Sunday, March 24, 2013

Living in the Gaze of His Tenderness

"And the people stood by watching" (Luke 23:35).  This line in today's Gospel really struck me.  Today, our parish's 10:30 Mass was packed.  It was a crowd.  So often, we can live our Christian life as members of the crowd.  We vacillate according to the way in which the wind is blowing.  We think of ourselves as Catholic, but in that kind of remote, distant way.  There's nothing overly personal about it.  When we hear about the Catholic Church, we think about something extrinsic to ourselves.  This is one of the great threats to the Christian life.  When we simply get absorbed into the crowd, the Gospel loses its hold upon us.

Compare this to what happened with Peter.  Yes, he denied the Lord.  He betrayed him by his cowardice.  And St. Luke tells us that after the third denial, "The Lord turned and looked at Peter."  Peter fell, but this did not end his relationship with the Lord.  Jesus looked at Peter.  He gazed upon him with the eyes of tenderness and mercy.  This is what Jesus wants for all of us.  He looks at us with love.  

We might be like Peter.  Maybe we have denied and betrayed him many times.  He still looks at us.  Some may try to escape this gaze by blending in with the crowd.  But, to disappear into the crowd is to lose the key to our life.  True life is discovered in his merciful gaze.  A gaze that is not dependent upon our own goodness.  Jesus looked at Peter immediately after his betrayal. 

As a pastor, I want my churches filled with gigantic crowds this Holy Week.  But, not the crowds of anonymity or the crowds who are easily persuaded.  No, I want my parishes to be crowds that consist of individuals who know that they live every moment (even their failures) in the tender gaze of Christ.  Jesus wants every person in the crowd to live in the awareness of this gaze. 

Let's not stand by and watch.  Let's make it personal.  Even if we are filled with failures, let's live in his tender gaze.

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