Spiritual Reading 8

8. Ten Qualities of Love

In childhood I recall a scapular of the Sacred Heart on which was the prayer: “Cease, the heart of Jesus is with me!” This was a reply we were to make to temptation. Perhaps we are ready now to rephrase that prayer and say to our own hearts and to all our spiritual opportunities: “Open, the heart of Jesus is in me!”

A heart may open in some of the following ways, each of which is a spiritual practice that presents a spiritual challenge. Each challenge constitutes a component of a spirituality of heart:

  1. An opened heart wants with all its might to develop from ego-centeredness to universal love. We then fulfill our life purpose, which is to show loving-kindness in all that we are and do.
  2. An opened heart is a grateful heart. When we choose the path of devotion, many saints and guardian angels cheer and accompany us and we thank them.
  3. With an opened heart we no longer believe we own our virtue and love but that they have come to us as graces, gifts from a higher power than ego can conjure. This is the power that wants us to evolve and the same power by which the whole universe evolves. St. James says: “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, in whom there is no variation of shifting shadow.” James 1:17
  4. An opened heart is conscious of being interdependent. Devotedness of heart then becomes a commitment to work cooperatively and never to exploit others. We are not separate beings; we are inter-beings.
  5. An opened heart has a sense of trust: Everything will work out in the end— and if it has not worked out that means it is not the end yet! We trust that all that happens to us is a grace that helps us fulfill our Christ potential and helps us make a redeeming contribution to the world around us. The givens of life are then met with an unconditional yes since they are the path. Our personal story is the path to God. Since Here and Now are the two teachings, our teacher is always by our side.
  6. An opened heart is one that grants hospitality to what is new and out of the ordinary. An archetypal theme in many tales is the welcoming of unexpected guests. We see this in the story of Abraham and Sara who give hospitality to three angels unaware. We find the same theme in Greek myth as Baucis and Philomen welcome strangers who turn out to be Zeus and Hermes. In the Book of Revelation, 3:20, we hear Jesus say: “Behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone will hear my voice and open the door to me I will come in and sit down with him and sup with him and he with me.” If what he looks like is only the familiar image we have seen since childhood we are not yet welcoming the unexpected. We can practice opening to the unexpected Jesus in every new face we meet and in every turn our story takes.
  7. An opened heart is emptied of attachment, what Meister Eckhart calls “a barren desert” when he refers to the Godhead. This emptiness is readiness/roominess to be filled by divine grace. To use an analogy, a womb, though empty, mediates life. To be empty is not to be empty of possibility but to be open to immense possibility, another word for grace.
  8. An opened heart is one that cares about nature and wants to respect and protect its ecology. An opened heart sees the divine in nature and nature in the divine. Teilhard de Chardin described this mystery as “the diaphany of the divine at the heart of the universe.” We have a spiritual need to go out into nature often. The old practice of pilgrimage honored this ineradicable human need.
  9. An opened heart is courageous. This means never giving up on ourselves or on God. In Christian theology, despair is considered a sin against the Holy Spirit since it means giving up on grace. Since fortitude is a gift of Holy Spirit, courage is actually an antidote to despair.
  10. An opened heart no longer uses retaliation as a way of responding to evil or threat. The next section describes this commitment.

Our orientation is toward wholeness not perfection. We already and always are whole; the work is to act in accord with our wholeness within. As long as we associate Jesus or prayer with perfection we will feel embarrassed about bringing ourselves and our lives to him just as they are. For instance, how often do we pray about our sexuality or the fun things we may do. Our prayer life becomes formal and inhibited if we can only mention what seems “appropriate and right.” Jesus then becomes a statue not a friend.

PRAYER

Jesus, you spoke to all of us from your heart at the last supper when you said: “I no longer call you servants but friends.” John 15:15

Jesus, make me your friend by opening my heart. With my heart closed I cannot walk beside you as a companion. With my heart caught up in worldly values I cannot follow you as my divine guide. With my heart hardened against anyone at all, I am no longer loving toward you.

Show me many ways to open, every day, every moment. Don’t wait for me; open me now. Show me what space has opened.

I know your heart is open with compassion for humanity. Let mine open that way too. Your open heart is inclusive. Your openness is a radical acceptance of differences. May I accept everyone as he or she is rather than being critical, blaming, or unkind.

Jesus, I am open now and here to every mysterious way you reach out to me.

Let your love take effect in my heart.

May my heart’s desire become the same as your Heart’s desire.

Let my participation in the Eucharist take effect by opening my heart to the cries of the world: transubstantiate me.

This means that I give up all the biases of my childhood and include everyone in the infinite circle of love you drew with your heart.

I feel your heart aching to beam its love through me.

Don’t let my own self-centeredness prevent your love from reaching the farthest corners of my world and to every person in it, through my every thought, word, and action.

And at the same time, may I be able to honor myself, be who I am in the world, and express that God-given power without fear.

Jesus, I know your heart opened on the cross. May mine open when I have a cross to bear. Like you, I know that to love is to suffer sometimes. You took on all human suffering and gave it back as redemption. Let me be fearless to do the same.

Your heart is the heart of the universe, on earth as it is in heaven. I do not see the world until I see your heart through it, with it, and in it. Help me hold the vision of a world of heart. Let me incarnate that vision and then celebrate that vision by being a person of heart.

Jesus, you still want the world to look like your heart. Your heart, Jesus, is an opening for social change. May I join you in that work. May that happen in and through me in any way possible.

You never give up even when I do. I trust that you have not stopped creating me, redeeming me, sanctifying me. May I join in that work by my devotedness to your heart.

I have not yet found my heart until it is like yours. I point to my heart right now and say “Here you are, most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Stay through me, with me, in me.” May your Sacred Heart exhilarate my capacity to love.

May all beings meet in your heart.