Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Sacred Heart of the Universe
and Healing Compassion

The spiritual ground of Catholic [i.e., universal] truth is the compassion of Him Who is the Sacred Heart of the universe. Christianity's irreplaceable and ultimate symbol is the image of a Cross, and a Man crucified to it, who pronounced forgiveness on those who inflicted capital punishment on Him without cause, simply because He loved "to the end" (Jn 13:1) all who responded to Love. Had His persecutor's accepted and known this Love, they "never would have crucified the Lord of glory" {1 Cor 2:6-8).

According to the book of Genesis, the book of beginnings, as soon as Adam, whom God made free, disobeyed God, choosing instead to make himself god-like by opting for the forbidden knowledge of evil, God "clothed him" with forgiveness and the Promise of a redeeming Light , the en-fleshment of this Love, to come.

That Light progressively shone through the centuries according to the Promise and covenantal faithfulness of God until, "when the fullness of the time had come" the "Word was made Flesh" and dwelt among us, "full of grace and truth" (Gal 4:4; Jn 1:14). This "Word" ---made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth---was the Heart and Thought of God revealed to all humankind unto the end of time. God did not stay in His high heaven as free men and women groped through their choices and acts below. Rather, He revealed Himself through his prophets and people(s) "at many times and in various ways" (Heb 1:1), a revelation which climaxed in this astonishing coming ---Being reaching out to being--- which made all the heavens explode with tidings of greatest joy at the arrival of "God with us," (Isa 9:6). And when the time of His ministry of salvation commenced, He healed the repentant sinners with forgiveness, gave sight to the blind, made the lame to walk, and lepers to be cleansed.


Salvation comes from the Latin word, salve, which means healing. And true healing implies compassion, the deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the wish to relieve it. By definition Christ, the Healer of our souls, is Compassion itself. This other wonderful word, compassion, is from the latin meaning "to suffer with" another (Com = with and passio = suffer).

When He girded Himself with a towel at the last Supper and first Mass, after three and a half years of teaching what divine Love is, and washed the feet of His diciples, telling them to go and do likewise, he was showing them that all their agitation about who would be "greatest" in the Kingdom of Heaven was a profound misunderstanding of the His message:

A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:24-30)

Likewise we see this profound misunderstanding when he showed them the resentful and jealous character of the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

St. Paul exulted in Jesus' kenosis, this "emptying" into love, in his letter to the Phillipians:

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be clung to, but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness." (Phil 2:5-7)

God Made Himself nothing...a slave. How can we ever be the same again? This was the divine, non-violent, Lamb of God, who is the "Light of the world," who laid down His Life for His Sheep, for the "sins of the world," not a dominating mythological deity. He "suffered with" (com-passionated) the fallen of this world. For "he knows our frame and remembers that are are dust" (Ps 103: 15) His divine salutation after the resurrection was ever "shalom," peace. And it is His life, teachings, and healing death which, in the resurrection, will ever be the final "word" and "sign" for human history, no matter what the tumults and clamor.

"He that says he abides in him," then, "ought himself to walk even as he walked" (1 Jn 2:6) in works of mercy, and in announcing the peace and reconciliation of His Sabbath-rest ( Mt 11: 28-30 ). No wonder His servants, the saints, stripped themselves of all to take up their cross and follow Him. Whenever the Church has done this she has flourished. Whenever she has not she has fallen under judgement like Israel's backslidings of old (1 Pet 4:17). The "shalom" or 'Rest' of His Kingdom is "love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control". (Gal. 5:22,23)

Hell is the opposite of this Kingdom. For Hell is an undoing, a collapse into egoism, into violence, lust and despair.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is the parable of what God is like, and what true religion is:

"True religion, undefiled before the Father is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" of power, exploitation, sin and domination. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." (James 2:27; 1 Jn 2:16).

Franciscan compassion is the Church's compassion, the desire to become instruments of His everlasting peace, beyond selfishness. For to reduce religion to polemics, arguments, and selfishness is to kill it before it has been born, or had a chance to fully live .

Sometimes it hurts deeply to be healed only slowly into what He calls us to, beyond ourselves; to change our hearts and minds ( 2. Cor. vii. 10). Leon Bloy said, "Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering in order that they may have existence."

Near the Cross

It is often dark and stormy near the Cross where the light is too bright for our eyes, but from there His wondrous healing comes. Sometimes it feels like hell; but heaven, He taught us, is its salvific horizon.

When we can't "see" anything, when the climb up the Mountain of spiritual vision is all fog and confusion, He has left us His Eucharist, His true "Presence" which comes to us in our deepest needs. He comes objectively when the subjective is fallen into a maelstrom of troubles and darkness. There are also His other divinely empowered "comings": There is the Rosary of His Mother, icons, contemplative quiet in our churches. There is also the grace of gazing upon the crucifix of His love which is "there" and which corresponds in assurance, signs and reminders, calling us back to His Compassion (His "suffering with"), to His life, teachings, death and resurrection, what we cannot see, except through the optic of faith. All of these are His saving presence in degrees, designed to make us healers of compassion.

We are called to be healers with Jesus, showing His face in our lives, and being healed by Him, or we are still lost, however much religion or theology we know, and no matter how clever or brilliant we are.

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