Today Matthew is still recounting a part of the famous message of Jesus from the Mount of the Beatitudes, one of the most peaceful places I have ever visited. Jesus is preaching about the danger of storing up earthly treasures and he makes a statement that engenders my question this morning about “treasure.” He suggests that we not be concerned with material goods and such, but rather go deeper, finding more precious things. He says simply and directly, “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” And so I ask myself today: “Lois, where is your heart?”
Don’t get me wrong about yesterday’s post. I am not advocating a dismissal of the horrific damage done to the revered symbols of our democracy at the Capitol in Washington and the rage that precipitated the damage yesterday. I am simply suggesting that we dig deep into ourselves and our culture for what and who drove the participants to such violence. There is a cancer in our midst, much more virulent than the Coronavirus that is killing so many of our citizens every day. The disregard of those who refuse the precautions like wearing masks, social distancing, etc. is an indication of how lax citizens have become, how little some people care for the common good. Rather, we are now living in an attitudinal shift to what feels good for me and what I can get—rather than what I can give. Even as I write that I cringe while thinking of all the magnificent people and groups who have formed my attitudes of generosity and willingness to spend ourselves in doing good.
How have we come so far that we cannot stop the waves of cynicism and selfishness that invade our privileged status as “the greatest country on earth?” We need a taste of humility to shake us into wakefulness. We need an infusion of lovingkindness that will bring us back to care for the poorest among us. We need the example of the great ones who have gone before us, those caring folk who may have little to give but give it anyway, those whose love shines out with confidence that others will see and hear for the good of all.
We are bereft because the virus keeps us from physical contact. Can our works and words touch those hearts that long for connection? Can our eyes speak what our hearts are longing to say? Can a look of love wash over someone who is starving for companionship? Can a sweet song be a balm for someone else’s pain? What can we do to break through the walls of distress, the rivers of frustration, the towers of neglect? When we cannot love the sin, are we at least able to make an attempt to love the sinner?
Although all this may seem just platitude, it is truly the desire of my heart for us as individuals to live in wakefulness, as communities to live in solidarity and as world community to live in hope—for a unity that surpasses all division so as to lead us deep into the heart of the Divine.
As I ponder this season of Advent which is different from any other in any year that I have ever known, a familiar quote by Henry Van Dyke comes to me that begins: “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear…” It reminds me that time is a construct that we cannot control or manage. We have to take it as it comes and live it. How to do that is the challenge of the day for me. Looking for some help in meeting it, I open Joyce Rupp’s Prayer Seeds and find a prayer that is reminiscent of the Prayer of St. Francis but with a bit of a different slant…It suffices for me today.
All Encompassing Heart, where there is impatience, let me bring kindness. Where there is strife, let me bring harmony. Where there is hurt, let me bring healing. Where there is rigidity, let me bring openness. Where there is judgment, let me bring understanding.
O Wide and Spacious Love, turn me toward your unconditional acceptance. I seek to be a vessel of your great love. Let me carry your love into all parts of my life and pour it forth willingly and generously.
Today is the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. We all know that hearts appear everywhere when Valentine’s Day comes around. Images of real hearts, however, are more complex and sometimes not so pretty, depending on the presence of blood and the vessels that appear in the picture. We see blood as “messy” or “gory” and we forget sometimes how essential blood is to our life and how we can only live if our heart continues to beat.
On this feast we celebrate the heart as a symbol of what the heart does, of course, not how it is constructed. Presently, in some spiritual circles, there is a description of the heart as “the organ of spiritual perception,” essential to our growth in love. Although the writer of the First Letter of John did not use that denotation, he did understand deeply the significance of the definition. Here is some of the evidence from today’s lectionary:
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God…In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his Son into the world so that we might have life through him…Beloved, if God so loved us, we must also love one another…God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in them. (1 JN 4: 7-16)
Take a moment of quiet and listen for your heartbeat. If you can’t hear or feel it, find the pressure point in your neck and just sense the love that is keeping you alive. Thank God for the life that is love, for the Love that is God. Remain in that knowledge, that grace, with each beat of your heart.
Today I looked to my favorite translation of the Psalms for inspiration.* Sometimes it only takes a word and sometimes more is demanded in order to find in print or in my own mind or heart something worthwhile to say.
