Mercy is love as it meets the sinner. And the way we “meet” each other most often is the way we look at each other. My grandmother Rose’s loving look made possible the best of who I am today. Have you had the good fortune of someone like that in your life? Grandma’s look made me believe I was lovable – the delight she took in me shone from her face and reflected back value and possibilities that I couldn’t see by myself.
When Alzheimer’s stole her ability to recognize her family, she greeted us the same as before. After all, she had looked with love at just about everyone for 90 years, and now that everyone was a stranger, each one was still the most important person in her life because it was the person in front of her right now.
I saw a baby looking over his mother’s shoulder in the grocery store this week. I smiled at him and he responded with a smile like the sun coming out. It made us both happy. Even a baby recognizes this look of love. It is the look we were created for — the look of love God gives us in our helplessness.
Soon after Pope Francis was elected, he was asked, “Who is Jorge Bergoglio?” He paused, then responded, “I am a sinner. I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon [with love].”
The Lord’s “look” both accepts and challenges us, as dramatized in this vivid 2-minute video of Jesus’ call to Matthew, the tax collector — it will not leave you dry-eyed! With Jesus’ loving look, Matthew’s defenses crumble — he realizes he is loved in a way he hadn’t known before — and he recognizes his call to a better life. Jesus summoning Matthew reminds us how much more God thinks of us than we do of ourselves! And makes us grateful for those people who have done the same.