By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.
In the past few weeks, we’ve been graced with wonderful material for meditation with the celebrations in our liturgical calendar. Two weeks ago, we had Corpus Christi, reminding us of the importance of the Eucharist in our journey as Christians, and the impact it can have on our lives. This past week, we celebrated the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. These celebrations helped us reflect not just on God’s profound love for us, but also on the rich interior life that we are called to in our journey with God.
As a person who came to the Church only later on in life, celebrations like the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart used to leave me rather confused and indifferent. It's only when I was in Guelph for to do the Spiritual Exercises (in 2009) that I made my peace with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is only then that I truly came to understand what this devotion stood for in my life. This happened because in the early days of the Exercises, we were asked to illustrate our faith journey with something concrete that we could make with pottery. Not having any artistic talents, I was not
comfortable with this idea at all!
Despite this, a vision emerged in my supposedly unartistic mind: I wanted to make a vessel – a jar of sorts. But I wanted it to be chipped, to be broken on the side … and inside the broken jar, I wanted to place the Sacred Heart of Jesus; a reminder to me that even though in my brokenness, I often feel unworthy of God's love, God, through Jesus, loves me infinitely more than anyone ever has or ever will.
It was a wonderful vision. There was one problem though. As I already stated, I have no artistic skills. That night, working with my block of clay wasn’t a prayerful experience, it was a stressful one. I mean, once you have such a
wonderful artistic vision in your head, you really want to see it come to life. So I kept trying to mould my block of clay into something that even remotely resembled a jar. In the end, I did make a jar, if jars are square-shaped, have no handles and no obvious place from which the water could pour. This exercise caused me enough grief that I decided to focus more on the heart. This became the centrepiece of my labour of love. I even painted it, made a crown of thorn around it to remind myself how much was put into this love for me. Even if I couldn't portray my brokenness, I wanted this heart to express my understanding of how strong God's love is. I wanted it to show how humbled I was at how this heart had conquered so much for the sake of our salvation. I wanted to illustrate that I finally understood how this heart was calling me to a new life, rooted in love of others. Notice, I didn't say anywhere that I understood how loved I was.
This remains a challenge for me, but apparently, not just for me. This is what Pope Francis was hinting at, as he preached on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, when he said, “It’s harder to open our hearts and let God love us than to love God in return”. Our love for God and others is unquestioned, and grows daily. However, no matter how much that love grows, sometimes we forget how much more we are loved back. Meditating on the strength of God's love has always been a challenge for me. It's all a little overwhelming at times. How could our love resemble God's love? How can we return that love in any way? In a way, the more we ask this type of questions, the further we get from understanding that love.
For as St. Ignatius of Loyola reminds us, Divine Love, manifests itself more in deeds than in words. It’s a love that is more giving than receiving. In many ways, that describes the lives of many Jesuits. Once we accept that as St Paul states in his letter to the Romans (5:5), when God's love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, then there is no turning back. Yes, we still are sinners, we continue to struggle, and it’s overwhelming to realize how much God loves us. However, once we stop being overwhelmed by the attention that the shepherd has given to us, then can we live out our redemption, by walking in the path of righteousness, not for our own sake, but for the sake of the one who loved us with all his life and now asks us to do the same, with our hearts filled with His love and wisdom.