This weekend in Ordinary Time once again gives us so much to think about. Each of our writers; Jeremiah, Jesus and Paul is speaking from their place in history and beyond, to us, now, messages of challenge, hope and love.
Having just celebrated a whole day dedicated to love this past week; I’d like to concentrate on this topic. I think it’s wonderful to have one day that calls us to remember in special ways those we profess to love, but maybe in the busy-ness of our lives, forget to often tell them. Such a day gives us that opportunity.
Now while it is true that Valentine’s Day or Christmas Day or any other holiday in the business world is about the bottom line, with us being encouraged to buy; what I am talking about is so much more than that. Like following our brother, Jesus, which always involves more than meets the eye, telling someone we love them goes so much deeper too. The giving of flowers or candy is hopefully just a token of our day-in and day-out feelings.
I always think of Tevye’s question to his wife, Golda in Fiddler on the Roof: “Do you love me?” Golda goes through a series of tasks that she has done for him for 25 years; cleaning his house, preparing his food, giving him children and so on. He persists, “But Golda, do you love me?” To which she finally says—that basically, doing all that, “I guess I do!”
As Jesus always said while among us, “You will know what is in someone’s heart by their actions”—the fruit on the tree!
Jeremiah in attempting to tell the Israelites what is best in life, that is— putting their trust in God, for it is God who gives us hope, says a curious thing with regard to the “heart,” the place where most of us locate, or at least, associate with love and I find that I must disagree with him. The human heart, Jeremiah says in today’s first reading, is more deceitful than anything else.” In defense of Jeremiah first off; I would say that he is referring basically to the heart as the source of our emotions and therefore can’t be trusted, because many things can affect them.
There has been a great deal of study done on the human heart since Jeremiah said these words and during a week that annually devotes an entire day to love; I think it is appropriate to share some of the wisdom of the ages.
In an address given recently by Rochester Franciscan Sister Charlotte Hesby to the Sisters and Cojourners, she shared the words of author, Cynthia Bourgeault: “According to the great wisdom of the West (Christian, Jewish, Islamic), the heart is first and foremost an organ of spiritual perception. Its primary function is to look beyond the obvious…see into a deeper reality…where meaning and clarity come together in a whole different way. Amazingly she says that the heart is not a metaphor, rather points to Ezekiel 36:26, and Eastern Orthodox tradition which both make clear that it is the “heart of flesh,” the physical heart which is meant. So the muscle pumping so faithfully in our chest is likewise that which sees the Holy in all that is! This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. The prophet’s words, [given by God], “I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
So, where am I going with all of this? I would say that of the messages that are contained in today’s readings; those of challenge, hope and love, love is the one that we have to really grow to understand in our lives as Christians, as followers of Jesus, especially if, as Cynthia Bourgeault says, [the heart is that], “which sees the Holy in all that is.” What better action for any of us to be about than seeing the Holy in all that is?
I believe most of us would agree that love—true love, is that feeling-emotion-action that originates in our hearts. And as Bourgeault seems to indicate, the heart that can truly love and act upon that love is a spiritual and ultimately, very good thing for us spiritual beings here having a human experience.
I believe she is talking about a greater purpose than was Jeremiah in today’s first reading; but then, he was making an all-together different point—that trusting in God is the best thing we can do. I would add though, that the God who gave us hearts capable of love that can at times “break them open,” would want us to trust our hearts as well, because the heart, it would seem, is so much a part of what makes us spiritual beings.
Love is the only answer for Jesus’ life among us—teaching, preaching, speaking truth to the powers that were in his world, knowing that full well, such actions would not bring him to a good end—but love to him was more than safety.
This past week; I read a talk given recently by Roy Bourgeois, former member of the Maryknoll Priests and Brothers who lost his status and place within Maryknoll, a community he gave 40 years of his life to because this organization thought it more important to be safe, than to allow their hearts to break open with love.
Roy lost all because he acted on the call of the Spirit to support his friend Janice Sevre-Dusynska who told him she was being called, just as he was, to be a priest.
Roy, coming out of a culture in the deep south and a Catholic parish that relegated blacks to the last 5 pews in the church, claiming, even as they professed to believe in Jesus and his Scriptures, that this was “tradition” and not racism, finally awakened as he listened to more and more women claiming that God was calling them to priesthood and that, as he had learned, “tradition” could no longer be the reason to commit sins of racism or sexism.
This awakening allowed Roy to proclaim, “What I came to, is that as a Catholic priest; I was in a profession that discriminated against women.” Being safe wasn’t enough for Roy anymore and even though he lost much, he said, he has never been more, free.
So, my friends; we might say with Jeremiah today that we are blessed who put our trust in God and in all the good our God gives us to share with our world, love being a most significant gift. We simply must give from our hearts allowing them to break open for our world, actions that may not keep us safe, but will surely allow us to “see the Holy in all that is.” Amen? Amen!