Let Our Hearts Break

Today is the Feast of St. Bonaventure, a 13 Century Franciscan, mystic and Doctor of the Church.  I share with you his beautiful reflection inviting us to gaze upon Christ Crucified.  I am also sharing a poem from a more recent Jesuit, Michael Moynahan, which invites us to reflect on the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat in Sunday’s Gospel.

I pray these two reflections might encourage us to “let our hearts break.”  We are in such strange times these days; it is altogether too much….for us, but never for God.  While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to literally plague us, we are asked to enter into dialogue around race, indeed to confront the cultural plague of racism, to heal an unhealed wound the depth of which seems impossible to measure.  And all the while, naturally enough, there are extreme voices on every side of every issue, seemingly hundreds of voices, which would rather ruin us than seek the communion which God has promised in the very midst of our suffering.  

My heart breaks when you tell me you cannot receive visitors in your home, or even leave your room for fresh air.  My heart breaks when my brother priest is ridiculed for praying on Art Hill.  My heart breaks when a friend sends me a diatribe about “the real truth” which resonates in me as exactly contrary to the Gospel.  My heart breaks when another priest dies from Covid-19.  My heart breaks when I count the number of close African American friends I have in my life…zero.  

And when I feel my heart breaking I so wish I could run and hide somewhere to prevent the breaking; yet it must break; I must be broken, just as Jesus is broken.  I must carry my breaking heart into relationship with my brothers and sisters.  From my brokenness I need to share my story and listen to all the stories of my brothers and sisters.  It is only in our vulnerability, our surrender as Bonaventure says, that we find our way through to resurrection life.  This is what it means to be born again and again and again; to suffer, die, spend three days in the tomb and awaken to newness of life.

Please remember, too, my friends: The victory has been won.  Our love for one another is eternal and the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Let us pray for eyes to see and ears to hear God’s glory all around us, and for the courage to make it so.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

 

From The Journey of the Mind to God by St. Bonaventure

Mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit

Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.

For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardour of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.

Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough. We may hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; and we can rejoice with David, saying: My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage for ever. Blessed be the Lord for ever, and let all the people say: Amen. Amen!

 

Litany of Contradictory Things, by Michael Moynahan, SJ (adapted)

Wheat and weeds:
let them grow together.

Arabs and Jews in Palestine:
let them grow together.

Greeks and Turks of the Balkans:
let them grow together.

Catholics and Protestants:
let them grow together.

Documented and undocumented aliens:
let them grow together.

Immigrants and Native Americans:
let them grow together.

Blacks and Whites:
let them grow together.

Sikhs and Hindus of India:
let them grow together.

Revolutionaries and reactionaries:
let them grow together.

Russians and Americans:
let them grow together.

Religious leaders who lay and and lighten burdens:
let them grow together.

Disciples prone to boasts and betrayals:
let them grow together.

People of God who wound and heal:
let them grow together.

Rich and poor, humble and haughty:
let them grow together.

Those whose thinking is similar and contrary:
let them grow together.

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