L6B – 24 Mar 2024

The Look of Love

Message by: Fr Richard M Healey


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Fr Richard Healey reflects on the violence and betrayal in the Gospel of Mark. He suggests the need for tenderness when approaching the Passion story and explores the characters of Judas and Peter, examining their roles in Jesus’ betrayal and denial. He emphasises the themes of redemption and love, highlighting the possibility of transformation even after failure. They encourage listeners to embrace surrender and the love of Jesus, using the concept of “kenosis” to illustrate the importance of making space for God’s work in one’s life.

(00:00:00) – I did watch The Passion of the Christ when it first came out 20 years ago. I have seen it a couple of times since, but I don’t think I would watch it again. And the passion, of course, came with a content warning. And it’s really appropriate that even when we listen to the gospel, we probably should have a warning to say reading this contains strong adult themes and strong violence. When I did my 30 day retreat some years ago, my spiritual director for the retreat took me through the gospel of Mark over that month. And so for a week, I read The Passion in the gospel of Mark. What really struck me was the violence, you know, in the Gospel of Luke. You get those beautiful sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John. You get those wonderful exchanges between Jesus, Mary and John. But in Mark, the violence is quite unrelenting. I counted 40 different words of violence, of hatred, of dysfunction that is present in those few pages. So to enter into the passion is a confronting experience, and I think we need to do it with great tenderness for ourselves and for all of the reality that we see in those pages, or the sense of that violence and that hatred and that betrayal and that confusion.

(00:01:45) – And I think it’s perhaps helpful just to pause on two of the characters. We don’t know much about either Judas or Peter, but both of them feature prominently in these scenes as Judas, especially in the both in the supper and in the garden. We don’t know the motivations. There’s been so much speculation about why Judas betrayed Jesus. What was he hoping for? What was his end plan? What was the thing that he thought would happen as a result of that betrayal? Perhaps he imagined that it would provoke Jesus, that it would bring about that military uprising. Perhaps that was his sense, or perhaps it was just something that seemed to make sense in his head, and he never actually began to think about how that might play out, what that would look like when he actually went up to Jesus in the garden, greeted him with a kiss. The betrayal of a kiss. But the thing about Judas is there is no redemption. There is no hope. Judas leaves that whole situation and ultimately goes and takes his own life because he’s so overwhelmed by the shame.

(00:03:13) – But we’ve all seen a little hint of Judas in our own lives. We all know that reality. We’ve all tasted what it’s like to betray a friend, to do something that perhaps seemed okay at the time, but in the moment we suddenly realised that no, I should never have done that. That is not something that was about my character. But then we look at Peter, and for all of the awful reality of what Peter did, for all the ways that he denied him, it breaks my heart every time I hear that, that cry, that shout that I do not even know the man that you are talking about. Because again, I felt that. I felt that in my own life so many times when I’ve made another promise to God, when I said that I will turn away from that area of sin, and I will never allow that to touch and shape my life ever again. And then it does. And then I deny him. And then in that denial, there is a betrayal.

(00:04:26) – It’s not recorded here in the gospel of Mark, but in Luke. We’re told that at that moment when Peter had denied Jesus the third time, that at that moment Jesus searches for him and looks him in the eye, and there is this exchange of love that happens when Jesus catches the eye of Peter, and there is that transformation that happens, that in that moment, Peter knows that he’s denial. Will not end in death. His denial will not be the final word. Where is Peter at that moment? He’s gathered around a charcoal fire. There’s only two references to a charcoal fire in the whole of the New Testament. They’re in the courtyard in the garden where Peter is warming himself by that fire, and where he denies Jesus. And at the end of the Gospel of John, when they’re by the shore of the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus is already cooking, the fish that he’s caught already has the bread that he’s baked. And there he prepares the breakfast for the disciples who are there in the boat, who’ve just caught that miraculous catch of fish.

