Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Feast to Celebrate the Heart of God!

Art by Joseph Fanelli (1993)

Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus ~ June 3

The story is told that once a young boy was about to have open-heart surgery.  To prepare him the surgeon said, “Tomorrow I will look at your heart.”  Smiling, the boy interrupted, “You’ll find Jesus there.”  Ignoring his remark, the surgeon continued, “After I have seen your heart I will try to repair the damage.”  Again, the boy insisted.  “You are going to find Jesus in my heart.”

The surgeon who had suffered losses in his own family and was still in pain from a failed marriage, felt very distant from God. He replied in a chilling tone, “No, what I’ll find is damaged tissue, constricted arteries, and weakened muscle.”

The next day he opened the boy’s chest and exposed his heart.  It was worse than he expected – a ravaged aorta, torn tissue, swollen muscles and arteries.  There was no hope of a cure, not even the possibility of a transplant.  His icy anger at God began to surface as he thought, “Where is God? Why did God do this?  Why is God letting this boy suffer and cursing him with an early death?”

As he gazed at the boy’s heart, he suddenly thought of the pierced heart of Jesus, and it seemed to him that the boy and Jesus shared one heart, a heart that was suffering for all those in the world experiencing pain and loss; a heart that was redeeming the world by love. 

Struck with awe at such goodness, such redemptive, unconditional love, tears began rolling down the surgeon’s cheeks, hot tears of compassion for the little boy.  Later, when the child awoke, he whispered, “Did you see my heart?”  “Yes,” said the surgeon.  “What did you find?” the boy asked. The surgeon replied, “I found Jesus there.”

The heart can be understood as a physical part of each of us – that hidden yet vital organ that circulates the full human blood supply three times per minute and whose hundred thousand beats a day are often taken for granted.  The heart is the very core of a person.  When that very center is deeply affected, one’s whole way of thinking about the world, one’s whole way of feeling it, of being in it is profoundly altered.  As in our opening story, the doctor experienced a conversion of heart – a healing from heartlessness to heart-fullness. And the child – who was all heart and shared in the heart of Jesus – had a heart filled with redemptive and unconditional love.

Today’s feast (June 3) is the celebration of the “enlarged heart” of God as it was enfleshed in the heart of Jesus through the womb of Mary – a heart filled and overflowing with unconditional love and mercy.

Today is not necessarily a feast of our devotion to the heart of Jesus, but it is a celebration of God’s devotion to us by offering us a heart of love beyond our comprehension, a heart of love beyond any Hallmark card expression, and a heart full of love that is unfathomable. Our God’s love is tender; Our God is totally in love with us, and desires to be of one heart with us.  For as John writes: God is Love!

As we celebrate this feast today of God’s love for us it was different in the Middle Ages – as the devotion was not to the heart of Jesus but to the wound in the side of Jesus.  In later times, especially rising from the visions of St. Margaret Mary, the focus shifted more to the Heart of Jesus.

In the writings of Margaret Mary, she describes what happened one day as she was praying when she received a vision of Jesus:   “For a long time he kept me leaning on his breast, while he revealed the wonders of his love and the mysterious secrets of his Sacred Heart. Till then, he had always kept them hidden; but now, for the first time, he opened his Heart to me.”

Margaret Mary continued to describe in her writings how Jesus revealed his heart as a heart on fire with love as he said: “My divine Heart is so passionately fond of the human race, and of you (Margaret Mary), that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning love any longer.”  She then reveals what followed. “Next, he asked for my heart. I begged him to take it; he did, and placed it in his own divine Heart.  He let me see it there – a tiny atom being completely burned up in that fiery furnace.  Then, lifting it out – now a little heart-shaped flame – he put it back where he had found it.”
In our Gospel today, Jesus reveals to us that his heart is humble and invites us to find rest within his heart.  Jesus lived love and mercy throughout his ministry as he encountered the least, the last, and the lost.

In Scripture we find a number of examples of how his love was lived out. . .
• Let the children come to me . . .then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them
• At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them.
• Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes and immediately they received their sight.
• (Rich man) Jesus looking at him loved him.

So what is the good news for us today?
Let us through our daily reflection imagine ourselves resting in the heart of God hearing the heartbeat of God in the intimacy of our own prayer.
 (Nouwen)- “when we come to hear the heartbeat of God in the intimacy of our prayer, we realize that God’s heart embraces all the sufferings of the world.  We come to see that through Jesus Christ these burdens have become a light burden which we are invited to carry.  . . It is in the heart of God that we come to understand the true nature of human suffering and come to know our mission to alleviate this suffering not in our own name, but in the name of Jesus.”

For God’s heart goes out to us and God’s love is always there for us –
Closing: Reflections from Macrina Wiederkehr’s experience of the heart of God in her prayer . . .

Like lightning at dawn – the All-Powerful One came
electrifying, energizing, frightening, shattering, crashing into my morning prayer!
Totally unprepared for this kind of interruption,
I froze on my knees both in wonder and terror.
There was no morning silence left,
no comforting darkness to enfold me
only those flashes of light that make hiding impossible.
But this? Oh, this was awful!
God stood there with terrible, penetrating loving eyes, saying only:
Your love is too small!

Standing that close to truth felt uncomfortable, unbearable and I tried
to hide my face the way I often do when truth gets too close.
I tried to hide the pieces of my terribly divided heart. 
But then the lightning came again.
And God was standing there even closer than before
Holding the pieces of my heart with such tenderness
still saying, Your love is too small.

I took the pieces back with reverence
My tears proclaiming the truth of all I felt.
There was no pressure, no force
just the God of morning asking for my love.
And now, every time I see those flashes
in the northern sky I hear again, a voice
saying simply, Your love is too small.
And I weep; I weep at the possibility of who I could be.
(From Seasons of Your Heart)

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