In David Brooks’ book How to Know a Person he describes what he calls an “illuminator.” That’s the kind of a person who lights up the people around them. No, not in a bad way! Brooks writes that when you’re looking at a person in this way, your gaze says, “I want to get to know you and be known by you.” He goes on, “It’s a gaze that positively answers the question everybody is unconsciously asking themselves when they meet you: “Am I a person to you? Do you care about me? Am I a priority for you?” … It’s a gaze that radiates respect… says that every person I meet is unique, unrepeatable, and, yes, superior to me in some way.” He then goes on to lay out six qualities of that way of looking at people. They are as follows: Tenderness, Receptivity, Active Curiosity, Affection, Generosity, and a Holistic Attitude. (pp.32-5) I think Jesus looked at people this way. And it healed them and called them into holiness.
Think of some of the encounters Jesus had with people. What about the woman at the well in John’s Gospel? She’d been married a few times, and was getting water in the middle of the day. He asks her for a drink of water, and she has a sharp answer for him. “What are you doing talking to me, you’re a man, and I’m a woman, besides I’m a Samaritan. You’re not supposed to talk to me.” He answers her that he’d give her some living water. She, being a smarty pants says, “You don’t even have a bucket. How can you give me water?” Jesus continues the interchange until he gets to where he says, “Go get your husband.” She answers that she doesn’t have a husband and he tells her she’s right. She’s had 5, and the guy she’s living with now isn’t her husband. He’s looked clean into her soul and found the wound that hurt her the most. She’s transformed by this conversation and goes into the town to round up all the people so they might come and meet the messiah. (Jn 4, 4-30, loosely paraphrased!).
Over and over again, Jesus looks at someone and lights them up. What about when he called his disciples? Incredibly, they left fishing and their whole lives to follow him. Well, maybe not incredibly after all. He looked at them and could see exactly what they needed to become completely themselves. Think of Peter. He became the cornerstone of the church, he became a holy man, and he became the best version of Peter there could ever be. That’s what it means to become a saint. To become the best version of yourself that could be. God’s grace didn’t do any violence to who Peter was, it simply fulfilled his humanity.
Jesus looked at people with tenderness, receptivity, curiosity, affection, generosity, and he could see the whole person. And you can, too! Probably not as well as Jesus. He was God after all! But you can learn to look at people in a better way. We can all get better at this! You can be with them in a way that heals them and illuminates them, as opposed to maybe hurting and diminishing them. You can become the kind of person who adds to the people in your life. This will also heal them and call them to holiness.
This path requires some grace and some attention to your interior life. It’s the path to your own version of sanctity, and it’s also what Jesus wants for you. He wants you to become another Christ for the people he’s sent into your life. In your prayer, then, ask him for help with this. He’ll be sure to respond. After all, he’s been helping people become saints for 2000 years!