One of my favourite stock images, this heart was left on our step by a neighbour after a gift of homemade preserves. More recently, last summer, five year old Abel found beach pebbles eroded into a heart shape. Months later he discovered one of them and gave it to his mother, ‘because I love you, Mummy.’
A heart of stone, a heart of pebbles, to stand for a flesh and blood heart. This old Irish hymn, translated by Eleanor Hull expresses the mixed emotions of the poet contemplating his or her relationship with Jesus. For many of us life has been a toilsome path these last months, we may well request, ‘Peace on my head, light in my heart.’
Let’s pray for all whose lives continue to be toilsome. Even the dustiest, least frequented church is a sanctified temple; with Christ’s help any of us can be a temple sanctified to him, welcoming those who seek him.
How great the tale, that there should be,
In God’s Son’s heart, a place for me!
That on a sinner’s lips like mine
The cross of Jesus Christ should shine!
Christ Jesus, bend me to thy will,
My feet to urge, my griefs to still;
That e’en my flesh and blood may be
A temple sanctified to Thee.
No rest, no calm my soul may win,
Because my body craves to sin;
Till thou, dear Lord, thyself impart
Peace on my head, light in my heart.
May consecration come from far,
Soft shining like the evening star.
My toilsome path make plain to me,
Until I come to rest in thee.
Eleanor Hull From the Irish
Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. Who gave him charge over the earth, and who laid on him the whole world? If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.”
Who’s speaking here? Who is defending Almighty God? This is when the Book of Job suddenly jolts. Elihu bursts in, full of wrath, full of anger, at the thoughts expressed by Job’s friends. They are blaming Job for being wicked, despite appearances, and deserving every misfortune that has come his way, or else blaming God for being unjust to Job.
We saw how the editors of Exodus wrote that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart – and also that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. God could be said to have made Pharaoh’s heart hard because he created him in the first place. You sense that Elihu would not stand for such hair-splitting. ‘God will not do wickedly.’
Who is this Elihu? He’ s not one of the original cast, he just bursts in. Some have suggested that he is the actual writer if the book, giving his own thoughts and opinions. He’s an ‘angry young man’ with no time for what he sees as interminable, sterile philosophising. Here William Blake shows him as young, not set in his ways (or other people’s ways) and naked: he’s naked because he is innocent – like Adam and Eve were before the fall, not diminishing God through overthinking.
God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. We are capable of both.
From “The Holy Bible, English Standard Version by Crossway Bibles, via Kindle
Pope Francis’s prayer intention for this month is:
May all those who suffer find their calling in life and allow themselves to be touched by the heart of Jesus.
I invited Christina Chase to share this reflection; Thank you Christina for offering it to Agnellus’ Mirror.Will.
Suffering is something that people complain about far and wide. As a Catholic, however, I have heard people speak about the gift of suffering. Those people look at me, a faithful, joyful, uncomplaining person crippled and crumpled in my wheelchair, and they believe that I have been given this gift by God. I am a believing and practicing Catholic, through and through, but I don’t believe what those well-meaning, goodhearted people seem to believe.
I don’t believe in the gift of suffering.
I believe in the gift of life.
I believe profoundly and unconditionally in the absolute and terribly beautiful gift of life.
Life naturally includes limitations, imperfections, and hardships — life naturally includes suffering. Everyone who has received the gift of life will suffer at one time or another, or even chronically.
But we don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, do we?
This story continues the account of what happened after the Golden Calf episode. Moses is speaking to the people of Israel; and we have here a Biblical foundation for devotion to the Sacred Heart.Deuteronomy 10:14-19
Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
Many things follow from this text. But let’s take just a couple: firstly that God does not love us because of what we do, or what we give him to ‘bribe’ him into doing what suits us, but because he set his heart on our ancestors in faith – and so on us to this day.
Secondly, we are to love the sojourner – the migrant. We all have migrant ancestors, even if we can trace them no further than just across the Welsh border. Worker or refugee, the migrant is a brother or sister. If we see the world as God sees it, we will find ways, such as the local food bank, to support the migrants in our communities, whom God loves as surely as he loves us.
Someone would have reminded me that June is the month of the Sacred Heart, beloved of Christina, who is much more eloquent on the subject than I could be. My evangelical acquaintances would frown on the devotion as unbiblical, so I wondered, what does the Bible say about the heart?
Unsurprisingly, there are hundreds of references to heart in the Bible. For example, the Book of Exodus, during the story of the Plagues of Egypt, keeps on coming back to the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. You could see this as a chorus device, keeping listeners alert when they have to come in on cue: But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Wait a minute though: Is the Bible saying God influenced Pharaoh on purpose to make him obstinate and unjust? Is that a god I want to believe in?
Dig out my commentary, which tells me that the editors who gave us the accepted version of Exodus were inspired by the idea that the Lord God is the Creator of all things, as Genesis makes clear. It follows that God created Pharaoh, that hard-hearted man. And it’s plainly said that after the seventh plague, that of storms, Pharaoh ‘sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants (9.34).
I think today we would be more careful not to attribute evil to our Creator God, but we do have to face the fact that there is evil in the world, and that it has its insidious effect on our thoughts, words and actions: we too can be selfish and hard-hearted.
More from Father Andrew, SDC; written in war time.
If we just live in this world we do have tribulation, but if we live in the Sacred Heart we are able to be of good cheer though we are in the midst of that which is cheerless, for He Who told us to be of good cheer is Himself in the midst of us.
I shall indeed keep you in my heart and my prayer, my dear Child.
God Bless and keep you.
The Life and Letters of Father Andrew, p 120. Edited Kathleen E Burne, Mowbrays, 1948.
And God bless and keep you all, all our readers. Thank you for being with us.