Thursday November 14, 2019
8:12 pm
Bishop Hying

This Lent, ask God to break open your heart to know, feel, act and speak as an extension of the Lord

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on March 3, 2019

 

      As we move into Lent this coming week, we again embrace this penitential season of prayer, service, sacrifice and almsgiving to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Easter feasts. None of these spiritual practices are ends in themselves; our Lenten discipline serves as the means to empty us out of selfishness, sin, complacency, anger, sadness, anxiety and whatever else may be afflicting our spirit, so that God may enter into our lives and hearts with greater love, joy and peace. True penance frees, inspires and lifts us up to the light of Christ!

      Last week, I shared thoughts on the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a focus for Lent, as a way for us to enter more deeply into the living reality of Christ, to grow in faith, hope and love, and to understand the life and teachings of Jesus with greater clarity. St. John Eudes, a French missionary priest of the nineteenth century, lived a deep devotion to the Heart of Christ, believing that the Lord wants to place his Heart within us, to live his mercy through us, to act and speak through the mediation of our redeemed humanity.  To live in an ever-growing with Christ is to discover our vocation and purpose as beloved children of the Father. 

      An initial way to understand the Heart of Christ is to ponder the mercy of God. Mercy is what love does and offers when it encounters misery and suffering. Imagine the Most Blessed Trinity compassionately viewing the sickness, evil, suffering and death of humanity before the Incarnation of the Word. Since God is Love, some enormous, divine action of rescue was essential to save humanity from the ravages of sin and darkness. 

      I picture the Father looking on the pain of the human scene and saying, “One of us needs to go down there and save our beloved children.” I imagine the Son responding, “I will go, Father!” In this context, the whole Christ event becomes a mission of mercy, an initiative of rescue to restore the human person to the glory of the image of God.

      In my prayer, I increasingly seek to rest in the Heart of Christ, to move beyond the need for words and thoughts, to simply abide in the peace and mercy of the Lord. In that divine and silent place, I am found, known and loved. I discover my deepest identity as a beloved son of the Father. I feel the mercy of Christ loving me in my sinfulness and weakness, and what is false, anxious and selfish drops away in the purifying fire of Jesus’ mercy.

      In such moments of grace, I feel what Thomas the Apostle must have experienced when he touched the wounds of the Lord. Those nail marks and spear gash mysteriously remain after the Resurrection in the body of the Lord as points of entry, as founts of mercy, as wounds of violent hatred which have been transformed into sacred signs pointing us to the astonishing forgiveness won for us on the cross.

      When we experience the mercy of Christ, we discover a deep personality change that we call conversion. Folks in the New Testament, like Simon Peter, Mary Magdalene, Matthew, the Gerasene demoniac, the daughter of Jairus and Zacchaeus, all encountered the powerful love of the Lord, left the shackles of sin, illness and death behind and gave witness to Jesus and his saving Gospel.

      When we truly experience the unconditional mercy of God in the depths of our souls, when we realize that God knows us by name, when we know the liberation of Christ’s forgiveness, we seek to pass on the gift. We begin to see and regard everyone through the eyes and heart of Jesus. This shift changes everything!

      Whatever you do this Lent, whether it is giving up snacking, praying more, turning off the television, giving more money and time to the needs of the poor and sick or reading the Bible, do so in an intentional and direct relationship to the mercy of Christ. Focus your prayer on the extraordinary fact that God loves you beyond all imagining and knows you by name. 

      Organize your penance so that what you sacrificially give up is clearly opening up more space in your life so that Christ can more fully reign in your heart. Read the Bible through the prism of God’s mercy.  Seek to literally see Jesus in the people around you, especially the most unlovable, demanding and needy.

      Ask God to break open your heart, so that you know, feel, act and speak as an extension of the merciful Lord.

      As we undertake another Lenten journey, we pray for each other, asking the Lord to especially pour out an abundance of the Holy Spirit on our diocese, our parishes, our families, the poor and suffering. We ask the Lord to make fruitful our efforts to implement the synod and to grow the Church as the Body of Christ - this Body which beats with the fiery Heart of the Son of God.

      I invite you to offer this prayer to the Sacred Heart throughout this Lent:

      Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, blazing furnace of God’s mercy and goodness, transform my heart and spirit so that I might give myself more generously in love and service to others. May your tender Heart always be the place of encounter to experience the unconditional love of God tangibly made manifest in your every word, action and gesture.

      Take possession of me so that I might be an extension of your presence in our world and channel the rivers of living water that flow from the fountain of your infinite love and mercy. Grant me the grace needed to boldly proclaim and zealously spread the Gospel through the joyful work of evangelization, as I invite others to enter more deeply into the mystery of your Most Sacred Heart! Amen.

 

       + Donald J. Hying

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