Midway through Holy Week my thoughts have turned to Jesus in a surprising way: in the symbol of the Sacred Heart. As a child I marked the First Friday of each month by accompanying my enthusiastically pious father to the Mass and Novena of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. My own fervor was sparked by a painting of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus with an extended heart encircled by a crown and with rays of light streaming from it. It hung above our living room couch where at age fifteen I received what I thought was a vocation to join a Trappistine monastery. Right.
Imagine my surprise, then, when ten years ago, after all the liberated theology- from Berkeley no less- this symbol made a stunning re-entrance into my life. I was meditating when a vision manifested before my inner eye. Jesus stood before me with hands outstretched, holding his bloody, and beating heart out to me:
Jesus: Take my heart.
Rita: (in breathless horror) I couldn’t do that!
Jesus: (Lets go of his heart with one hand and opens my hands) Do you love me?
Rita: Yes. I do.
Jesus: Take my heart. (Puts his heart into my hands)
Take my heart. The heart of Jesus, or Aung San Suu Kyi, or Nelson Mandela, does not belong on a wall, safely enshrined to soothe our communal conscience. Rather, we must embrace it, bloody mess and all. May this Good Friday remembrance teach us compassion. Beat on mighty heart!