The other day, I was driving to work when I came upon an accident. One car had rear-ended another car. It’s a common occurrence in our region – too many cars, too little space, too many distractions. What was unique about this accident though was the response of the police officer at the scene. He gently touched the arm of the woman who had rear-ended the other car and asked, “Are you okay?” His eyes were full of compassion for this woman. It was an unusually gentle and caring and response.
It reminded me of the parable of the rich young man in the Gospel. The young man tells Jesus that he has followed all of his commandments and wants to know what else he has to do to get into heaven. Jesus, being able to see into his heart, knows the man’s fatal flaw – his attachment to money. So what does Jesus do? Before instructing him about the action he needs to take (go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor), Jesus “looked steadily at him and loved him” (Mark 10:21, JB). Or, in another translation, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (NAB).
There is so much to be learned from this one line.
Instead of looking at him and judging him or berating him, Jesus looked at the man and loved him. He didn’t glance down his glasses at him with a disapproving look. He didn’t wag his finger at him. He just “looked steadily at him and loved him.”
How beautiful is this? God knows everything about us – whether we tell Him or not. He knows the secrets we hold in the depths of our hearts and he loves us steadily – despite all of our flaws.
Every person has flaws, imperfections. He knew it, we know it. But in this one passage he shows us how to react to the flaws of our brothers and sisters. Love them. Be compassionate with them. Let go of snap judgments. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, says “When we stand before Christ crucified, we see the depth of his love which exalts and sustains us, but at the same time, unless we are blind, we begin to realize that Jesus’ gaze, burning with love, expands to embrace all people. We realize once more that he wants to make use of us to draw closer to his beloved people. He takes us from the midst of his people and send us out to his people… How good it is for us to contemplate the closeness he shows to everyone! If he speaks to someone he looks into their eyes with deep love and concern… (268-269).
I was in a meeting recently where the topic of discussion was “evangelization.” There were many heady and academic responses to the question of how one can introduce others to Jesus. The most profound response, however, came from an Afghan refugee who had converted to Christianity from Islam – the price for this conversion being a sentence of death. He rose from his seat and said, “The answer is simple. They will know you by your love.”
Yes, the answer is simple. Let them know us by our love.