Second Sunday of Ordinary Time at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey

[Scripture Readings: Is 49:3, 5-6; 1 Cor. 1:1-3; Jn: 1:29-34]

Fr. Stephen“Seeing Jesus …. John exclaimed, ‘Look! Behold! The Lamb of God!’ ” We do want to behold Jesus, to see him, to look at him with love. How can we exchange with Jesus the glance that lovers share? Oh, we know how to see and serve him in others: “Whatever you did for one of these least of mine, you did for me,” (Mt 25:40). However, we still hunger for his own personal look of love: “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?(Song of Songs 3:3). We know the risen Lord is in heaven where his loving gaze is always upon us, and we want to see him there. But, like John the Baptist, we also want to behold Jesus here and now. This desire of our hearts is most wonderfully fulfilled when we see and receive the sacramental presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Our greatest grace every day is the embrace of Jesus in the communion of his body and blood, with the joy of lingering in his presence afterwards. But Jesus gives us yet another way to exchange the look that lovers share. We may see and be with Jesus in the mysteries of his earthly life. We may be with the shepherds crowding into the dimly lit cave at Bethlehem, or with John the Baptist gently submerging Jesus in the flowing waters of the Jordan river, or with the adventurous apostles sailing next to Jesus on the bumpy Sea of Galilee. We may stand with his mother in agony on the hard rock of Golgotha, or lie prostrate with the ecstatic Mary Magdalene clinging tightly to the pierced feet of the risen Christ. We are not too late to enter the presence of Jesus in all the mysteries of his earthly life and to be seen by him during his lifetime, because the events of Jesus’ life are both human and divine, in time and beyond time. That is what makes them mysteries.

Christ's Agony in the Garden of GethesemaneHow can we be there? Can we really enter the presence of the earthly, historical Jesus and exchange a glance of love? Can we share in the mysteries of his life two thousand years later? Yes, by the way we pray. May I recall with you this way of prayer that often brings tears of joy to my eyes?

Pope Pius XI taught and encouraged it in his encyclical on reparation to the Sacred Heart, Miserentissimus Redemptor, Our Most Merciful Redeemer. He asks, “How can [our reparation] bring solace now, when Christ is already reigning in the beatitude of heaven?” And he answers, “Any one who has great love of God, if he will look back through the tract of past time may dwell in meditation on Christ, and see Him laboring, sorrowing, suffering … well-nigh worn out with sadness, and with anguish, … bruised for our sins. And the minds of the pious meditate on all these things the more truly, because the sins and crimes committed in every age … caused the passion of our Lord. … Now if, because of our sins which were as yet in the future, but were foreseen, the soul of Christ became sorrowful unto death, it cannot be doubted that then also, he derived some solace from our reparation which was likewise foreseen. … [We] in some manner fulfill the office of the Angel consoling Jesus in the garden,(## 13-19).

Adoration of the ShepherdsChrist sweat blood during his agony in Gethsemane from every sin ever committed, because in his divine nature he is present to all of time, to all our thoughts, words, and actions. I make Jesus suffer then by my sins now. But I may also be an angel of consolation to Jesus by my acts of repentance and reparation. This is true of every moment in Christ’s life. Jesus, in the divinity of his mysteries, always sees me. If I sin now, I offend him then. If I bow down now in adoration I reverence him then. Jesus lying in the manger or hanging on the cross sees me doing it because he is the Son of God present to all of time. Christ, in the mysteries of his life, is always looking at me with love. So, when I pray and cast my gaze upon Jesus looking at me with love back then, I behold the Lamb of God and exchange with him the lover’s glance. The prayer of the psalmist is about Jesus even in his earthly life: “O Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar. You mark when I walk or lie down. All my ways lie open to you … Too wonderful this knowledge, too high, beyond my reach,(Ps. 139).

We are in the presence of Jesus during all the mysteries of his life. He is looking at us, waiting for us to become aware of his gaze, to return his look of love. We are more fortunate than the shepherds at Bethlehem who came to the cave by night, adored the new born Savior, and then went back to their fields. We may be in the presence of Jesus in Bethlehem’s cave over and over again. We are more fortunate than John the Baptist who was present only at the beginning of Jesus’ public life, because we may enter the presence of Jesus and be with him throughout his
whole life. How blessed we are!

Mary Magdalene sees the risen JesusWhen I pray the rosary by pacing back and forth before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, (because pacing helps me stay awake!), I often make a profound bow at the name of Jesus in the Hail Mary. Bowing low, I behold Jesus in one of his mysteries, such as his resurrection from the dead. No one saw Jesus rise from the dead. But I am there outside, waiting and watching. When he comes forth I look at him with awe and love. Out of adoration I bend low. Then I raise my head and open my arms wide, hungering for his embrace, gazing on the risen Lord who always returns my gaze with love. When he smiles on me my heart melts with joy and tears of happiness fill my eyes. Prayers spring to my lips, like this one: “O risen Lord, you know what it is to die tragically. Behold all the people who are dying in the tsunami. Please, Lord, receive them with love into your home. May the survivors see you weeping with them. May we show them your love by our care and generosity.”

How blessed we are! We can see Jesus, we can behold the Lamb of God and share with him the glance that lovers share. “When I found him whom my heart loves I held him and would not let him go,” (Song of Songs 3:4).