(00:05:48) – And as they make their way to the shore and they see the fire that Jesus is now warming himself by, and Jesus takes Peter aside, and in that three fold denial, Peter is given the chance for that threefold redemption. Wherever we are, whatever we’ve done. When we encounter the Lord in the passion, we encounter him in the reality of that love. We encounter him in the reality of a love that will not say no. The love that is always making himself available to us. The love that even in our worst moment, even in our deepest despair, even in our moment of denial and betrayal, even in our worst dysfunction, our worst turning away from God that Jesus is still there, calling and inviting us back into life. So let’s indeed make space over these days just to rest, to receive his love. To surrender. As the second reading says that Jesus emptied himself – kenosis. He poured himself out in order to be brought into that glory. That was his destiny from the very beginning.

(00:07:08) – So let us also do that same emptying, that same surrender, that same letting go of all of our junk in order that we make space for God to do his work among us.


(00:00:00) – We are on very sacred ground. It’s hard to hear that story; this account of the passion of Jesus. The suffering, the violence. It’s quite overwhelming. When I did my 30 day retreat a few years ago, my spiritual director left me in the gospel of Mark. And so for a week, I read and reread and pondered upon these few chapters in the gospel of Mark. And one of the first things that struck me was the violence. There’s no relenting from it. There are 40 different instances over these two chapters of Mark 14 and 15 describing actions and words of violence. In some ways, it almost needs a content warning to say that there are strong adult themes and strong violence. In some ways it’s it is so awful to to hear, to listen, to experience. And so much of the awfulness is where we fit in. It’s that recognition that, like Judas, sometimes we’ve done the things that we thought seemed right at the time. We don’t know why Judas chose to betray Jesus.

(00:01:53) – We don’t know whether he was motivated by a desire to to bring about the revolution, thinking that surely if he betrays Jesus, that all of those supporters who have been there, part of the crowd will finally rise up to to overthrow the Romans, that they will join with Jesus in this great revolution. We don’t know. We know the sadness, the grief from our own lives. We certainly know the experience of Peter. The bravado that he expressed at the Last Supper. Yes. You know, if everyone else falls away, I will stand by your side. I’ve tasted that. I’ve known that. I’ve experienced that sense that I can stand against the world. But I’ve also tasted that moment standing around the charcoal fire when a servant girl will say, surely you’re one of them. And until I’m blue in the face, I will swear that no, I don’t even know this man that you’re talking about. We’ve tasted that to the shame, the confusion. Being overwhelmed by our failures, by our inability to stand firm to the end.

(00:03:36) – The gift of Peter is not his denial. It’s not the tears that he wept when the cock crowed the second time. It’s perhaps not even that moment recorded in the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus, standing near the fire, turns and catches his eye. And looks with this look of love. It’s a word unique to that part of the New Testament, this expression of a love that is so tender and so deep. That’s perhaps the only thing that kept Peter attached and allowed him to spite his shame. Despite being overwhelmed by the denial, he continues to journey. Who makes that journey? Ultimately on Easter Sunday morning, to go with the beloved disciple to the tomb. He will go some days later to the shore of the lake and encounter Jesus once again standing by a charcoal fire, the charcoal fire. And he appears twice in the New Testament at the denial of Jesus when Peter denied him, and when Jesus restored him, when he asked him three times, do you love me? That’s the question that all of us have to face during this Holy Week.

(00:05:05) – Do you love me? Will you? Despite all the times you’ve stuffed up, all the times you failed, all the times that you’ve betrayed me. All the times you’ve denied me. All the times that in your bravado you thought that you could do this in your own strength. Will you? When you’re given the opportunity, turn back one more time to the mercy of God. Will you receive from the wonder of his love? And will we turn once again and be embraced by his love? That’s where. Overwhelmed. As we continue just to experience the utter brutality of human violence. Let’s again turn our face towards the loving Saviour who longs to restore, who longs to renew the longs to give us one more chance to express our love as he continues to show that compassion and that mercy and that kindness towards us. Let’s turn again and allow his love, his mercy, and his compassion to embrace us.

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