By: Rebecca Ruiz, Staff Spotlight
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 run into the other car and asked, “Are you okay?” His eyes were full of compassion for this woman. It was an unusually gentle and caring response.
It reminded me of the parable of the rich young man in the Gospel. The young man told Jesus that he has followed all of God’s commandments and wants to know what else he has to do to get into heaven. Jesus, able to see into his heart, knows the man’s fatal flaw was his attachment to money. So what did Our Lord do? Before instructing him about the action he needed to take (to go and sell everything you own and give his money to the poor), Jesus “looked steadily at him and loved him” (Mark 10:21, Jerusalem Bible). Or, in another translation, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (New American Bible).
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 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. Jesus knew it, we know it. But Jesus 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, Evangelii Gaudium, 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 sends 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…” (Evangelii Gaudium, 268-269).
I was in a meeting recently where the topic of conversation turned to “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.
Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.
Rebecca Ruiz holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. from Tufts University. She serves as Development and Communications Manager at Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services.