Column: He Who Watches You
Pope Francis rises each morning at 4:45 a.m. (from the apartment he chooses to live in behind a gas station) to read the Bible and pray until a little before 7 a.m., when he slips into a private chapel to worship and preach informally from his heart. He deliberately permeates his working day with periods of prayer before closing the day in prayer when he turns the light out at 10 p.m.
He has written and spoken of his deep love for Jesus. Just recently, I came across this intriguing quote from him. Pope Francis asked, “Do you allow yourselves to be gazed upon by the Lord? But how do you do this? You let yourself be looked at… it is simple! [You say,] ‘It is a bit boring; I fall asleep.’ Fall asleep then, sleep! He is still looking at you. But know for sure that He is looking at you!”
This made me smile. It’s kind of playful. With all his Papal authority and responsibility, his statement reveals a childlike faith. Here is a firsthand, intimate testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. This is a man who knows that Jesus loves him.
Raniero Cantalamessa writes, “One thing that clearly emerges in reading the Gospels is the importance of Jesus’ eyes, His gaze. Many encounters with Him are initiated and determined by a look of love and mercy on His part.” We see this with the rich young man (Mark 10:21), with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:5) and, of course, with Peter at the agonizing moment of his betrayal of Jesus (Luke 22:61). In the Gospels, it is also true that when those who were hypocritical or merciless surrounded Jesus, His face showed His displeasure, too. But that is not how He looks upon you. In all our weakness, Jesus looks and “sees the heart” (Luke 16:15).
Perhaps because I have had more time at home recently, or perhaps it is because I really cherish my eldest daughter’s company when she is home from college, or perhaps because in the same way I watch her sisters growing up much too fast—but I catch myself just watching all three daughters with such an overwhelming love. I might not speak, but I watch them. I’m reminded of how I used to tiptoe into their bedrooms when they were babies just to watch them sleep. Maybe this is why the Pope’s remarks struck such a chord with me.
What I know for certain is that this is the kind of “watching” that David is referring to when he wrote, “The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Psalm 121:8). This is the kind of watching the Psalmist (probably Hezekiah) had in mind when he wrote, “The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade” (Psalm 121:5). And this is exactly what Jesus meant when He promised, “And surely I am with you always…” (Matthew 28:20).
I pray that you would catch His gaze today and know that you know—that you really know—that you are loved.
The Rev’d Drew Williams, Senior Pastor of Trinity Church, has been living with severe, debilitating chronic pain for more than three years. He knows the desperation that comes with wondering if he would ever be pain free. At the same time, he shares, “By the grace of God, that desperation has also brought an increased intensity and honesty, as well as a deeper intimacy, in my relationship with God.” He now shares something of his struggle in a series of devotional writings for the Greenwich Sentinel.