Grateful Gazing

Source: Catholic Diocese of Seoux Falls

Have you ever stopped long enough to look, I mean gaze on the Crucifix and allow it to touch you? Especially during the season of Lent, we are invited to meditate on the Passion narrative of our Savior, Jesus. When we do so, each one of us comes away with a keener awareness of how much Jesus suffered and died on a cross for us.

What has struck me as I dwell on the passion of Our Lord, is the use of the word “Behold.” Pontius Pilate said, “Ecce Homo,” “Behold, the man!” (John 19:5) when he presented Jesus, bound and scourged to the angry mob. Perhaps he did that to evoke sympathy from the people. Maybe he just wanted to quiet the crowd. Could he have been mocking Jesus? However, when we reflect on Pilate’s words, it is an invitation to gaze in awe and admiration, of an innocent man, the second person of the blessed Trinity, God’s own Son, who silently bore the rebuke of so many.

In the original King James version of the Bible, “behold” appears 1,298 times. Contemporary English rarely uses the word. As he hung on the cross, Jesus said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son,” and to his disciple John, “Behold, your mother.” (John 19:26-27) There appears to be a solemnity when “behold” is said here, almost like Mary and John are being awarded with the gift of each other by a dying Jesus.

Stepping back to the start of Jesus’ public ministry, when John the Baptist saw Jesus approach, he exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) He was announcing to his disciples that the Messiah had arrived in their midst.

If we are really participating at Mass, we would realize that the priest says the same words during the Communion Rite, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” We routinely reply, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” While our reply is also scriptural, (Matthew 8:8) I wonder how many of us approach the table of the Lord in reverent awe.

In “No Man is an Island” Thomas Merton said, “To know the Cross is not merely to know our own sufferings. For the Cross is the sign of salvation, and no man is saved by his own sufferings. To know the Cross is to know that we are saved by the sufferings of Christ; more, it is to know the love of Christ who underwent suffering and death in order to save us. It is, then, to know Christ.” As a Trappist monk, Merton must have spent many hours beholding, contemplating the cross of Jesus.

Henri Nouwen also invites us to, “always look at Jesus, because in his crucified and glorified heart we will see ourselves called to share in his suffering as well as in his glory.”

Christians venerate the cross, while many others condemn it. I vividly recall walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem several years ago. My husband was carrying the cross, when suddenly someone threw milk from above. It just missed him and landed on the ground. I was surprised, but soon realized that there are people who despise Jesus and the cross.

Beholding takes me to Good Friday, when I listen to the solemn hymn sung in a silent church,

Behold, behold, the wood of the cross

On which is hung our salvation.
O come, let us adore.

Gazing at Jesus hanging on an instrument of torture, with hands outstretched loving the world, soon finds me singing David Haas’ song Take Up Your Cross

“If you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.

If you want to save your life, let it go.

Take up your cross, deny yourself.

Come follow me, follow me.”  (Luke 9:23-24)

I am grateful for the time spent beholding the Good Shepherd, our Savior, the King of kings, who loves me unconditionally.

Viola Athaide, a student of Theology, is actively involved in parish life, leading Bible courses, the Prayer Group, and the Ministry with Maturing Adults.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 09:11h, 13 April Reply

    Thank you Viola!

  • Howard Jean
    Posted at 10:00h, 13 April Reply

    Viola, your reflection has greatly aided me to travel Holy Week step by step
    trying indeed to behold rather rush through to the climax. We need to slow down and ponder to capture the awesomeness of what Jesus has done for each of us. Thanks for your in-depth thoughts. Jean H.

  • Andes Kwok
    Posted at 10:01h, 13 April Reply

    You have given me a lot to think of during this Holy Week. Thank you.

  • Sylvia Lee
    Posted at 13:58h, 13 April Reply

    Thank you, Viola. A beautiful sharing in the Holy Week !

    Have a blessed Easter !

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 14:02h, 13 April Reply

    Thank you Viola! The significance of beholding the cross is a powerful and emotional experience for me, on my journey to heaven. It is the beginning and end for me. Thank you for sharing this message with love.

  • Maria Lobo
    Posted at 14:43h, 13 April Reply

    VIOLA: Thank you for sharing your ‘passionate’ journey with Jesus, especially during this HOLY WEEK!
    Thanks, too, for inviting us to “gratefully”……”behold” our beloved Jesus, who lived out His Father’s will so obediently, through great suffering & pain, and even to the point of death on a cross……..just to open the doors of heaven for us. Adoramus Te Christe!
    Looking forward to “beholding” Him in His resurrected glory from Easter Sunday…….and throughout the Easter season….A – – – – – – A!

  • Lillian M Phelan
    Posted at 15:42h, 13 April Reply

    Thank you Viola, for another deep reflection that I will spend the next few days reading and contemplating. I am in awe of your depth of going to the core of your faith and sharing your insights as you experience them. We are all richer because of your sharing. Wishing you much joy at this Easter time and hope that our world will experience a new resurrection in the light of Christ.

  • Catherine Schwan
    Posted at 16:53h, 13 April Reply

    Beautifully written Viola!

  • Heather deSouza
    Posted at 19:04h, 13 April Reply

    Thank you Viola. Yet another poignant reflection. May the grace and peace of the Risen Christ be with you today and always.

  • Doreen Pinto
    Posted at 21:55h, 13 April Reply

    Beautiful article Viola, lots to ponder over – you give one plenty to meditate on.
    Thanks. God Bless.

  • Elegius Pillai
    Posted at 11:45h, 14 April Reply

    For those of us who have hitherto looked, superficially, at a cross and the image of our Saviour hanging on it, sacrificing His life for our salvation, Viola Athaide’s timely and poignant article in an eye-opener.
    Thank you Viola. Keep up the good work. May God bless you.

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