Peter constantly gazed at Our Lord but like most of us listened poorly. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains how “gazing” at Jesus is a form of contemplation by stating, “Contemplation is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus.” (2715) Contemplation is the highest form of worship, and it is none other than two friends looking, speaking, and listening heart to heart. (CCC 2709)
First, gazing at Jesus teaches us a, “renunciation of self.” (CCC 2715) In the Transfiguration, Peter gazes at Our Lord as “his face” (Lk.9:29) and clothing became dazzling white, and “As they were about to part from him,” he says, “let us build three tents.” (Lk.9:33) St. Luke notes, “He did not know what he was saying,” (Lk.9:33) since he said this out of fear of losing His luminous gaze. In the end the Heavenly Father reminds Peter and us, “Listen to Him.” (Lk. 9:35)
Second, gazing at Jesus, “purifies our heart;” (CCC 2715) Jesus asks Peter “Who do people say that I am?” and Peter responds, “You are the Messiah,” (Matt. 16:16) but then Peter hears that Jesus will depart in suffering so he responds, “God forbid, Lord!” (Matt. 16: 22) Peter responds selfishly, and he is admonished, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:23) Is this not our lives? At times our hearts are lightning rods for the Holy Spirit, and other times, we totally miss the mark.
Third, gazing at Jesus, “illumines the eyes of our heart.” (CCC 2715) During a stormy night at sea Peter sees Our Lord walking on water and says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matt. 14:28) Peter gazing intently at Our Lord begins to walk on water, but then taking his eyes off Jesus, he sinks, thinking he is walking by his own power. Similarly, on the dark and stormy nights of life, our gaze on Jesus must be unceasing to keep us from falling.
Fourth, gazing at Jesus, “teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth.” (CCC 2715) Peter betrays Jesus three times and then, “the Lord turned and looked [gazed] at Peter…He [Peter] went out and began to weep bitterly.” (Lk.22:62-63) Peter does not commit suicide like Judas, but he trusts in His merciful gaze. We too need to know the truth that no sin or evil can separate us from the forgiving and merciful gaze of Christ. (Rom.8:35)
Fifth, gazing at Jesus teaches us, “compassion for all men.” (CCC 2715) After the resurrection Jesus gazes at Peter three times and says, “Do you love me?” (Jn. 21:17) Peter gazing at Him intensely replies “You know that I love you!” (Jn. 21:17) Jesus is teaching Peter and us that we must love all His sheep including the most despised and unwanted, but this only happens when we keep our gaze fixed on Him.
Sixth, gazing at Jesus teaches us, “the mysteries of the life of Christ.” (CCC 2715) During Pentecost the apostles are speaking in tongues, and the people think they are drunk and Peter responds, “These people are not drunk…” proceeding to explain the mystery of Pentecost. Keeping our gaze fixed on Jesus allows us to enter deeply and live out the mysteries of our faith.
Seventh, gazing at Jesus teaches us, “’interior knowledge of our Lord,’ the more to love him and follow him.” (CCC 2715) When Christians are persecuted, Peter leaves Rome, and he meets Jesus coming into Rome. Peter gazes at Jesus and says, “Quo vadis?” (Where are you going?). Jesus responds “I am going to be crucified since you don’t want to follow Me.” With this final gaze Peter receives the grace and courage for martyrdom. We too must gaze profoundly into His eyes to follow Him in our everyday life of white martyrdom.
Like Peter, our first and last gaze here on earth must be upon Jesus, “I look at Him and He looks at me.” (CCC 2715) “The light of the countenance of Jesus,” (CCC 2715) begins at the elevation of the Holy Eucharist at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, and should end with visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament either exposed or “while praying before the tabernacle” (CCC 2715) in order to recapture and rekindle His fiery gaze that fortifies, blesses, and sustains us.
Finally, if this doesn’t happen Pope Benedict XVI cautions,
“Communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go hand in hand. If I am truly to communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to listen to him and look at him lovingly. True love and true friendship are always nourished by the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter may be lived profoundly and personally rather than superficially. And, unfortunately, if this dimension is lacking, sacramental communion itself may become a superficial gesture on our part.”
(June 7, 2012, Solemnity of Corpus Christi)
Come and “gaze” at Our Eucharistic Lord at the next Corpus Christi Procession on Saturday, June 17, 2017 beginning with the 5:30 P.M. Mass celebrated by Fr. Tim Nolt at Saint Mary Cathedral in Austin, Texas and processing to the Texas State Capitol.