After a long hiatus, I was out for a run, breathing in the distinct aroma of campfires in the cool spring evening. The sun was setting and the sidewalks were essentially empty as I plodded along. My mind sifted through different thoughts and different prayers. For a while, it focused on my experience of the gaze of Jesus.
During my recent silent retreat, I was struck by the intensity and the depth of Jesus gazing at me. I had entered into the story of the woman using her precious ointment for Jesus, but I felt I needed to go into her past more. What made her go to Jesus and give Him her most precious possession? To, in the eyes of the world, waste her fortune and her future? I was drawn back to woman about to be stoned after being found in the act of adultery. And I became her.
After the Pharisees and Sadducees walked away, I was left with Jesus. My head was down and I began to reach for His foot, unworthy to look higher. But He crouched down and caught my hand, His touch inviting me to meet His eyes. And when I did, it was beautiful and awful all at once. I wanted to look away, but I wanted to keep meeting that gaze, intense and all-knowing. The gaze of Jesus took in everything about me, my entire past, present, and future, my sins and failings as well as my virtues and gifts. It wasn’t so much that He saw them, though, but that He loved me in those places of lacking. While I found myself wanting to escape that gaze, it was also beautiful and filled me with a sense of longing. I was longing to be known, entirely, and loved even when my flaws were revealed. It took a boldness to continue to look at Jesus and let myself be known. Lord, I give you permission to know me.
This past Friday I was at Mass and, unbidden, I found myself locking eyes again with Jesus. Again, I wanted to look elsewhere, but I strove to keep myself in His gaze of love. And I was filled with a desire to be known, even as I thought of several ways I had been keeping my heart from Him. I know the Lord loves me and desires only my good, yet sometimes I fear what He might ask of me. What if He asks something that I deem impossible? Or too hard? Implicit in those fears is the idea that Jesus doesn’t really understand me or that He will not provide what is necessary to do His will. Both of those things I know are not true, but I live as though they are.
As Mass continued, the phrase “Let yourself be known” stayed with me. Because if I refuse to accept Jesus knowing all of me, then I will never be able to let myself be known by anyone else. Naturally, Jesus has the inside track in my soul, since He knows all and loves all even if I do not reveal it to Him. But with everyone else, I must choose to reveal myself or they will never know me. They may know about me, hear things others say, or pick up on different qualities, but they will not know the true Trish. Sometimes the true Trish doesn’t want to be revealed, because she is messy, slow, and riddled with faults. She is prideful and egocentric. She prefers to have others know the surface, sanitized version of Trish. That one looks better and is easier to handle. But then I think of encountering that all-knowing gaze of Jesus and I am filled with an intense longing to be known and loved in my entirety just as I am. I want to be known, not just by Jesus, but by others, too.
And so I continue, striving to let myself be known.
“In turning to the Divine Master, in being converted to Him, in experiencing His mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we will discover a “gaze” that searches us profoundly and gives new life to the crowds and to each one of us. It restores trust to those who do not succumb to scepticism, opening up before them the perspective of eternal beatitude. Throughout history, even when hate seems to prevail, the luminous testimony of His love is never lacking.” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Lent 2006 Message)