The Face of Christ or, if you will, the Gaze of Christ, is a motif that recurs frequently in the preaching of Pope Benedict XVI, as well as in his writings. In today’s Angelus Address, the Holy Father alludes to that mysterious exchange of gazes, by which a particular vocation — and often one to the priesthood or monastic life — is both offered and received. That exchange of gazes is, of course, but the beginning. A priestly or monastic (or religious) vocation cannot be sustained except by growing into an exchange of gazes that becomes habitual. And this habitual exchange of gazes is, in fact, the gift of contemplation.
There may be readers of Vultus Christi who have, at one time or another, recognized the gaze of Christ resting upon with with an unspeakable tenderness. This sometimes happens when one is lingering in the radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. It may also happen when one is bent over the Word of God, or praying the Psalms. Meet the gaze of Christ with your own gaze. Look at Him. Begin to live, as Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity says, with “your eyes in His eyes.” And should He call you to monastic life, communicate with us at Silverstream Priory. Do not go away sad. Say “yes” to the joy of having nought but Christ, and of preferring nothing whatsoever to His love.
Here is the text of the Holy Father’s Angelus Address:
Dear brothers and sisters!
When God Conquers a Heart
Wealth is the principal topic of this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 10:17-30). Jesus teaches that it is very difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God, but not impossible; in fact, God can conquer the heart of a person who has many possessions and move him to solidarity and sharing with the needy, with the poor, to enter into the logic of the gift. This is how wealth presents itself in the life of Jesus Christ, who – as the Apostle Paul writes – “rich though he was, he became poor for us so that we might become rich though his poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
After Life in Its Fullness
As often happens in the Gospels, everything begins from an encounter. In this case Jesus’ meeting with a man who “had many possessions” (Mark 10:22). He was a person who from his youth had faithfully observed the commandments of God’s Law, but he had not yet found true happiness; this is why he asks Jesus what he must do to “inherit eternal life” (10:17). On the one hand, like everyone else, he is after life in its fullness. On the other hand, being used to depending on his wealth, he thinks that he might be able to “buy” eternal life in some way, perhaps by observing some special commandment.
He Went Away Sad
Jesus welcomes the profound desire that is in him and, the evangelist notes, casts a gaze full of love upon him, God’s own gaze (cf. 10:21). But Jesus also understands what the man’s weakness is: it is precisely his attachment to his many possessions, and this is why he invites him to give everything to the poor, so that his treasure – and thus his heart – will no longer be on earth but in heaven, and adds: “Come! Follow me!” (10:22). That man, instead of accepting Jesus’ invitation, goes away sad (10:23) since he is unable to give up his wealth, which can never give him happiness and eternal life.
Not Impossible for God
It is at this point that Jesus offers his teaching to the disciples, and to us today: “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (10:23). The disciples are puzzled, and even more so when Jesus adds: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” But seeing that the disciples are astonished he says: “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
Saints Poor and Rich
All things are possible for God” (10:24-27). St. Clement comments on the episode in this way: “The story teaches the rich that they must not neglect their salvation as if they were already condemned. They need not throw their wealth into the sea or condemn it as insidious and hostile to life, but they must learn how to use their wealth and obtain life” (“What rich person will be saved?” 27, 1-2). The Church’s history is full of examples of rich people who used their possessions in an evangelical way, achieving sanctity. We need only think of St. Francis, St. Elizabeth or St. Charles Borromeo. May the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom, help us to welcome Jesus’ invitation with joy so that we might enter into the fullness of life.