There are multitudes of saints who we could investigate to learn how their hearts beat in tune with that of Jesus and how they shared that love in their own unique way. If we desire holiness, (and well we should since all are capable of it), then we need to learn how to let our hearts be more in touch with the love of God offered to us. If we recognize how deeply God loves us, we can be filled to overflowing, too. A good place to start is to study the Bible, which is truly a book about love. And there is no love story greater than that of the gospels, which proclaim the works and words of Jesus whose very life was an offering of love for us. He truly wanted to save us, and even wept over His people, at one point comparing Himself to a mother hen who longs to gather her young under her wings. (Matthew 23:37) He allowed His Sacred Heart to be broken for us, as we can see by the depiction of His heart surrounded by a crown of thorns and bleeding from the wound of the lance thrust into his side on the Cross. The words we read in Scripture can help us to be inspired to respond to the great gift we have been given: we can immerse ourselves into the Sacred Heart of Jesus through prayer and beg Him to help us to do everything with love. That prayer, in turn, will enable our daily response to take flesh through our own words and deeds. The point of becoming holier is that our hearts transform with the love of Christ, and therefore, we begin to love heroically. It starts small and it grows into a way of life.
The biggest challenge of our times right now is the affront to love and mercy: we are taught by public figures and by what we watch on TV that rude behavior is not only okay, but that it is an entire way of life which is acceptable. We witness acts of rage, whether on the roadways or in supposed retaliation, carried out by people who have become detached from love, as if momentarily possessed. We see selfishness which is perpetuated by a society that seems to endorse becoming ‘successful’ by whatever means it takes, and which encourages us to seek out pleasure rather than the good of others. We are also aware of aggression which comes from different groups or cultures, and for that matter, we are even challenged by catastrophic natural disasters that are beyond our control. All we can do is to move against these evils or uncontrollable events by responding with the love we have been taught by Jesus. In working to build the Kingdom, Christians have fought these battles throughout history. But God has continued to empower us with the grace to stand firm in our resolve, so even if today’s issues are too big for us to counteract, we will find that resting in God’s love will help us to persevere. Love gives us the ability to trust that God will prevail in the end. Indeed, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary teach us that the gentleness of love is the greatest strength of all.
©Michele L. Catanese
The first image is the Sacred Heart of Jesus beatifically rendered in stained glass. I took this photo at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, TX.
The second image is a bas relief of the crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven. I chose it because I like the medium, which is wood, and I also liked that it was mostly gold, suggesting the luminosity I wrote about last week.
Next is a painting called St. Philip Neri Lead Us to Heaven. There was no artist credited with this painting, which I found as the result of a Google Search, admittedly. I chose this one from the many I found because it showed the burning heart of St. Philip. It is rare to actually see it in a depiction of him, yet it is so much at the core of his life and ministry. Truly, I cannot imagine a painting of him without his heart aflame with the fire of God's love shown in some way.
Next is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called The Black Madonna Your Lap Has Become the Holy Table. I chose this because of the almost overwhelming radiance of Jesus within the womb of Mary which is symbolized as an altar. To me this says that in becoming pregnant with Jesus, Mary is the first tabernacle, alive with the presence of Jesus, and therefore His radiance also bursts forth from her. Her raised hands are both a gesture of praise and a reminder of her humbly saying to God: "Let it be done to me according to your word." And so, the Word becomes flesh.
This icon can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-black-madonna-your-lap-has-become-the-holy-table-060-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Next is another of my photos which is of a sunset over the Badlands of North Dakota. I chose it because the sun seemed to be a beacon of light in the encroaching darkness.
Finally is a photo I took in South Dakota of a waterfall which was not far from the road on a hiking trail in the Black Hills. I chose it because there is so much light in this photo. The bright gold of the leaves and that water seem to almost emanate light of their own.