Last fall, while I was on retreat, I came across a poster that caught my eye. It was a picture of a mother holding her infant and the caption read: “Every human being began in the heart of God.” There is something about the image of a heart that speaks a language all its own. We hear it in such simple phrases such as:
- OK, let’s get to the heart of the matter
- My heart is broken
- Are not our hearts burning within us
- We can talk heart to heart
- You can read her heart
- I give you my heart!
Throughout the Bible the heart is looked upon as containing the very core of what it means to be human. A hardened heart has turned away from God. A heart of flesh is open to receiving God’s love.
When we look to scripture as see that the language of the heart is most clearly revealed in the life of Jesus Christ. His life offers us an example of the attitudes, values and behavior that reflect what it means to be human and the truth we are called to live each day. The language of Jesus…the language of the heart…affirms trust over betrayal, community instead of division, generosity and service instead of violence and domination.
St. Gaspar, our founder sometimes called the Sacred Heart the wine cellar of the Precious Blood. He once wrote: “Let us strive to love the One who loves us so very much. May the heart of Jesus be the center of our lives, our mystical cell, and our ark of refuge.” Sept 20, 1883 As I reflected on our readings for today I notice that in all three of our readings there is a movement to go inside…The Israelites splashed blood on their doorposts and then went inside their houses and did not come out until morning; Jesus entered into the sanctuary offering his own blood; the disciples went into the upper room with Jesus to eat the Passover meal.
In spiritual terms we can look upon this action as a symbolic call to contemplation.
Taking the inner journey to the heart we find protection, nourishment, intimacy and identity.
A heart steeped in the Precious Blood respects the dignity and worth of each and every person. God is saying to us that we are all one heart, we are all one blood. A Precious Blood person does not polarize or set up sides but rather tries to stay at the table of dialogue and communion. We hear the heart of God saying: “Those who are far off have been brought near through the Blood of Christ.”
Fr. Henri Nouwen believed that “the practice of contemplative prayer is the discipline by which we begin to see God in our heart. It is a careful attentiveness to him who dwells in the
center of our being so that through the recognition of his presence we allow him to take possession of all our senses…we awaken ourselves to the God in us and let him enter into every aspect of our lives. (Pg.56 Simpler Living- Compassionate Life) In other words, through the gift of contemplation, we discover what we are to do with the heart that has been given to us.
Once upon a time, a young man came into town bragging that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole area. Many people gathered to admire the heart because it was perfect. Not a mark or a flaw to be seen.
Suddenly, an old man appeared at the front of the crowd and said: “Why, your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine.” Everyone looked at the old man’s heart. It was beating strongly, but it was full of scars and gouges and mismatched pieces. The crowd wondered, how can he say his heart if more beautiful? The young man laughed saying: “Your heart is a mess!”
“Mine is perfect.”
Hmmm, the old man said, your heart looks perfect but I would never trade with you.
You see, every scar represent a person to whom I have given my love, I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them and they often give me a piece of their heart, though the pieces don’t match exactly I cherish them none-the-less because they remind me of the love we shared.
Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away and nothing comes back. These are the empty gouges…giving love is a risk. Although these missing pieces are painful I wait in hope that someday the person will return to fill that space. So, now…do you see what true beauty is?”
The young man stood silently with tears running down his cheeks. He walked up to the old man, reached into his own perfect, beautiful heart…ripped a piece out and with trembling hands, offered it to the old man. The old man accepted his offering and then took a piece from his old scarred heart and placed it in the wound of the young man’s heart.
The young man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever…
since love from the old man’s heart flowed into his. They embraced and walked away
side by side.
In this kind of exchange we touch the very heart of God that was given to us at the moment of conception. We give witness to the example of Jesus who gave his heart unselfishly to all people.
Think of the lives of those religious men and women you know. They understood the heart of Jesus and what it means to pour out your heart in loving service. They have strengthened parish communities, comforted the dying and their families, preached homilies & retreats, offered support ministries, worked on the farm, taught in the classroom, served in leadership positions, cared for the sick, served in foreign missions, worked with the poor…in so many ways they gave a part of their heart to others out of love.
It’s awesome to think about the thousands of lives that have been touched by their saying “Yes” to God and answering His call to priesthood, brotherhood and sisterhood. As instruments in the hand of God we have all come to see a little more clearly what it means for the love of God to draw near to us! We are grateful to you for your generous response.
Our daily obligation is to keep careful watch over our hearts, our desires and our thoughts so that, being true to our baptismal promises we may allow the Glory of God to shine through our lives and bring hope to our world.
As we continue our prayer today, be attentive to the voice of God alive in your heart.
What is God saying to you as He nourishes you with His Body and Blood today?
Receive this gift as a piece of God’s heart being placed upon your scarred heart.
Allow God’s life to mingle with your life in an exchange of love that connects you with that moment of conception when God first gave you life and loved you into being.
Fr. Angelo Anthony, C.PP.S.
Readings: Exodus 12:21-27
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Resource: Simpler Living-Compassionate Life