“That look on your face! The look on his!”
A colleague stopped by my office at the end of a long day. He stopped, looked down and saw a photo he hadn’t seen before of me with Pope Benedict XVI.
It was from October 2012 and was at the opening Mass for the Year of Faith. It also happened to be the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. I had gotten a call a week or so before asking if I’d go to Rome and accept a message from the pope on behalf of all the women of the world.
I write a little about this in a chapter for a book coming out this spring called “When Women Pray.” Pope Benedict was reissuing a statement that Blessed Paul VI had offered to all the women of the world at the closing of the council. The message reads, in part: “At this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.”
And it concludes with: “Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or nonbelieving, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.”
I often think: What a different world we’d live in if people even knew this is what the Catholic Church thinks about women — and if we lived this. Impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel. But then, the same is true of Christianity itself. Living the Beatitudes, living the love we profess to believe in, would change things. The anger. The despair. The indifference. It would all look so different.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia makes this point in his new book, “Strangers in a Strange Land” (Henry Holt, $26). “There are no unhappy saints, and joy and hope are constant themes in the work of Pope Francis,” he writes. “Like St. Paul, he sees the source of Christian joy in the act of preaching the Gospel, in a passion for living the Good News and actively sharing the passion for living the Good News and actively sharing the person of Jesus Christ with others.”
He adds, about Pope Francis: “This is why he has such urgent words for tepid Christians. This is why he can never seem so impatient with believers who let their hearts grow numb. If we don’t share the faith, we lose it.”
It seems so simple, and yet we all know how hard it can be.
That day with Pope Benedict, I was overjoyed. Not because I was meeting the pope, as much an honor as that was. It was the look of love on his face. The message he handed me that day was overflowing with love, and so were his eyes. I could see the message. He was the message. Love was the message. It was just a window into the beauty of the gaze of God the Father.
Do we look at others with that gaze?
We all know “They will know we are Christians by our love.” So many people today do not know love, because they do not see it from us.
Maybe this Lent, we could start smiling. Looking up from our phones and looking into people’s eyes. Those closest to us and those we would have otherwise overlooked. We’re made in the image and likeness of God.
What if your gaze upon someone today is the only time they’ve seen that love?
What if it’s the only time they could see if might be possible that they were loved into existence?
We get busy. We get burdened. I know. But we can recover the joy that is the life we claim to lead.
Love this Lent.
Is there any doubt that’s what is needed?
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).