Sunday, June 28, 2015

Create A New Heart Within Us, Lord

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
[Image by David Clayton retrieved from]

June is almost gone, and I've been thinking a lot about the Sacred Heart of Jesus during this month dedicated to Him and His Merciful Heart.  I've been thinking about the perfect love which always reigned within the Heart of Jesus, and how I am called to be transformed into a daughter of God who also loves perfectly, and imitates the ways of our Savior. Of course, this is no easy task. 

Scripture tells us that Jesus, "by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, 16"THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM," [Heb 10:14-16] In the Old Testament regarding the Ten Commandments, we are enjoined to, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds." [Deuteronomy: 11:8]. The question is how to do this. 

The lives of the saints are always good places to start. We have many fascinating examples of human hearts that were transformed from 'stony hearts into natural hearts.' A few amazing stories come to mind. St. Phillip Neri loved the Lord and his neighbor so overwhelmingly that it was said that on the eve of Pentecost, 1544, he was praying "when there appeared to him what seemed to be a globe of fire; it entered his mouth and afterwards he felt a dilation of the heart. Immediately he was filled with such paroxysms of divine love that he fell to the ground exclaiming, "Enough, enough, Lord, I can bear no morel " When he had come to himself and risen up, he discovered a swelling over his heart, though neither then nor later did. it give him pain. The saint's heart had been dilated under the sudden impulse of love, and in order that it might have sufficient room to move, two ribs had been broken, and curved in the form of an arch. From the time of the miracle till his death, his heart would palpitate violently whenever he performed any spiritual action."  [See}

In the life of St. Ignatius the Godbearer and Bishop of Antioch, he was preparing to be devoured by the lions in Rome under Emperor Trajan. The pagans notices that he repeatedly said the Holy name of Jesus and prayed the Jesus Prayer. They asked him why he unceasingly remembered and repeated that name. He told them that he had the name of Jesus written in his heart and that he carried Him always within it.  After his martyrdom, by a miracle of God, his heart was preserved among his bones in tact. The infidels found it and remembered what he had said. They decided to cut open his heart to see if it was true. Inside, to their amazement, they found an inscription in gold letters: Jesus Christ. 

Of course, we remember the darts of love that transverberated the hearts of St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of the Holy Face and Child Jesus. Both were DIscalced Carmelites who practiced a high degree of merciful love and charity towards God and those around them in profound humility. All of these saints and many more sought love of God and neighbor as the pinnacles of their existence. This came before all else.   Hopefully, we feel inspired by these examples, but we might also feel a bit overwhelmed and ask ourselves how we can cooperate with God to realize such a high level of agape unconditional love in our lives amidst all of the distractions and temptations. 

Thankfully, we have several blueprints that Our Lord has given to us, the first of which is the basic framework of the Ten Commandments. Without following these basic precepts, we are lost. These 10 commandments are ten laws of love and given to us as a means of fostering closeness with Our Lord and will our fellow human beings. Beyond this, we have the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy which are extensions of the Beatitudes given by Our Lord at the Sermon on the Mount. 

These acts of mercy include the following: 

The Works of Mercy

            The Corporal Works of Mercy
                To feed the hungry
                To give drink to the thirsty.
                To clothe the naked.
                To visit and ransom the captives.
                To shelter the homeless.
                To visit the sick.
                To bury the dead.

            The Spiritual Works of Mercy
                To admonish sinners.
                To instruct the ignorant.
                To counsel the doubtful.
                To comfort the sorrowful.
                To bear wrongs patiently.
                To forgive all injuries.
                To pray for the living and the dead   

If we look at the Beatitudes, we can see the profound connection between these works of mercy and these promises of blessedness and love set forth by Jesus:

The Beatitudes
                1. Blessed are the poor in spirit:
                    the reign of God is theirs.
                2. Blessed are the sorrowing:
                    they shall be consoled.
                3. Blessed are the lowly:
                    they shall inherit the land.
                4. Blessed are they who hunger
                    and thirst for holiness:
                    they shall have their fill.
                5. Blessed are they who show
                    mercy: mercy shall be theirs.
                6. Blessed are the single-hearted:
                    for they shall see God.
                7. Blessed are the peacemakers:
                    they shall be called sons of God.
                8. Blessed are those persecuted
                    for holiness' sake: the reign of
                    God is theirs.

As I've been bustling around this summer trying [many times, unsuccessfully] to divide my time between Mass and prayer time, my family, my job as an adjunct faculty member, and my designation as property manager for our 15 rental units, and overseer of a fix and flip property, I become lost in the maelstrom of it all. As I am trying to pray, I am thinking about the building project, and as I am driving all around Phoenix, I am thinking about my kids. I feel confused, and repeatedly ask Our Lord to teach me how to love Him before all else, and to love my family and all of humanity as myself. 

He is teaching me that love is unfolding at every moment, and that each moment is an opportunity for love regardless of what we are doing or not doing, how busy or slow we are, whether in sickness or in health, whether one is wealthy or poor.  Love is an act of the will. It is a choice. We can practice love and acknowledge the presence of God as each moment unfolds, or we can get caught up the chaos of it all and get agitated, thereby losing our peace and our mission as lovers. Each day brings new opportunities to love as Jesus loved. The question is do we choose it. Do I choose to have the shrunken heart of the Grinch and hold onto grudges and hurts, or do I have the heart of Christ who shows us how to forgive, love our enemies, and love God above all else? Each moment holds the key. If I fall one moment, I must get up, seek forgiveness, and make a conscious decision to love in the next moment.  I should always have time for love above all else. Repeatedly I must consider, 'What does love require of me right now at this present moment?'

The lives of the saints consisted of a progressive set of moments that were always carrying them towards the Heart of Christ in all that they did. Each moment presented an opportunity to practice charity regardless of where they found themselves at the time, and so it is with us. The question again, is whether we have the willingness to choose it- to choose love over hate and over worldly concerns. 
[retrieved from]

Holy Spirit, you who operated the life of Christ and the love found within His Sacred Heart, we ask you to give us the grace to say 'yes' to these moment by moment opportunities to love. May you give us the gifts needed to increase in the practice of Divine love. Amen.