Reflection for Friday, June 8, 2018: The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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Lierk, Kyle
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A blessed Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to you! I have had a wonderful, growing relationship with the Sacred Heart over the years for a multitude of reasons. On this special day, I want to share a recent, surprise encounter I had with that powerful presence of Christ's heart.|Earlier this fall when I was saying "Yes!" to work toward Creighton's Certificate in Ignatian Tradition ( I highly recommend it!) which included studying the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, reading the history of the Society of Jesus and, ultimately, participating in an Ignatian Pilgrimage to Spain, Rome and Paris, I was also beginning the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises with my spiritual director. In the weeks leading up to our departure for the pilgrimage, I had reached a point in my prayer where I was struggling to embrace my human poverty; my "creatureliness," as my spiritual director called it. This is an important movement in the Exercises. I found myself literally running from it! I mean, who wants to befriend the parts of themselves that feel like failings, frustrations and fractures?! Not I. Yet, this seemed to be exactly where God was inviting me to settle in and get comfortable. I was given the poem "My Own Heart" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. with which to pray my way toward a deeper connection with my own poverty:|My own heart let me more have pity on; let|Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,|Charitable; not live this tormented mind|With this tormented mind tormenting yet.|I cast for comfort I can no more get|By groping round my comfortless, than blind|Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find|Thirst's all-in-all in all a world of wet.|Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise|You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile|Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size|At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile|'s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather — as skies|Betweenpie mountains — lights a lovely mile.|As I began contemplating these words, it felt like the stranglehold I had on my desire for perfection and the avoidance of my failings began to loosen. I breathed a bit more deeply as I read and repeated, "My own heart let me more have pity on; let me live to my sad self hereafter kind." What a radical concept: to treat myself with the same kindness I am constantly striving to extend to everyone else besides myself! This thought echoed inside me as we departed to literally walk in the footsteps of St. Ignatius.|After spending time on pilgrimage in the idyllic, rolling, rural spaces of the Basque region of Spain (St. Ignatius' birthplace), Rome, by comparison, felt full of chaos, charisma and a crush of humanity. I was grateful for the opportunity to spend an extended period of time in the Church of the Gesu which stands in the energetic shadow of the rooms where Ignatius lived the last 18 years of his life masterminding the structure and order of the Society of Jesus.|I made my initial lap through the interior of the Gesu with the same rapidity and craned-neck ceiling gaze that I had used through countless other grand churches. Then, as I slid past the reliquary-reserved right arm of St. Francis Xavier, SJ, I was stopped, dead in my tracks, by an image that has held the greatest symbolic meaning in my life to date. There, in the side chapel to the right of the main altar, I was stunned to find myself eye to eye with a depiction of Jesus' sacred heart that came into my life 15 years ago (exactly when I needed it most). It is a painting by Pompeo Batoni completed in the 18th century. (If you want to see it, there is a nice depiction of it here :)|Most images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus have the heart floating above his chest or revealed behind a cloak that he has pulled aside. What makes the Batoni piece unique is that it has Jesus holding the heart. He gets physical with it and handles it. It beats and burns and bleeds while radiating light. His other hand is outstretched and gently open, both gesturing to the sacred heart and pushing it out toward the viewer. All the while Jesus' eyes are softly looking out with an unblinking, unbreaking gaze. The open hand and the eyes work together as if to say, "C'mon now, are you ready for a change? Just hand that heart of yours over to me and we'll make a trade. Let me be generous with you so that you can learn to be generous with the world in the way I desire."|Perhaps on this sacred day we all might make a moment or two to meditate over the words of Hopkins or gaze upon Batoni's painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As we do, can we be more kind with our heart as we invite Jesus to perform a bit of an opening-heart surgery on us? If we can allow this to happen, by grace, we can also handle the hearts of all those we encounter throughout our day with the same care and reverence and dignity that now lingers within us.|Peace be with you.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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