A SECOND GAZE. Meditations from Matthew’s Gospel for Lent, beginning Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023.
At first gaze, this picture is nothing more than dry shrub in a dry land. First gazes tend to be superficial, seeing little and thus dismissive. They are often critical and impatient see only what is already known. A second gaze is one that is long, open to surprise. It is compassionate and patient, seeking to know what we see and it sees what is seemingly hidden. Take a second gaze, a long gaze that’s open to surprise and you may be surprised.
Matthew's Gospel may be a familiar one to you or one that looks a bit like that dry shrub. Spending time with it, taking that second long and patient gaze may surprise you. I invite you to do this and journey through Lent to Easter Sunday with Matthew's Gospel.
Reading Matthew in that second gaze manner, may, and I hope it will, be an eye-opening experience for you. It was for me. But more important, I hope that reading Matthew will lead you to personal encounters with Jesus. But be warned, “Encountering Christ,” as Halík writes, “is dangerous, because through his wounds he removes our dark glasses, opens our eyes, and leads us away from those paths that we so often readily take ‘with eyes closed.’” Taking a second gaze at Matthew, seeking to know what we see rather than see only what we already know, will lead us to encounters with Jesus that will challenge us to repent, change our minds and way of living.
The encounters with Jesus may also shock us as Matthew never sugar-coats Jesus. The stories he tells often show Jesus in a perplexing light that can be frustrating. He can be harsh, abrupt as often as he’s kind and compassionate. He isn’t a nice, gentle Jesus we think we want. I’ll be honest, I don’t like some of the pictures of Jesus Matthew paints. I prefer the nice, easy-going Jesus of my imagination; the one who supports all my causes, hates the same people I do, votes for the same political candidates, and so on. But, and here’s the thing, the Jesus of my imagination isn’t the real Jesus and if I cling to it, I’ll be rejecting the real Jesus.
As you read or re-read Matthew and encounter Jesus, let him take your dark glasses off and open your eyes to the truth and to those paths you’d prefer to avoid, except Jesus calls you to take. Take a deep breath, take a second gaze at Jesus and be prepared to love and follow a Savior who may not be exactly who you want, but who is the only one to save us and help us live a life that is meaningful flourishing.
 Halík, Tomáš. Touch the Wounds. Notre Dame, IN. 2023, p. 63.
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Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.