Confronting His Gaze
"Beginning Day meant saying that I need to be saved, then letting myself be saved."
I’m none too proud of my approach to our Communion and Liberation (CL) Beginning Day during the week leading up to it. I’m an average graduate student with meager means, no car, no family, an independent life by necessity, but the pandemic has made me more dependent upon my CL community than ever. Independence is my worst temptation and receiving help singes; a family driving me to Mass or the FSCB priests bringing me the food and groceries I needed during spring’s lockdown. I had been reluctant to attend our Beginning Day event and passively watched myself set up all sorts of escape hatches, giving people semi-committal responses. “I may not be able to go. I’m really busy.” I spent that week coldly and callously asking Why I should bother?Why these people?
Innocence asks “why?” with curiosity, like a four-year-old asking why the sky is blue or why we stop at traffic lights. Jaded adults (a.k.a. sinners) ask “why” disingenuously when they mean to say “Isn’t it pointless?” or “Isn’t it hopeless?” or even simply “It is hopeless.” Lately, I’ve been asking “why?” that way with CL, not because I can’t see my friends’ and community’s innumerable gestures of kindness, but because I see and treat their mercy like a flat-earther treats the gobsmackingly clear evidence of a spherical planet: there’s always a false reason to dismiss what’s true. Deep down, I knew—my “I” knew—that I needed to go to Beginning Day, but that meant letting people look at me with an affection with which I couldn’t look at myself. And that would mean confronting the very same gaze of affection from God Himself. And that gaze burns! It’s like the flaming bush Moses encountered: searing hot, yet not consuming or destructive. Beginning Day meant saying that I need to be saved, then letting myself be saved.
Two days before our Sunday gathering, Boston spiked in COVID cases, our socially distant, in-person meeting was disallowed, and we had to adapt our plans. Small groups were scheduled at families’ houses to watch the video, all beyond my reach without a ride. I kept indulging the temptation of letting the complicated circumstances validate my cynicism. Nevertheless, I accepted a ride to an outdoor gathering Saturday night when offered that morning. Our outdoor viewing was complicated by Boston throwing a temper-tantrum with the wind, so we couldn’t hear much of the video. A witness in Spanish was a grace, if for no other reason than it guaranteed subtitles to read.
Despite all these circumstances, I looked up at the night sky, listened to what I could of the video and contemplated how I had been so stubbornly rejecting every offering of love. After God gazed down at me with such affection, patience, and mercy for so long, I finally began to look back at Him through the corner of my eye. The experience was a small nudge that turned my attention to the sin that keeps me living so distant from the Father: letting myself be helped, letting Him save me. Beginning Day didn’t necessarily make me have a huge epiphany or a loud, intense experience. It just showed me that God was already taking care of what I couldn’t do on my own. He’s saving me and asking me to let Him, because I can’t save myself. I’ve a touch of sadness for my actions, as I do see them as symptoms of a sin. But I’m okay with this sadness for now; it’s remorse. It means I really do want to be saved.
Jacquelyn, Boston, Massachusetts