This morning I pulled out the next book of the Liturgy of the Hours so that I would remember to begin using it tomorrow, Ash Wednesday.
I opened it up and happened immediately upon a holy card; a picture of the Divine Child Jesus holding out His Sacred Heart in a gesture of offering.
It stopped me. There He was…offering me His heart. He does that every day. It made me think of the miracle of Lanciano, where the Holy Eucharist turned into flesh, which was studied and found to be cardiac muscle. That is…heart muscle.
Do you realize what that means? That every time we receive Holy Communion, we are taking the very heart of Christ into ourselves! We are taking in the offering of love, symbolized by the heart itself…Himself. Jesus gives Himself to us, fully. The source of blood, the source of life...the heart symbolizes all life, and it overflows with life, that WE might live.
What do we give Him in return?
I find it no coincidence that this image and these connections have been in my mind today - Shrove Tuesday. A day to examine ourselves and determine what we’re holding back from God.
Lent is a time to recognize what Our Lord has done for us, and see if somehow, we can take another step, offer more of ourselves to Him, or offer EVERYTHING to Him, just as He did for us.
Jesus offers His very heart; are we willing to trust Him enough to offer our own, without reserve? Completely abandoning ourselves to Him?
A phrase that has been going through my mind a lot of late is from John Paul II’s address to the youth at WYD 2000:
It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness. He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle...
And I think to myself…what ARE my most genuine choices? My choices to sin? Or my choices that bring me closer to God? To what end am I, as a human being, an adopted daughter of the King, directed?
What is my heart’s desire? Really?
We can answer those questions during Lent. We can enter this desert, and perhaps allow Our Lord to reveal His heart to us…for us. And maybe then, only then, will we be able to understand that what we truly, genuinely desire, is what He also desires for us.
Vespers this evening calls us to remember we are children, for in that innocence we will find Our Lord waiting. Given the way I started my day, and the prayerful thoughts that have come to me throughout the various hours, I find that the Psalm-prayer and Antiphon are no mistake, but words to complete a little square in the quilt God has so artistically placed to represent His lesson for me today:
Lord Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, you declared that whoever receives a little child in your name receives you, and you promised your kingdom to those who are like children. Never let pride reign in our hearts, but may the Father's compassion reward and embrace all who willingly bear your gentle yoke.
Ant. Unless you acquire the heart of a child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.
How do we acquire the heart of a child?
All too often, we can't. We've forgotten what it's like to have such trust, such devotion, such abandonment.
So Christ offers us His own heart, seeing our deprivation, and unable, in His innocence, in His love, to allow us to be so impoverished. In His Divine Childhood, he approaches us and gives us His most valuable possession..and asks us to make Him ours.
Because our hearts are stone, He comes to us gently, and offers us His own heart, beating furiously with the fire of love for us, and asks us to take it into ourselves, and share in His own Divine Life.
Today, Jesus offers us His heart. How can we look into the joyful and trusting face of the Divine Child and refuse His selfless gift? How can we fail to respond by offering our own?
Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.