“Jesus’ Gaze of Love, Conchita and Mk 10:17-27” (3/4/2019)
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
Our Gospel today includes the beautiful comment about Jesus looking at the rich young man. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” We know from other instances, that Jesus’ look of love can change people. At Peter’s third denial of Christ, when the cock crows, Jesus looks at Peter and this causes him to break down in tears and repent. Or there’s Jesus’ look at Mary Magdalene outside the empty tomb, disguised as the gardener. The risen Christ looks at her with love, says “Mary!” and her despair is changed into joy. Jesus’ gaze can change people.
With the rich young man today, however, it does not. Perhaps because the rich young man is too occupied with his riches to notice the look of love. When Jesus calls him to give away his possessions and to come and follow Him, the Gospel says of the rich young man “His face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” In this falling of the man’s face, is perhaps his eyes averted from looking into the loving eyes of Jesus? Did the young man intentionally avoid looking into the eyes of Jesus and hence remain stuck in himself?
So let’s consider a little more this loving gaze of Jesus. Venerable Conchita has said some wonderful things about this. Her feast day was yesterday, the date of her death. She’ll be beatified May 4 of this year. If you don’t know her: Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, Conchita for short, was a Mexican mystic who lived from 1862 to 1937. If you add up all her writings, she wrote as many words as Thomas Aquinas. She was a mother of nine children, yet widowed at a fairly young age for the last 36 years of life. She founded a family of 5 religious institutes. She’s a force to be reckoned with and hopefully her beatification on May 4 will make her better known. I’m trying to get some things going with her in DC so please keep that in your prayers. I hope she can help our Church today.
So let’s consider some longer passages from Venerable Conchita on the loving gaze of Jesus. Speaking about gazing into the face of Jesus, Conchita speaks from the perspective of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “I saw the face of my Jesus, so delicate and pure, every day…I found ever-new delights in my Jesus; and with me the pure soul also takes pleasure in meditating on Him, studying Him in His different mysteries…His face was so beautiful that no one can look at it and not be consoled. Everyone felt a lightening of their sadness while they held their eyes fixed upon Him. So it is that the afflicted would say, ‘Let us go to the son of Mary,’ in order to feel a moment of relief, and rightly so.” (Roses and Thorns, 138-40)
Conchita says that after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven and His departure from this life, Mary would contemplate the same face of Jesus especially in the Eucharist. She says of Jesus, “He is the magnet that attracts me, drawing me into the infinite abyss of His beauty, of His enchantments and of His glory” (154-5). So this is about Our Lady’s gazing on the face of Jesus and in fact our own gazing on Him as well. For example in the Blessed Sacrament. And yes, how consoling, refreshing, and enchanting it is to gaze upon our Lord. To remember events from his life, words from his lips, dispositions in his heart. And to encounter him present now.
That’s our gazing on Jesus. But what about his loving gaze on us? Elsewhere, Conchita says, “Jesus’ gaze, when He walked the earth, would cause a profound awakening in others. When He passed by, the eyes of the blind were opened. Paralytics threw away their crutches. Those who were sick sprang from their beds completely cured. Jesus had a divine attraction about Him which tore at hearts that were thirsting for love and truth. He satisfied their longing because He Himself was Love, Truth and Life.” (What Jesus is Like, 39)
What happens when Jesus gazes on us? Let’s say when we pray before the Blessed Sacrament and we know Jesus’ gaze is penetrating into our hearts. Reflecting on Conchita’s words, one thing I’ve come up with is this. When God infuses grace into our souls, it’s an invisible, spiritual act. And isn’t there a look of love before that? An invisible, spiritual connecting with us through a gaze of love. Isn’t the whole time God is infusing grace into our souls also a time of Jesus lovingly gazing upon us? That divine gaze penetrating into our hearts is also divine grace penetrating into our hearts.
Let’s end with one more quotation from Conchita. “Let us ask Jesus to look at us, as He looked at St. Peter. As He looked at Mary Magdalene. With this life-giving gaze that produces saints. Let us beg for those Divine Glances that open the soul to holy expansiveness. And let us allow ourselves to be bathed in those Most Holy Glances that purify, sanctify, unite and intimately bind the Divine Heart to our own.” (40). Let us open ourselves to “this life-giving gaze that produces saints.”