Psalm 122 speaks of Jerusalem as the seat of God’s kingdom. Unfortunately, this “city of peace” has been and remains a city of tension and a seat of struggle – sometimes open warfare – rather than a place that all people of faith can happily call their own. This morning, however, I found a second alternate translation that made it possible to see Jerusalem as a place for us all, as “an interior reality” where commentary names it “a reality of the heart that …has the opportunity to extend itself throughout the physical and temporal world.”
Why not try this? Consider your heart as the “City of God” and read the following with that consciousness. You are the city of God, the pulsing heart, the center of this place of peace. Read it aloud.
With joy I arose and went into your house when called to the worship of your name. I entered and now stand singing with all those gathered to worship and adore you. Your holy name becomes for us a blessed city, a place of peace that draws us deeper in where people of every tongue and race rise up before the presence of your face to know and love the God of peace as one. So in this hallowed space and ground, your judgment and your rule of love, becomes for us a kingdom. And may that kingdom come, your peace be done over all the the earth, we pray. Within the inner walls of heart and soul, and on the outer towers of human being, may peace descend, and be for everyone a fortress and a keep where nothing evil enters in. And this we pray now for the good of all, for all who are your house, your dwelling place forever. (*Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p. 318)
The lovely book by John Philip Newell entitled Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace is set up in such a way that the reader not only finds – in addition to the prayers for the life of the world – prayers of awareness and blessing twice a day but also quotes from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and the Quran. That sounds like a lot of words but, in fact, it is not. Here are the three Scripture quotes for Monday morning that in their brevity moves one, perhaps, to a deeper, wordless place of peace.
Wait for God. Be strong and let your heart take courage. (Psalm 27: 14)
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Remember God deep in your soul with humility and reverence. (Quran – The Heights 7 .205)
As I remember the shocking attack on our country that was perpetrated on 9/11/2001, I turn to Thomas Merton for a word and find it immediately. It is not soothing but calls me to step up to responsibility. And you?
“The real job is to lay the groundwork for a deep change of heart on the part of the whole nation so that one day it can really go through the metanoia we need for a peaceful world.” (The Hidden Ground of Love, p. 92)
Today is called “Good Friday.” The veiled goodness of this day consists of our ability to tap into the lessons that we may perceive in silence and in our willingness to widen our heart space and unite ourselves to the heart of Jesus in his total surrender. Here is how Thomas Merton expressed it long ago:
Let go of all that seems to suggest getting somewhere, being someone, having a name and a voice, following a policy and directing people in “my” ways. What matters is to love. (Learning to Love, p.15)
I am now convinced of the truth that one can find almost anything on the internet. I woke up this morning with a chant from a wisdom school in my head. I had learned and sung it first about ten years ago and then renewed my preference for it last month in Tucson. This morning, however, I could only bring back two of the three lines! I thought that if I waited and hummed it every once in awhile it would all come back. (That is a technique that is often successful.) After two hours of wakefulness, I only had one word of the short third, so I gave up and typed the first two lines into my Google search with a prompt of “third line…?” and presto! it appeared – not only the line but the whole chant with music and (dangerously) several different third line translations! To my relief, the one I wanted was there: Cor meum dabo. (It just now took me three tries to override the corrections of my computer which really wants to speak English instead of Latin!)
Much of my love of Latin came from respect for my high school teacher, Sister Thomas Aquinas, and the happy memories of the eight of us who persevered through four years of the subject because of her as well as for the subject, the basis for my love of language in general. But I digress…
Here is what I found: Ego sum pauper. Nihil habeo. Cor meum dabo. I am poor. I have nothing. I give my heart.
I’m thinking of making that my everyday morning offering – sung, of course. In Latin definitely. The magic of music can make a simple statement so much more, even when it is enough in itself. (Go to “Ego sum pauper” on the internet to hear the tune – and don’t bother with the amazing number of different things that pop up! Just trust the man who is conducting a choir or (hopefully) the second option that is just a flute in a kind of “follow the bouncing ball” without the ball.) If you need the phonetics to be able to sing it, let me know. I’m happy to oblige.