Recognizing the ‘glance’ of Jesus Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Mar. 24, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

As I write down a few thoughts here, we are entering -- with heavy hearts -- into the great and holy week during which we accompany Jesus in His terrible suffering and death.

As we go through Holy Week we shall hear a great many words -- from the beautiful language of the sacred liturgies, to the readings themselves -- including the telling of the Passion story, and of course, the many readings of the Easter Vigil.

From “Hosanna” to “Alleluia,” we will hear told, and even witness represented, the story of our own salvation.

The look of Jesus

And yet, in this moment, I would like to reflect briefly on a moment which involved no words. It is a moment that stood out to me in reading the Passion this past Sunday and it occurred after St. Peter denied our Lord for the third time:

“Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ He went out and began to weep bitterly” (Lk 22:60-62).

The Lord turned and looked at Peter. What was this “look” like?

Now, we are all familiar with the kind of look that mothers and fathers can give their sons and daughters when a problem has just been caused at home. You know, when little Johnny has sprinkled as much of the house as he could cover with talcum powder before mom or dad have even realized what he was doing? Now when little Johnny does that, there are words, but there is also a look. And the look, without any words, tells Johnny how much trouble he is in.

When I was teaching college, I had a certain look that I would give to students who clearly hadn’t done their homework and therefore would say something that was ridiculous because they had no idea about the subject matter.

When they received “the look,” they never laughed because they knew they were about to be profoundly embarrassed in front of the rest of the class. They didn’t know what I would say, but they knew they were under the threat of heavy embarrassment.

The lesson of that glance

There are glances that tell an entire story in themselves. It was just such a glance that Jesus gave Peter. And that is why Peter received the glance, and then Peter went out and wept bitterly.

It would have been a terrible, terrible thing to know that glance of the Lord, but the first positive point is that Peter did not miss Jesus giving him the glance.

Peter didn’t miss the glance, and this contains a lesson for us at the beginning of Holy Week -- which is the greatest, but also the most prayerful of weeks -- we have to give ourselves to quiet prayer, simply to be aware of the glance of Jesus.

A second point is that this moment is proof of Peter’s well-formed conscience. When Peter got that glance from Jesus, he saw how wrong he was. And in knowing how wrong he was, he did the right thing, he went out and wept bitterly.

Our world doesn’t take sin very seriously. Even many Catholics do not take sin seriously, meaning they have not been aware of receiving the sort of glance from Jesus that Peter received. In some cases, they never look to Jesus, for fear of that glance. It is a troubling glance to receive, and yet, that glance was Peter’s salvation.

And that is the third point -- truly Good News -- in receiving the glance, Peter became aware and Peter went and repented; he went out and he wept bitterly. He was totally aware that he had received undeserved mercy.

The mercy of God

And it can be the same for us. Allowing ourselves to take the time to watch for Jesus takes patience, and allowing our consciences to make us aware of our failings can be frightening and humbling.

But to do so is our salvation. The secret is that the agony in that glance is not in knowing you’re in the same sort of trouble that little Johnny was in, rather it is in knowing that the mercy of God has been poured out for you, even while you were still a sinner.

The glance of Jesus brings into focus the greatness of God and our own relative smallness. But in that instance, we also see, with unbelievable humility, the great heights to which the Lord wishes to raise us.

And so, in addition to making your own plans for coming to Church during Holy Week and the Easter Season (and in inviting friends and family to come with you), I urge you to make sure that there is ample time in this Holy Week for prayer.

Make certain that there is time to consider the glance that Jesus gave Peter and to consider the glance that the Lord has for us. The only one exempt from that glance is Jesus’ mother.

Recall that Peter was the rock upon whom Christ built His Church, and he wasn’t exempt from that glance, so no one else should expect to be. But, it’s very easy to miss it -- that’s why entering more deeply into prayer during Holy Week is so important.

In a way, the most important thing that can happen to us during Lent is that we see that glance that Jesus gave Peter, directed toward us. Recognizing that glance may bring “bitter weeping” like Peter, but then we have the Sacrament in which we encounter Jesus Himself, we go to Confession, and we welcome our salvation.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! May you be blessed with every grace in this Holy Week and through the Easter Season!

Praised be Jesus Christ!