Spiritual Reading 20

20. Practices Of Devotedness: 1

The following authentic devotional practices are based on Gospel and mystical teachings that reflect the qualities of Jesus.

We grow in consciousness of Jesus’ presence in our daily life and form a prayerful connection to him throughout the day. We combine personal prayer, liturgical life, and contemplation. We do not limit prayer to words. We appreciate the importance of silence for recollecting and replenishing ourselves. At the same time, silence is so powerful a tool to release us from ego-centeredness that in the silence we hear more clearly the cries of the world. This is how silent contemplation leads to compassion.
We repent for how we have hurt or excluded others from our love. We repent our greed, hate, retaliations, dishonesty, lying, indifference, etc. We repent any complicity in the policies of violence happening in our country. We repent our disregard of Christ and his teachings. We make amends for each of these lapses from grace. We ask forgiveness and resolve to change our way of living so that it aligns more perfectly with the virtues of Jesus.
We frequent the Eucharist as a gift from and a receiving of the heart of Christ. We see how in the Eucharist we extend and appreciate Christ’s risen body through matter, in matter, and as matter. We keep looking for ways to be in communion with the desires of the Sacred Heart by being in communion with all humanity. This is the result of participating in the Eucharist and we know it has taken effect when our minds become utterly free of bias and our hearts become lovingly inclusive of all people: In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! Col 3:11
We make a commitment to show unconditional love and universal compassion in any way we can. In every place and circumstance we extend loving-kindness to every person. This means never giving up on anyone even those who run from our love or who have hurt us. The appearance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus over and over in the history of Christianity promises clearly: “It is never too late to love.” The former devotion emphasized how Jesus loves us. Now we focus also on how we can love others as he loves us. We practice this love not as compulsive caretaking but as sane dedication. We love without stint, without distinction of persons, without limit. We increase our capacity to forgive rather than retaliate when others fail us. We are no longer prejudiced. We want all people to be free to be who they are. Our love is utterly inclusive, as big as Jesus’ Heart. Our lifelong biases vanish and we live from the heart. To see and hear others from a heart place means without judgment, hate, or criticism. We speak our truth but not in ways that hurt or condemn others.
We foster an unconditional love for ourselves too. We give up self-loathing and appreciate ourselves as heirs of the Sacred Heart, the unconditionally deepest core of ourselves. Jesus, in the Gospel, asks us to learn from him because he is “gentle and humble in heart.” Matt 11:29. Every time we work on reducing the importance of ego, with all its arrogant self-centeredness, we are showing devotion to the Sacred Heart and appreciating our inner self, the indwelling Spirit. To let go of ego is to exchange ego for Jesus’ heart. This includes abandoning our obsession with self-importance, acquisition, and control. Indeed, controlling is seeking security in ourselves. When we rely on controlling we lose our belief in grace. Controlling, in the divine value system will mean seeking our security only in the heart of Christ. Giving will come to mean more than having. Forgiveness will mean more to us than retaliating. Love will mean more than anything.

There is no dualism in authentic spirituality. Spiritual does not exclude or minimize the body. “He assumed me wholly... to save the whole. What was not assumed was not healed,” says St. John Damascene. Our core self is embodied and our heart is the center of our physical self. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is meant to be a bodily devotion. The image of the Sacred Heart is indeed physical so devotion to it conveys the fact that the body is a worthy means of love and a suitable object of love. This is in opposition to the implicit Monophysite heresy still prevalent among some Christians. The Monophysites believed that Christ was only divine and not truly human. John McDade, S.J., writes: “You can’t have Christianity without being drawn into a mysticism about how Christ’s body becomes the body of redeemed sinners and the locus of their salvation, precisely the mystery symbolized by devotion to the Sacred Heart.” St. Paul expressed it to the Colossians: “And you, who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death” (1:21-2).

We show our devotion bodily when we appreciate our body as a worthy means of love and an object of love, like the body of Christ, the mystical body of redeemed humanity. We are unafraid of emotional and bodily responsiveness as a feature of devotion and ritual. A bodily devotion includes all the senses as well as ritual items, candles, incense, images etc., as appropriate features of devotion. As humans, we are both rational and animal. Spirituality has wrongly been equated with focus on the rational, the immaterial, the non-earthly, the non-bodily. Actually, spirituality includes the body in every religious tradition except in those that have a fear of the shadow side of us, of sex, of nature, or of the feminine. Teilhard de Chardin connects a consciousness of our personal body to that of the physical universe: “Christ invests himself organically with the very majesty of his creation. And it is in no way metaphorical to say that man finds himself capable of experiencing and discovering his God in the whole length, breadth, and depth of the world in movement. To be able to say literally to God that one loves him, not only with all one’s body, all one’s heart, and all one’s soul, but with every fiber of the unifying universe, that is a prayer than can only be made in space-time.” By baptism we are called then to transubstantiate matter into spirit.

We contemplate ourselves in an exchange of hearts with Jesus. He takes our selfishness and gives back generosity; he takes our fears and gives back love; he takes our arrogant ego and gives us his own Self. The exchange of hearts means that Jesus wants us to come to him and that we can trade our dark shadow side for the bright side of humanity we saw in his life.
We appreciate the predicaments and conditions of our mortality as challenges and gifts from the heart of Jesus, open wide so all the givens of existence can find a place in it and through it. Things happen to us so we can grow and become more compassionate. The events and twists of our lives are not arrows from a punitive God but rays of light from a divine life in and around us. Since God acts in mysterious non-logical ways, union with God is simply assent to those ways, i.e., to the conditions of existence. Yes to life’s givens is a high form of reverence for God. Mystic St. Teresa of Ávila wrote: “When we accept what happens to us and make the best of it, we are praising God. Then we are most like the incarnate Son, within and, at the same time, above the conditions and contingencies of existence. Our unconditional Yes is transportation to transcendence in that we behold the whole rather than being blinded by the limited. Devotional assent is not just an accepting of the conditions of existence but becoming thankful for them and cooperating with them. This is aligning ourselves with the love by which all things are coming together to bring about the good. This love grows in us by spiritual practice and comes to us as a grace. We learn to love better when we say “Yes, now what?” rather than “Why me?” “Yes” is “Thy will be done,” and, as Dante says, “His will is our peace.” “Why” is stress and pain, a questioning rather than a trusting.