When Jesus looks to you, He sees your pain, your heartache, your struggles, and your goodness. The eyes of Jesus are the Divine Gaze.
A Holy Week Reflection
Catholic Charismatic Renewal
ICCRS Oceania Representative & Chairperson NSC Australia
Some years ago my Parish Priest gave a series of talks on the Face of Christ.
As we begin Holy Week, I share with you some of these thoughts to help us reflect on the humanity of Jesus drawn from his facial features.
Our sense of smell can trigger happy (and not so happy) memories. For example a particular cooking smell can remind us of a favourite childhood meal (as well as how it tasted); the smell of the Sea can remind us of holidays at the beach; the perfume of a loved way can bring back memories of times shared with them.
Scents can also arouse a premonition or sense of fear – e.g. smoke would indicate possible danger. The pungent smell of decay when opening a fridge would send us on a quest to find the offending food etc.
John 12:1-8. Six days before the Passover (the week before His passion was to begin) Jesus came to Bethany where he had raised Lazarus, the dead man, to life. Jesus was receiving a lot of attention with many in Jerusalem looking out for him. The authorities have given their orders should anyone know where He was, they must inform them so that He could be arrested. For Jesus, the home of Lazarus was a safe place to be. He was among friends where he could relax and enjoy their company. He knew his death was fast approaching and we can only wonder about his emotional state during this time. Sometimes we can forget the human emotions of Jesus. His agony in the Garden, on Easter Thursday night, reveals a little of the emotional turmoil in which He was living. We are told He sweated blood and cried out “Father if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine…….” In John’s narrative we see that Jesus is relaxing among friends at the home of Lazarus, reclining at table when Mary brings in a pound of very costly ointment and anoints his feet. Scripture tells us that its fragrance filled the entire house.
When entering a beauty parlor, patrons usually experience a fragrant smell which envelops the whole room and this helps to relax and sooth the person who is there for the treatment.
It is quite possible that Jesus did not feel relaxed and soothed when smelling this costly perfume. In verse 7 Scripture records His reaction to Mary’s gesture “Leave her alone. Was she not keeping it for the day of my burial”. This beautiful smell would have reminded him of the Passion and death he was yet to endure. Would this reminder have Him sending up a silent prayer “Father give me the Grace to fulfill Your Will?”
Reflection Exercise Smell:
- Is there a smell which brings happy memories to your mind? Give God Praise for these memories.
- Is there a smell that triggers unhappy memories for you? Discuss this with God and ask Him to bring healing to these unhappy memories.
EARS – Listening
Many of us we learnt how to pray through ‘listening’ to our parents. In Australia many families would kneel around the open fire before retiring to bed and recite the Rosary. In this way the children learnt to pray.
It would have been the same with Jesus. Most likely one of the first prayers Joseph taught Jesus was the Shema, the most important prayer in Judaism. This prayer is spoken daily in the Jewish tradition.
Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Just as Jesus was taught to pray He in turn taught his family of Disciples to pray. (Matt 6:9-13)
Let’s take this theme of listening further to the scene of the Crucifixion.
Jerusalem was crowded and there would have been a lot of noise. Anyone who has been to this Holy City would know that the streets are narrow and people would have been shoving each other for a good position to see the condemned men. The crowd possibly consisted of the same people who only the week before welcomed Jesus yet were now demanding his death. (Matthew 27:22) They shouted even louder “Let Him be crucified”. They would have been excited and eagerly looking forward to the ‘spectacle’ of crucifixion. As Jesus carried His cross up the hill to Calvary many would have hurled abuse at Him. The crucifixion itself would have been a noisy scene and possibly a cheer went up when Jesus was raised on His cross.
Luke’s gospel tells us that hanging either side of Jesus were 2 criminals (Luke 23:39-43). One said to him “Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom”. This ‘good thief’ as he is known would not have shouted these words for he had just been crucified and would not have had the energy to do so. People who experience terrible pain know that it’s difficult to speak during such times. Jesus however heard him. We can place ourselves in this scene and remember that we simply need to whisper “Jesus…remembers me” and He will always hear us.
Reflection Exercise Listening:
- Who first taught you to pray? Thank the Lord for them.
- Do you sense that Jesus hears you or is He distant? Whisper His Name…
LIPS – His Voice
What was it about the voice of Jesus that transformed people? That gave them the courage to ‘leave their nets’ and follow Him? (Matthew 4:12-23). That calmed the winds and sea? (Matthew 8:27)
Some people’s voices are arresting and commanding with the result that people automatically listen to it. Did Jesus have a voice like this?
The Hebrew word for breath is RUAH. This one word is made of three English words (1) WIND (2) BREATH (3) SPIRIT
When Jesus speaks it is not the sound or texture of His voice which necessarily attracted people. When Jesus speaks it is the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, the very Breath of God which flows. And it is this loving, living breath of God, going forth which draws people to Himself.
John 10 tells the parable of the Good Shepherd. The sheep recognize the voice of the Shepherd, trust his voice and therefore follow Him when He calls.
Reflection Exercise Voice:
- Do I know that the lips of Jesus send forth the Words of Life?
- Do I know His voice?
- Do I follow His voice or need more courage to do this?
EYES – Seeing
St John of the Cross said “For God to look is to love”.
In Luke 19:1-10 we read the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector. Little in stature and as a tax collector he was not the most popular of men in the city. He had no chance of someone stepping aside so he could get a good look at Jesus, so he decided to climb the sycamore tree.
Jesus stops under his tree, looks up and sees Zacchaeus. Jesus sees beyond what others saw. He sees into Zacchaeus’s heart. As a tax collector Zacchaeus was a rich man but he was shunned by society, hated, would have endured taunts and closed doors – all that pain Jesus saw.
Jesus is always on the lookout for people like Zacchaeus – people who need to be loved and lifted into a different state of life. The impact of Jesus looking up releases in Zacchaeus the natural goodness which is in him – a generosity that has been suppressed. Remember he said to Jesus “The half of my goods, Lord, I give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone (which would probably be most people) I will pay him back four times as much. Zacchaeus was a transformed man through one gaze from Jesus.
I was once in an assembly and we were asked this question “When Jesus was hanging on the Cross what did He see?” The answer is YOU. The people He saw in the crowd represented each of us.
When Jesus looks to you, He sees your pain, your heartache, your struggles, and your goodness. The eyes of Jesus are the Divine Gaze. His Divine Gaze looks deep into your being and finds you / reaches into you / searches you / transforms you / gives you LIFE.
Reflection Exercise Seeing:
- Do I really believe Jesus is on the ‘lookout ‘ for me now?
- Does that loving gaze give me the courage to give up the one thing which is preventing my whole hearted following of Jesus?