Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Heart hearts and hard times

The world is in one hell of a mess!  It is a real challenge to read a newspaper or watch TV or radio news without falling into a pit of despair.  The other day Pope Francis said something which made me think about the reasons behind the dire state of the world. It was in his homily on the story of Saul and David (see here) The Pope

May the Lord grant us the grace of an open heart, of a heart open to the voice of the Spirit, which knows how to discern what should not change, because it is fundamental, from what should change in order to be able to receive the newness of the Spirit.

Hard hearts  or cold hearts or hearts  of stone are one of the the main concerns of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. Modern men and  women have closed their hearts to God. Without hearts open to the love of God and lives open to the Holy Spirit there is little hope for humanity.

Pope Francis's words prompted me to think of stone and why scripture refers to hearts of stone.  And this in turn prompted me to think ( of all things) about those lines in the film the Godfather III. As I live near the coast I spend a fair amount of time looking into pebble filled pools, and the words of Cardinal Lamberto  sometimes comes to mind -  when he picks up a stone from a fountain and  says :
' Look at this stone. It has been lying in the water for a very long time, but the water has not penetrated it.” He gives the stone a sharp blow and splits it in two.  Showing it to  Don Michael he observes, “Look. Perfectly dry. The same thing has happened to men in Europe. For centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity, but Christ has not penetrated. Christ doesn’t breathe within them.” View here.

And that is the sadness of it all.  Like the stones in water, human beings in the West have been surrounded by the living waters of Christ, but they have not been penetrated by it.  Their hearts are dry, hard and closed.  Is it any wonder that the world is in such a mess? The devotion to the Sacred Heart is more important to the future of humanity than we can really understand. The only hope for our planet is that we can open our hearts and allow God's spirit to penetrate us and breathe fire into us.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The adoration of the Magi

In terms of pondering the Christmas story in our hearts, the adoration of the magi has long fascinated me. I think one of my favourite images is Giotto's depiction.  It is just the sheer simplicity.  All eyes are on Jesus, apart from a wayward camel and a young man who is having a job keeping the camels under control.  When I think about the scene I am prompted to remember the last time we read about the childhood of Jesus - when he is lost and then found in the temple.  Both the adoration of the magi and the finding of Jesus are about how we make assumptions and suppositions.  Mary and Joseph assume that Jesus is with each other, and assume that he is still a child, when he is actually about his father's business.  The wise men assume that the star is leading them to the scene of a great event in a palace: the birth of a King.  They get some of it right, and clearly they have done all the calculations and have followed the star.   Just as Mary says to the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation 'how can this be?', so the wise men must also have been thinking as they approached the stable 'how can this be?' This is not what they expected.  They assumed it would be rather more than a humble little shack. The boy trying to calm the camels down seems to be saying: 'I have no idea what is going on here, either.'  Jesus will spend the rest of his life on earth challenging assumptions and human reasoning.   The wise men must, on the one hand, have felt immensely clever.  They travelled all that way on the basis of some complex astronomical calculation -  but on the other hand, what was supposed to be there under the star was  just not there. They were expecting majesty and they got humility.   Reason got them there alright, but in Giotto's picture we see the moment when they realise that reason and worldly wisdom  was not going to take them any further.  Reason has its limits: all they could now do was open their hearts and adore.  Mary had done the same 9 months earlier.  She could not understand how it could be so, but was prepared to open her heart to the Holy Spirt.

As for me, I think I am more  like the camel boy than the wise men : I find it difficult to respond to the way in which God challenges my assumptions and expectations. Like the boy and the camels I am not wise enough to abandon my assumptions and open my eyes and heart and just simply adore. This year I will try to be less like my alter ego,  the camel boy!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

First Friday 2016

December is always a really busy time for us.  Christmas came and went in a blur.  What is so sad, however, is how so many people just take down on the decorations and put the Christmas tree out and declare Christmas over.  But if Christmas is 'over ' by New Year you never really celebrated it in the first place.  Christmas is not just for Christmas, it is for the whole year!  We keep a little carving of the Holy family by the clock just to remind us of this. The first mass and the first Friday of the month were celebrated together this year - the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. As always Mary shows us the way to Jesus. Luke's Gospel,  which was read at mass, reminds us what we must do in the next 12 months: we have to 'ponder all these things in our heart'.  We have a print of  'La Vergine che legge' - the reading virgin - by  Antonio Vivarini (1440-1480) which helps us to remember to ponder the mystery of Christmas in our hearts.  In this year of mercy we pray that the Mater Misericordiae  - our  Mother of Mercy - will help us to keep the fire of Christmas burning in our hearts long after the tree has been re-cycled.