First Friday Reflections
Through the centuries, the Christian community has consistently tried to capture its developing understanding of Jesus Christ in word and image. This is a never ending challenge – to portray the Mystery of the love of God made visible in the man, Jesus of Nazareth, who went about doing good and eventually laid down his life for us. Each First Friday of the month, the Society of the Sacred Heart sends an email prepared by an RSCJ, colleague or friend of the Society, with a reflection on the meaning of the Sacred Heart in our lives today. To sign up to receive the First Friday emails, click on the words Sign up for e-news here or at the bottom of any page on this site.
“The thoughts of His heart are to all generations to rescue them from death, and to keep them alive in famine.” This is the Introit for the Mass of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, and I’ve always loved it as the opening salvo to the Feast and First Fridays. It speaks of the Heart of God being with us, holding us in ever-present consciousness, young and old, all of us, all generations, past and present. And that holding is about “rescuing us from death” and “keeping us alive in famine.” God’s heart knows where we are even when we don’t want to admit it.
A Life in Living Color
The use of color in this computer generated image suggests the spirit of kenosis: Christ empties Himself, from above and below, into the Sacred Heart. Paradoxically, the very creation of the void generates vibrant color. Tears are the engine of change, as the divine and human crash together at the center point, the Heart of the Universe.
How can we possibly love that much?
God gifts us with the wide expanse of love made incarnate in Jesus, especially depicted in this sacred image. Jesus’ outstretched arms seem to say to us: “Here is all you need to know, fingertip to fingertip. All of creation receives the embrace of my love. I do not ration my gift of the Spirit. My Spirit I give to you.”
As a Catholic, I was often puzzled by the continued return to heart imagery among our saints and in our art. The "Sacred Heart" of Jesus and the "Immaculate Heart of Mary," where both are pointing to their blazing heart, are images known to Catholics worldwide. I often wonder what people actually do with these images. Are they mere sentiment? Are they objects of worship or objects of transformation? Such images keep recurring because they must have something important, good, and perhaps even necessary to teach the soul. What might that be?
How can Christ’s heart possibly be large enough to hold us all?
Consider the beauty of this wooden carving. I see it as an image of Christ’s wide open heart. I am struck by the scale of the heart relative to the size of the image itself; the prominent size and the width suggest an openness which cries out in invitation. A wide gate welcomes many visitors, and so it is with the heart of Christ.
While reflecting on Jesuit Marko Rupnik’s mosaic for a while now, I couldn’t help but think of Bette.
Bette McNiff, my very good friend, is dying. As she puts it, “I’m ready for the golden ticket, anytime the good Lord decides.” Acceptance and surrender is at the core of her life. When asked the secret of how she is dealing with her cancer with so much equanimity, now in month sixteen after having been given three months to live, Bette says “faith and trust in God and an Irish sense of humor.”