2018 – Cycle B
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33
Four weeks ago we serendipitously entered into the season of Lent on Saint Valentine’s Day. It is always a matter of the heart, is it not?
The racing heart of a person in the throes of new love, the frightened heart pounding in our chest as we rush to a loved one’s side in an emergency, the hard heart of stubbornness, the pliable heart of youth and innocence, the broken heart of disappointment, the pained heart of betrayal, the light heart of joy and happiness. Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco and at his death, Frederic Chopin’s heart was returned to Poland. First loves are always remembered. Do you remember your first love?
The image of the heart is at the center of human relationships born, enduring and regretfully dying. It is at the center of our spiritual relationship with God as well. We began Lent hearing God filled with hopefulness, gently plead with us through the prophet Joel.
“Even now, return to me with your whole heart,…
Tear open your hearts, not your garments,…and return to me …” [Joel 2:12ff]
Heart speaking to heart. It is a wounded, rejected lover filled with longing to be reconnected…longing for you and me…”return to me with your whole heart…”.
On Good Friday a soldier will thrust his lance into Jesus’ side and blood and water will flow out. A heart proffered and again rejected. An abandoned, broken, heart. And yet a heart brimming over with blood and water that give forth new life. Do you recall the rich wine of the marriage feast in Cana? The Church Fathers speak of Baptism and Eucharist flowing from the heart of Jesus on the cross. A heart that is imaged in the devotions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Divine Mercy, even in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A sword pierces Mary’s heart, a crown of thorns wound Jesus’; both are encircled by fire. The giving of your heart to another person entails both pain and the heat of passion.
It is this passionate longing for us that causes our Lover – God to write, like a valentine, upon our hearts.
No longer a law written on the stone tablets of Sinai that we can and do break. No longer a relationship built solely on obedience as with that uneasy covenant with Abraham. No longer a covenant like the one through Noah with all creation, which while God promised not to again destroy, we quickly and arrogantly are destroying with willful neglect and pollution.
This covenant of the heart is rooted not in the legalisms of law but in a mutual relationship. “I will be their God, and they shall be my people…All shall know me.”
There is a gentleman who regularly when no one is around quietly slips into our church, lights a candle and leaves a token of flowers at the feet of the Sacred Heart. I don’t know who he is. I only catch glimpses of him. Somehow I think he may, more than many of us, understand the covenant of the heart.
Like two lovers, like a wife and husband, like two long time intimate friends; they know things about each other that no one else knows. It is a love, a mutual acceptance, a covenant of gentleness and quiet, where small tokens speak as deep as the ocean.
Saint Valentine’s Day for God is not the 14th of February but the 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan, what we call Good Friday. How will you and I respond to God’s token of love to us? Like a lover, what experience of God do you know that no one else does? And what does God know of you that no one else does?