TO BE SEEN… AND SEEING

Tuesday, 1st Week of Advent          

            St. John of the Cross, the great Carmelite mystic and Doctor of the Church, writes about God’s gaze – God looking at us. He talks about the four effects of being gazed or seen by God: God’s look cleanses, enriches, endows us with grace, and enlightens us. In other words, being seen by God transforms us.

            Prophet Isaiah, in today’s first reading, has the same message (about God transforming us) as St. John of the Cross. He tells us that when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon us many gifts are bestowed: wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord. These gifts enrich and cleanse us, endow us with grace and illumine our journey.

            In the play Our Town (by Thornton Wilder), there is a scene in which a main character, Emily, dead some fourteen years, returns to earth and addresses her mother with a simple plea: namely, that they (her family) ‘look’ at one another. The play has this message for the audience: too seldom do we really look and see one another. That is a tragedy!

            Advent is a time to be seen and to see… to be loved and to love. God’s gaze is transformative, God’s look changes us, but we must be willing to embrace that gaze. Kings and prophets, in their own mysterious way, yearned to see and hear what disciples of Jesus saw and heard: God’s abiding love in Jesus. Deep down those kings and prophets and all of us do not really yearn to see and hear so much as to be seen and to be heard.

            When I was in first-year high-school in the seminary one of the first devotions that was taught to us was the regular visit to the Blessed Sacrament. I remember one of our seminary formators telling us that when we visit the Blessed Sacrament we need not pray long prayers; in fact, we just have to allow the Lord Jesus to look at us – to see us.

            May this Advent season be a time for us to be looked at by Jesus. May this be a time for us to embrace the gaze of the Lord… to experience his personal love for each of us more deeply… to allow his loving gaze to transform and renew us… to enrich our spirits and cleanse our hearts… to endow us with grace and illumine our journey.

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