Heart of the Matter

Sacred Heart of Jesus – not heart of the Father or heart of the Holy Spirit – the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

There is nothing more human than the heart.  In western thought, we speak the heart as the seat and core of our humanity. We can talk about “right-brained” and “left-brained” people – with “left-brained” people being logical, analytical and objective. A person who is “right-brained” is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective. But, we are people of folk wisdom. We hold up the heart as the symbol of love, desire – “my heart longs for you” – and more. We see the heart as the seat of intuition, creativity, wisdom, gratitude, faith and the like. If you think about it, the finest values and qualities of human experience are more generally associated with the heart rather than the mind.

Biblically the word “heart” rarely refers to the blood-pumping organ so vital to human life. In both the Old Testament and New Testament, it refers to the inner life of a person which combines the mental processes, emotions, and the will.  Our expression, “at the heart of the matter” points to the deepest, most intrinsic, and central part of the topic. So, if the topic is man or woman, the “heart” is at the “heart of the matter.”

Jesus is at the heart of the matter of our relationship to God. Why? “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” (1 John 4:9) It is as though our human heart ensures we have earthly life to some measure, but not the fullness of life here on earth – and not the fullness of life eternal promised. So God sent his only Son.

The Son who tells us “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

The Son in whom divinity is forever “yoked” to our humanity. In the medieval writing “Vitis mystica” (the mystical vine) – attributed to the Franciscan St Bonaventure – it vividly describes the “Sacred Heart” of Jesus as the font and fullness of love poured into the world.

The Son who is vere Deus, vere homo – truly God, truly Man – came to us as one of us to show us what the human heart is like when it is truly alive. From the words of the “Litany of the Sacred Heart” we human have reflected on what “heart of the matter” is, on what are hearts are called to be: glowing furnace of charity, vessel of justice and love, full of goodness, the well of virtues, the treasure of wisdom and knowledge, the desire of desire, patient and rich in mercy, fount of life and holiness – and more.

In this Sacred Heart, we understand the words of our second reading:  In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us.” (1 John 4:9-10) pouring the fullness of love into the world

And so we are asked to “hitch” ourselves up to the heart of Jesus – to take on his “yoke”, to pair ourselves with him for the work of this life, to take what we learn to the “heart of the matter.”

It is interesting that in the Greek, the root word for “yoke” is also the root word for “marriage?” It describes that bond of family that endures and permeates our being. It is at the heart of the matter. And it perhaps why the church offers these readings as a set:  Moses telling the people that they are God’s people, He chose them as his own. He yoked himself to them throughout time. The second reading in which the message is that love is at the center of it all. It is love the binds and holds together all that is important and meaningful. The gospel which urges us to “yoke” ourselves to the Sacred Heart.

It is this gospel that St. Bonaventure used to speak to his brother friars when we were at our worse. The order was divided, there was an active war of words that were anything but kind. One side held up the vow of poverty and accused the other of only being interested in privilege and prestige. The other side held up the vow obedience and accused the other of only serving themselves and not the people of God. The rift was growing deeper and more fractious.

Bonaventure, the Minister General of the entire Order gathered the brothers. Using today’s gospel his message was simple: we are Franciscans, vowed to a common life, seeking to follow Christ by the example of Francis of Assisi. We are yoked to each other. Jesus, the only Son of the living God, became flesh and “pitched his tent among us.” He yoked his divinity to our humanity. We brothers take on the yoke – to Christ and each other. Let us again look to the Heart of the Savior.

In this age, on this Sunday, we too are  called to look into our lives to see how the yoke of love needs to be adjusted in our lives, in our relationships of family, in all that we hold dear.  Love, family, life – a Franciscan in community – not always easy but always necessary. It is at the heart of the matter.

What to do? Look to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Find inspiration in that glowing furnace of charity, vessel of justice and love, full of goodness, the well of virtues, the treasure of wisdom and knowledge, the desire of desire, patient and rich in mercy, fount of life and holiness – and more.

It is at the heart of the matter of what it means to be Christian, to be fully alive.

What to do? Let us pray…

Jesus, meek and humble of Heart, make our hearts to be like yours.

Amen

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