I had to give a talk some time ago on the Gospel of Jesus and the "rich young man." I spent a lot of time with that passage, noticing how the Bible emphasizes that Jesus "looked at him." Today's Gospel, from the first chapter of John, talks about that look. This time, Jesus is looking at Peter. When Jesus and the disciples were later met by that earnest young man and Jesus looked at him, Peter knew what that look said, and what it meant. They all knew.
A little over a month ago, a friend of my mom sent me a remarkable essay about that very topic. The elderly professor wrote about the way she engaged her imagination in prayer, praying "at the foot of the cross," and hoping to look into the eyes of Jesus. For months, she prayed there, working her way up toward his eyes, and at last found herself, yes, looking into the very eyes of Our Lord. But then, she wrote, "Such was the quality of His gaze that I had to turn away.... Meeting Jesus' eyes brought a demand vastly more intense and profound than simply seeing them. I would have to meet Him. The quiet enormity of His omniscience made me turn away, unable to bear its light but for a fleeting half-second. For the first time, the sorrow of the well-known rich young ruler of Matthew's account was not only real to me, but also became a matter of personal identity" (L.W.P.)