A photographer, evidently. But, before we get to the more interesting answer (for those who don’t know, no cheating or looking below!), ask yourself: What is he feeling? What emotions come to mind? What do you think is going on in his heart? Who do you think this man is?
I see a man enjoying a fresh breeze on a hot day. A humble, simple young man with a look of peace and joy. He seems to feel tranquil enough, but there is a certain tinge of intensity too. A farmer maybe? His gaze is an intense one; there is no trace of fear or timidity. His beard is well trimmed. Maybe more than a farmer? Of solid stature, he seems to be one that looks you in eyes when he speaks. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he has a particularly perceptive, almost piercing, gaze.
As to what he was looking at? No idea to be honest. Someone that he feels comfortable with, a friend perhaps? Yes, the longer I look at it, the more I am convinced that he is looking at someone he loves.
So, now, what is the answer?
Behind that photograph, our friend was looking at the group of men who were preparing to execute him. Here we are looking at the last picture of Blessed Martin Martinez Pascual, a priest executed during the Spanish Civil war at the age of 25. He was shot by the firing squad on 18 August, 1936 in Siétamo, Huesca (Spain). Read more here.
Asked if he would like to face away from the rifles during his execution, he said no; all he wanted to do was bless those who killed him and pray that God would not hold his death against them. He then shouted: “Viva Cristo Rey!”
When someone asks me what does it mean to be Christian, the best response I might give is: a new mode of existence, where Christ becomes my all, and under his gaze I discover a Pascal joy that transforms every fear into trust, every dream into promise, every pain into gift, every foe into brother, every death into life.
Ever more pressured under the tsunami of attacks, be they the physical onslaught of our brothers at the hands of ISIS, be they the moral and social ones at home, there is a temptation for us Christians to see ourselves and speak of ourselves as victims. We go on about our values, our morals, and our institution that are under siege. True as this is, as disheartening and offensive as this is, when someone asks us what it means to be a Christian, don’t speak to them about death. Even when the firing squad has set its aim, a Christian sees life, sees an opportunity to carry the Cross, an opportunity to drink the calix, an opportunity to suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:17). Speak to them about the middle-aged Jew that died and resurrected, about that man who said he was God and promised us eternal life.
©Encaustic Icon of Christ/wikimedia.org
The Christian life is a verb that means conforming ourselves with Christ, becoming like Christ himself. If you want to know what that looks like, take a look at again at Blessed Martin Martinez Pascual. The moral teachings, the liturgical rites, the social code, the ecclesial relation, all of it find their heart and source in Christ and in our personal relationship with Him. If you wish to be an apostle, show them Christ, show them this gaze, transform your own gaze into Christ’s. Their hearts will stir, their eyes will be kindled with fascination. They will ask you, “Friend, where do you live?” (cfr. John 1:38). Then you must invite them into your home and teach them everything.