Spiritual Reading 21

21. Practices Of Devotedness: 2

We see all we do and can do as graces to be thankful for not as accomplishments of our ego operating on its own power. We keep finding ways to join our ego effort to the workings of grace in us. All that happens is our path. All that happens is the good news that “God so loved the world…” that he made it all to be so many means of grace. Everything that happens to us, every person we meet, every event and challenge we face, every thought, word, and action of ours is a ray of grace from the Sacred Heart. We consciously acknowledge this as we did in the Morning Offering in our childhood prayers. Here is a new morning offering that can be used throughout the day:

Jesus, I say yes thankfully to everything that happens to me today
as a gift from your Heart
and as an opportunity to give and receive love.
I dedicate all that I think, say, feel, and do
to the loving purposes of your Heart.
To find refuge is to turn to something in times of woe or fear and discover in it a sense of containment and safety so that we can face what ails or scares us. We enter the Sacred Heart of Jesus for refuge rather than our usual places of refuge that are so often forms of addiction. This reflects the mystical theme of the Sacred Heart as a source of solace: “I will give you rest.”
Jesus says: “Do not think I have come to destroy the scriptures. I have come not to destroy but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17 A Latin word for fulfill, implere, became the English word “implement.” We make decisions that implement Christian values in how we handle money, ambition, life choices, and our relationships to other humans and to nature. We become more politically aware and continually find ways to bring our sense of justice to bear on changing public life for the better. This is establishing the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We are not then surprised when the fate exacted by the world for living Christ’s love becomes our fate. At the same time, we do not knowingly inflict suffering on ourselves as if self-torture were meritorious. Jesus wanted to gather a group of exiles from the dominant culture to become a prophetic voice to that culture and its institutions that have joined it. This plan recapitulates the Jewish exile in Babylon. It is also reminiscent of the statement of Jesus that he had nowhere to lay his head. This is a metaphor of exile, of being without the standard nests and holes in which we hide when we rely on worldly powers to protect us. To stand against the greed and violence of our culture is to become an exile, alone in no-man’s land. That is, of course, the exact location of the pure land of the kingdom of God.
Our devotion extends to the heart of Mary and acknowledges the role of the mother and the feminine in our spirituality. “As truly as God is our father so truly is God our mother,” wrote the mystic Juliana of Norwich.
On June 11, 1899, Pope Leo XIII solemnly consecrated all humankind to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We revive that moment by consecrating ourselves to an unconditional love for the world. We vow dedication to the salvation of all beings. We pray that all leaders and all people may be converted to the life of enlightened love. Then we can say not only that “God so loved the world that he sent his son” (John 3:16) but also that he sent everyone of us as sons and daughters to join in his redemptive work.
We appreciate the image of the Sacred Heart as a mystical vision, keeping it in our living space and/or in our consciousness. We see the image of the Sacred Heart not as an object above us but as a mirror of what our own hearts look like when we open ourselves to love: “I will give you a new heart, a new spirit within you.” Ezekiel 36:26. We are always free to form our own image of the Sacred Heart and cherish it within ourselves. The image does not have to be external nor does it have to match either the traditional or modern versions we have seen. It is also appropriate that the image may change as we age and enter new phases of life— and even that we may go beyond images altogether.
According to Huston Smith there are four common aspects to pilgrimage in the history of religion: singleness of purpose, freedom from distraction, ordeal or penance, and offerings. We can show devotion by visiting a shrine of Jesus or Mary that is far enough away from our home to give us a sense of a journey that expresses these four qualities. In addition, we might notice if we are called to a pilgrimage to those who suffer because of illness, famine, or any form of exploitation. We can join or follow the example of groups like Doctors Without Borders, the Peace Corps, or of individuals like Mother Theresa as we reach out to those in need. This is a visit to Jesus in person: “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.” Mt 25:40
We seek ways to deepen our sense of our role on the planet as God’s fire. We burn away the ignorance and violence in our own egos. We ignite the forces of evolutionary love. We bring light to the world. We are fractals of divine light, beams radiating from Jesus the “light of the world.” We are here today because divine light wants to refract and illumine the world in the unique way each of us is gifted to show it. We see a loving intent in the universe, that intent is the Sacred Heart of the cosmos.
We are eager to share the joy of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Our devotedness overflows and we persuade not as much by words as by example. Our evangelical challenge is to awaken a relationship in others so that they know Jesus as they will/can know him. This is what Meister Eckhart called “the birth of Christ in us.” We can describe the Gospel message from the words of the scriptures. But an intimate relationship with Jesus is a spiritually and bodily felt sense that cannot be fully communicated or defined. The best we can do in spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to show so much love that others look for the heart that animates it. This is the practice of loving-kindness.