Heart Matters

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

Hebrews 5:7-9

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

John 12:20-33

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. "I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again." The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you’re here in my heart and my heart will go on and on.
(“My Heart Will Go On”, written by James Horner and Will Jennings)

Who can forget this haunting yet beautiful song of Celine Dion, lamenting lost love while acknowledging the strength of an unrelenting heart? Beyond its literal meaning as one of the most important organs, the heart is often metaphorized to represent love and the soul or core of our being in literature, music, or popular culture; not to mention that it is frequently commercialized, packaged, and marketed as a consumer goods to the masses. The symbolic value of the “heart” is indeed undeniable; most would recognize the cultural, emotional and spiritual significance of the “heart” over and above its physicality as a blood-pumping machine.

In this week’s readings, the image of the “heart” leads us into the depth and width of God’s mercy as well as the mystery of our salvation. Jeremiah writes that God’s law is written on “their hearts” (Jer 31:33); the Psalmist pleas for a “clean heart” (Ps 51:12); St. Paul describes how Jesus offers heart-wrenching “prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears” (Heb 5:7); and in John’s Gospel, Jesus admits that his “soul is troubled”, in anticipation of his suffering and ultimate sacrifice for us (Jn 12:27).

Just as Celine Dion croons, “Once more you open the door”, God opens His heart and beckons all of us to enter into a ”new covenant” despite our past unfaithfulness. Such is the scale of God’s boundless mercy. Unlike the previous one made with Moses when God leads the Israelites “by hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt”, this “new covenant” will not be broken by our stubbornness and slowness of heart. This covenant signifies a more intimate relationship between God and His peoples, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33). Such is a grandiose claim – though the language used is that of a political alliance between the conqueror and the conquered nation – God has adopted the Israelites, and us, to be His very own; as one may proclaim the absolute steadfast love to one’s beloved. Just as God has “inscribed [you and I] on the palms of [His] hands”, the law is henceforth written on our hearts instead of stone tablets (Is 49:16). We shall know God in our heart and soul. God opens our heart by opening His to us first so that we may cultivate a genuine “desire to speak to the heart of Jesus and be heard” (Nouwen, Henri. Heart Speaks to Heart: Three Prayers to Jesus, 13). Nouwen recognizes through prayers that knowing about God is not the same as knowing God. The “new covenant” invites us to know God more intimately in our heart. Together with the Psalmist we pray for “a clean heart” and “a new and right spirit” so that we may know our loving God more intimately and be strengthened to freely lose our lives as we accompany Christ along His road to Calvary.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus opens his own heart as he exposes his vulnerability to his closest friends, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say, – ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” Though Jesus’ heart is torn, he accepts his mission of love so that he may “draw all people” to himself (Jn 12:27, 32). Even as Jesus admits his fear and pain, he encourages his followers, “do not let your heart be troubled” (Jn 14:1).

As our Lenten preparation approaches its conclusion, let us offer our brokenness to God; let us open our heart to the heart of Jesus in prayer:

My heart is little, fearful, and very timid. It will always be so. But you say, “Come to my heart. My heart is gentle and humble and very broken like yours. Do not be afraid. Come and let your heart find rest in mine and trust that all will be well.” I want to come, Jesus, and be with you. Here I am, Lord, take my heart and let it become a heart filled with your love.
(Nouwen, Henri. Heart Speaks to Heart: Three Prayers to Jesus, 56-57)

Posted: March 18, 2018

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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