There is an astonishing verse in the Exodus account, which we read this week at daily Mass. The Lord had parted the waters of the Red Sea with a strong easterly wind and the Israelites had just made the crossing with the Egyptians in hot pursuit.
And in the morning watch, the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud, cast a glace on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic (Ex 14:24).
Just one look … that’s all it took! One can imagine many other ways that God could have stopped them: lightning, angelic forces, etc. Instead, He merely “cast a glance.”
Was it an angry glance? The text does not say. I would speculate that it was a look of love, for if God is love, how could it have been anything else?
Why, then, the panic among the Egyptian forces? Perhaps it was like the reaction of those accustomed to the darkness, who wince in pain when beautiful light shines. Love confronts and drives out hate the way light drives out darkness. Love is what it is; it cannot be something else. To those held bound by hatred, though, love is like kryptonite. Thus, the Egyptian army falls at the glance of God, panics at the weakness it experiences. Yes, love can be like kryptonite to those who choose the darkness of hatred and exploitation. To those who hate the truth, it seems hateful, but God’s truth is an aspect of His love for us, and only truth will set us free.
I propose that despite the panicked reaction of the Egyptians, God’s glance was one of love. God does not change. Even when we speak of His wrath or anger, we are speaking more of our experience than of what is in God. God is love and so He looks with love. That we experience something other than love is a problem in us, not in God.
Indeed, sometimes we see the look but miss the love. In the Gospel of Mark is told the story of a rich young man who sought perfection but somewhat on his own terms. Jesus looked at him with love and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mk 10:21). The young man saw the look and heard the words, but missed the love. As a result, he went away saddened.
And lest we reduce God’s look of love to one of mere sentimentality, we ought to recall that God’s look of love can also convict us and move us to repentance. Peter’s denial of the Lord is recounted in all four of the Gospels. Simon Peter was in the courtyard of the high priest warming himself by the fire; he had just denied knowing the Lord for the third time when the cock crowed. The Gospel of Luke recounts, The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly (Lk 22:61-62). Here was a look of love that caused pain, but it was a healing pain that led to repentance.
Those of us with deeper faith learn to count on the look, the glance of God, to save us. An old hymn says, “Though billows roll, He keeps my soul. My heav’nly Father watches over me.” Another says, “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.”
Yes, the glance of God may make us feel sad, or mad, or glad; but it is the look of love, always seeking to console us or to set us right and bring about healing.
Particularly in Mark’s Gospel, there is great emphasis on the eyes and the look of Jesus. The following expression, or one like it, appears more than 25 times in the Gospel of Mark: And looking at them He said, …
Looking on Christ and allowing Him to look on you is a powerful moment of conversion. Jesus Himself said, For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (Jn 6:40). And in the First Letter of John we read, What we shall later be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2).
Keep looking to the Lord through the art that most moves you and especially in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Look at Him and let Him look at you. Be not dismayed as were the Egyptians of old. God is love and therefore His look is always one of love, no matter how we experience it.
The Lord is casting a glance at you right now. What do you see?
This video is a collection of clips from the movie The Passion of the Christ, set to music. It shows many of the looks of Jesus as well as some that come from us. Look for the “looks.”
Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: “And in the Morning Watch, the Lord … Cast a Glance”—A Meditation on the Look of the Lord