of the LORD, exquisite in all their delights. (Today’s Psalm)
This, then, is how I am able to love others with all their faults and failures: because He has loved me with all my sins and shortcomings. I can love others who don’t yet share all my beliefs because Jesus loved me before I understood my whole faith. God loved me first. He looked at me, and loved me first.
So love, then, is what opens up possibilities for everything else.
For men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.
Possible, when I begin to let Him act in me—let Him look at others, and love them through my eyes, and my heart.
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