When I used to imagine how God looked at me, I felt like I was being judged.
However hard I tried, I felt that God would always point out something I had done wrong. Needless to say, I had difficulty connecting with Jesus’ parables about a God who celebrates and rejoices over one person, even though I could recite the parables and all their details.
One day, I earnestly prayed for openness as I read the day’s Scriptures. As I read from the Hebrew Scriptures in the Old Testament, I realized that my idea of God was wrong. As I read the New Testament with a new perspective, my eyes were opened:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)
Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:10-11)
Jesus said, “You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me.” (John 8:15-16)
How Jesus Looked
Although we don’t have a photograph of Jesus, we know much about how he looked at people.
Consider how Jesus simply “passed by” Matthew as he was working as a tax collector, at his daily post. Jesus only said to him, “Follow me,” and Matthew left his whole life behind to follow Jesus. In Pope Francis’ letter “The Joy of the Gospel,” he points out how powerful the gaze of Jesus must have been:
let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” (JG, no. 120)
Can you imagine how Jesus must have looked at them? What kind of expression is so powerfully loving that it causes people to change the entire direction of their lives?
Let Jesus Look At You
There are so many possible reasons why we may struggle to imagine a completely loving and merciful God. One reason is our experience of hurts, wounds, painful experiences, and sins committed by others or ourselves. In my case, it took time along with the power of prayer, spiritual direction, the sacraments, and professional counseling, for me to gain a healthy and reconciled view of God… but it is still a journey.
So I ask you: Are there moments when you place yourself quietly in the Lord’s presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. How will you then be able to set the hearts of others on fire by your words and witness? If, gazing on the face of Christ, you feel unable to let yourself be healed and transformed, then enter into the Lord’s heart, into his wounds, for that is the abode of divine mercy. (Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, no. 151)
I have this little prayer that I say now, “Father, help me to see myself as you see me.” When I struggle to love someone as I’m called to, I pray, “Jesus, help me to see (person’s name) through your eyes.”
God’s gaze is truly healing, truly loving, truly merciful, and truly beyond our comprehension… but it is not beyond belief. Amid the dark times we all experience, let’s strive to see and believe.
This month and beyond, Pilgrim Center of Hope is offering many opportunities to help you discover God’s loving gaze. Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.
Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate for nearly 10 years.