Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Lord is kind and merciful.

As we chanted this morning in our responsorial psalm, "The Lord is kind and merciful." Jesus knows, Jesus understands. He shares our flesh and blood and knows well what yanks at our hearts because “he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy” all that threatens to draw us away from God. Imagine the sympathy of Jesus; literally he feels the same as we do. He speaks to us always not from above, but from deep within. If, as we believe, Jesus is fully human, fully divine, like us “in every respect” but sin then he knows well the vagaries of our human hearts. But unlike us, though tempted, his heart was always set on the Father’s will and desire, for the human heart of Jesus expresses perfectly the infinite love of God.

And so Jesus offers to take us into his own sacred heart, a heart pure and free, a heart unencumbered by the compulsion to sin and turn away from the Father. Broken and wounded, torn open on the cross by our sin, his heart teaches us and forms us in wisdom so that more and more we too may want only what God wants. 

We may feel that so much is out of our control, that our hearts are permanently sin-bent, trapped in un-freedom and tendency toward sin. But if tendency means literally to lean in the wrong direction, then what Jesus offers us in his life-giving death and resurrection is true religion. For religion means literally a binding back, a binding fast. Like the best Gardener, Jesus realigns our hearts, tending as they do to lean and twine like invasive, weedy vines around things that will not lead to life. Jesus binds our wayward hearts back to himself, on the trellis of the Cross. 

Still we must do our part, refusing to be mastered by evil and rushing to his wounded side, even into his open heart, to be taught there how to choose wisely, choose what the Father wants. We dare to rejoice for "The Lord is kind and merciful;" grace and tender mercy abound. And in the Eucharist Jesus hands over to us his own body and blood, indeed his innermost Self, his very own heart. “Therefore let us draw near with boldness.”