Friday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time: Saint Bede the Venerable (673-735)
Friday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary TimeSaint Bede the Venerable
(673-735)Readings of the day: RB 6 Restraint of SpeechMass: Jm 5:9-12; Resp Ps 103; Mk 10:1-12
N.B. This reflection closed a week-long retreat for a community of Benedictine monks.Because of the hardness of your hearts.
It seems to me that Jesus is speaking to all of us here, or at least to those of us who are hard of heart for one reason or another, perhaps because of bitterness, resentment, unfulfilled expectations, disappointments, anger, jealousy, diminishment, fatigue, or simply because of the daily pinpricks and contradictions that ‘upset our apple cart’ so to speak. Put another way, we have hearts of stone rather than hearts of flesh. We fail or refuse to see God in our brothers and sisters, especially in those we find most difficult, those we don’t like, and even those we don’t even know, and we fail to see God in ourselves. We don’t recognize how much God loves us, and as a result we don’t love ourselves or our neighbour. Jesus invites us, though, to turn the corner, to recognize and embrace His commandment of Love; to go deeper, to our hearts, to be pierced by His LOVE and move to a place of healing, reconciliation, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. Jesus searches for us and is knocking at the door of our hearts; He waits patiently for us to let Him in.
There is reason that Jesus speaks of the heart. The Catechism teaches: ‘The heart is the dwelling place where I am, where I live…[it]is our hidden centre, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully.’ Furthermore, ‘The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death, the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation’ (CCC2563).
Today is the day of decision, to be open to encounter, ‘to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter us’ (EG, 3); to make our ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ or our ‘no’ mean ‘no’. Are we ready and open to receive the immense love of God, to be healed of our hardness of heart, and share God’s love with all those we encounter?
We are about to move to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, a time to turn the corner, to be transformed. In a recent Catechesis on the Mass, Pope Francis told those gathered in St Peter’s Square: “Every time I go to Mass, I must leave better than I entered, with more life, with more strength, with a greater desire to give Christian witness. Through the Eucharist’, says the Holy Father, ‘the Lord Jesus enters in us, in our heart and in our flesh, so that we can ‘express in life the Sacrament received in faith’” (April 4, 2018). In faith then, we receive the Sacrament of Love. We are called to open our hearts so that our hearts can be pierced by Jesus, by Love. We are not to lock Jesus into our hearts though, keeping him for ourselves, not letting him out. Rather, we are to give Christian witness and express in word, gesture, and deed the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
There are myriad ways we may express the Sacrament of Love received in faith. A few ideas from St Benedict come to mind: ‘Curb evil speech whereby we honour everyone; do not act in anger or nurse a grudge; do not speak ill of others; respect the elders; bear with one another in weaknesses of body and behaviour, and never do to another what we do not want done to ourselves’. Other ways to express Love received include sitting quietly with someone who is hurting, anxious, or in pain; or reaching out to an estranged member of your family or to a friend, or simply smiling at someone. Most importantly, we can pray, for all those who ask for our prayers, for those who don’t have anyone to pray for them, and also for those with whom we are at odds, as Pope Francis says: ‘We all have our likes and dislikes, and perhaps at this very moment we are angry with someone. At least let us say to the Lord: ‘Lord, I am angry with this person, with that person. I pray to you for him or her’. To pray for a person with whom I am irritated is a beautiful step forward in love, and an act of evangelization.’ Pope Francis encourages us: ‘Let us do it today! Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the ideal of fraternal love!’ (EG, 101).
If today you hear God’s voice, then harden not your hearts (Ps 95:7-8). If we are going to hear God’s voice, though, His voice can only be heard if He is listened to through every human being. In other words, we cannot be selective in hearing. For, if we believe what our faith teaches us, namely, that every single person is made in the image and likeness of God, then every single person has something to teach us about God that no one else can.
As we run on the path of God’s commandments, then, may our hearts be pierced by and overflow with the inexpressible delight of love. Living and true God, grant us the grace to make our ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’, especially those who will renew their monastic profession; and our ‘Amen’ mean ‘Amen’ when we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, lest we be resounding gongs and clashing symbols. And remember: ‘Jesus wants to be found by those who look for Him. But to look for Him we have to get up and go out’ (Pope Francis, Twitter, February 4, 2018).
I am reminded of a blessing taught to me by my very Irish great Aunt Mary:
May those that love us, love us.For those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts.If He doesn’t turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles so we’ll know them by their limping.
St Bede the Venerable, pray for us, and most especially this day for Fr Bede and Br Bede.