I took the bus one day from my house to the shopping centre. The bus had to stop at a senior campus where about 50 young people were waiting. Bus drivers get grumpy with a large mob like them, so as he scowled for the girls and boys to jump in speedily, he shut the door on one young man.
When the boy realised that he was not getting on the bus at all, he prepared to run, hoping to catch it at the next stop. We could see he was trying his best, his heart pumping into full force, but of course, the bus was faster. He was nowhere near the next stop.
I noticed mixed reactions on the bus. Some cheered him, encouraging him to run as fast as he could, while others sneered and laughed at his silly decision. I prayed. Freak accidents can happen. I would not also want what was happening to him to any of my loved ones in school – a nephew, niece or grandchild. One girl sighed, “Oh how sad! This driver could have been more kind.”
Indeed when something happens to another, we react in various ways. Are we encouragers who give hope, support and cheer them on? Or do we belong to the group of snickers who deride others for their frailty and vulnerability? Or is our compassion and kindness the overriding emotion when we witness such events? There is always a check on our heart.
The month of June for us Catholics is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion to the wounded heart of Jesus, according to the National Catholic Register (EWTN) has its origins in the 11th century. It was not until 1670, however, that a French priest, Fr. Jean Eudes, celebrated the first feast of the Sacred Heart. Then a pious sister by the name of Margaret Mary Alacoque began to report visions of Jesus. He appeared to her frequently, and in December 1673, he permitted Margaret Mary—as had once allowed St. Gertrude—to rest her head upon his heart. As she experienced the comfort of his presence, Jesus told her of his great love and explained that he had chosen her to make his love known to all.
In June or July of 1674, Margaret Mary reported that Jesus wanted to be celebrated on the First Friday of the month.
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology gives an interesting insight into the heart’s functioning. It begins by stating that heart, “kardia” in Greek, occurs over one thousand times in the Bible. It denotes a person’s centre for both physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities; sometimes it is used figuratively for any inaccessible thing.
I have a large statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus lent from a friend. I do not worship the cement or wood it is made of, but I cherish what it symbolises. My mom died of a massive cardiac arrest six years ago. I am presently dealing with a heart condition myself. I am not surprised why I have a spiritual connection to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I rely on His grace daily to deliver, protect and provide for me.
At times, I fret before Jesus, when an overwhelming sense of weakness comes over me. I get comfort from Dr Charles Stanley who said in his book, In Touch with His Power, that “weakness is God’s condition for power because weakened people are most dependent on Jesus Christ for strength.” The weaker we are, the more we find mercy and the help of our Saviour indispensable. He recommends ‘that rather than rail against my frailty, to celebrate it. For it will spur me on to lean more heavily on Christ. I am weak, but Christ is strong.”
Scripture reminds me many times of my heart’s state and I need to be vigilant: “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth,” says Solomon (Prov 16:23) “the mouth confesses what the heart trusts (Rom 10:9). Jesus said that “from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21 ). “The Spirit of God must give humans a new heart (Ezek 36:26) The Lord, who knows our hearts (Luke 16:15).
The emotional condition of the heart affects the rest of a person: “A happy heart makes the face cheerful (Prov 15:13). Jesus says “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21 “In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Prov 16:9). The greatest commandment according to Jesus is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Matt 22:37 ).
My cardiologists describe my heart as being re-modelled. I don’t know really what they mean, although they describe the physical aspects of this ailment. Spiritually, I feel that Jesus is changing my heart, purifying it to make it more kind, more compassionate, more merciful, more forgiving, less judgemental, less proud, less hardened, less self-centred, less selfish, less obsessive or less anxious. There is so much work going on with it right now. My prayer is that it can seek its rest on the heart of Jesus, always meek, humble and peaceful.
— First published in The Philippine Times, June 2018 edition