The Sacred Heart in Scripture and Strawberries

strawberries

June is the month devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Catholic Church. You may ask, what is meant by the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Well, the Sacred Heart is Jesus. And devotion to the Sacred Heart is a devotion to the love of Jesus, devoting oneself to loving   Him entirely.  The heart is a symbol of love, of course, but also an ancient symbol for the core of one’s being, the sacred abode in which God dwells with the person… and more. I wrote more about the heart HERE, HERE, and HERE. For an article on the more scholarly particulars of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, please click HERE.

What does any of this have to do with strawberries? The answer to that is at the end, after a bit of reflective exploration…

Why Does Anything Exist?

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My Mother

My mother and father are not only good parents, they are excellent parents because they have been greatly tried and are continuing to be tried. Having a severely disabled and dependent child makes their lives difficult and abnormal. (Will they even get to go out and celebrate their anniversary?) Their lives are not what they hoped for or planned, because their youngest daughter is not what they hoped for or planned. And yet… and yet they are beautiful people living a joyful life.

They didn’t try to find a way to be like everyone else even though their lives weren’t like everyone else’s – they chose to sacrifice, to give of themselves selflessly and generously. Therein lies their greatness, their excellence – and their beauty and joy. I can never thank them enough. I can never repay them. But, that’s why they are so great – because their love is so completely unconditional.

As we have just passed the celebration of Mother’s Day here in the United States and my parents’ wedding anniversary is coming soon, I’m sharing some of my own poetry dedicated to motherhood, and, most specifically, my mother. I love you, Mom and Dad!

Francine & Christina

Mama

Within her hands, now rough and worn,

A little girl once held the morn,

Once swept the stars and shook the tree,

And played with possibility.

Then, clutching fists could only pray

When hopeful dreamings slipped away,

And learn to beat and dig and tear,

To toughen skin and smother care.

And yet, within her hands I find

The strength to live outside my mind;

The world she formed with blood and pain

Has housed a little girl again,

Misshapen, yes, and less than planned,

But never lost within her hand.

 Virtue

 I learned from my Mother
forgiveness and forbearance…
even in the deep of dark,
before my eyes could see or ears could hear,
she was putting up with the difficulties
of my life in hers, in
Faith and Hope
that all things work together for the good
and pain can bring forth joy…
In the giving of herself always,
my mother’s gift to me
is the lesson and fruit of
generous and self-giving
Love.

© 2016 Christina Chase

 

5 Steps to Letting God Love You

Apparently, it’s common blogging knowledge that people like lists. Who knew? Bloggers are suggested to write posts like “Top 10 Famous…” or “5 Easy Ways to…”. Personally, I’m not much of a fan of a step-by-step approach to spirituality – but I can’t help but like the convenience of a how-to checklist. So, here’s mine, a kind of companion to last week’s post:

5 Steps to Letting God Love You

1.) Be open and honest. This may seem like two steps, but it’s really only one. If you really want to let God love you, so that you may become the person that you were created to be, then you must look up from the closed in darkness of your little life to honestly assess all around you. And within you. Being truthful is the most important step to letting God fully into your life, because God is Truth. Know the truth is that you are not in this life alone. There are people all around you in a great big world created by the Infinite/Eternal One. Be brave enough to open your little eyes and your little ears to truly see and hear.

2.) Be not afraid of your limitations. You are small, weak, and imperfect. This is a true fact that your open honesty should be able to perceive. There are some things that you simply cannot do. For example, I cannot walk. And there are some things in your life that you simply cannot change, like the mistakes of your past, the wrongs that have been done to you, etc.. Too many self-help guides to happiness want you to live “without limitations”. But there are some limits that are truly and inexorably LIMITS. There is no shame in this. Every person has limitations! Just being human comes with its own set. So, know yourself, and accept the fact that there are some things that you simply can’t change. It’s okay. This is part of humility. When you bravely acknowledge your littleness, you open yourself up to the greatness of God.

3.) Desire forgiveness. Since you can’t go back in time and undo the mistakes of your past, you need to accept them and forgive. Mistakes that others have made that impacted you also need to be accepted and those in error forgiven. Sins, too, must be honestly acknowledged. Be not afraid! Rather, repent of all of those times that you chose to be unloving, that you chose to close yourself off from God’s love, and ask God to forgive you. Desiring His forgiveness, you will certainly receive – then, forgive yourself. Knowing that God desires to forgive all, forgive those who have sinned against you. Without this step, there will be no love in your heart.

4.) Trust. Each step that you take requires bravery – know that God is right beside you, holding on to you. Trust that God’s love is the answer to every problem, the healing balm for every wound, the inspiration for, and safeguard of, every practical action that you need to take in order to become a fulfilled human being. Trust that the difficult, unchangeable things that come into your life can never, ever take you away from the goodness and joy of God’s love – unless you let them. Don’t let them. Instead, let go of your desire for control and let God take over. Let God love… forgive… heal… lead… through you. You are never alone!

5.) Be generous. Receiving God’s forgiveness, receiving God’s love, you must share it with others! True love can never be bottled up and kept to yourself, or it will become stagnant and poisonous. Rather, true love must flow. God is infinitely pouring His Divine love into you. When you are honestly and mercifully open enough to receive that love, then you will naturally and joyfully overflow with it, giving God’s love to all that you meet. This doesn’t simply mean that you will tell other people “God loves you.” Being generous requires much more than words. Give your whole self away and do not be afraid! You can never run out of true love. So, choose to generously love your fellow human beings – family and friends, neighbors and strangers, even the people that you don’t like very much. Be truthful and know that every person that you encounter is beloved by God, intimately and infinitely. Treat every person that way. Honor every person’s sanctity and eternal beauty – eternal beauty that is seen clearly by God if not by you.
clipart angry-smiley-01

Putting It into Practice

Let God love that irritating person through you. How, you may ask? Following the steps, like this:

+ Accept the truth that this person is sacred and eternally loved by God.

+ Note, not only the person’s shortcomings, but also, most importantly, your own.

+ Forgive that person for not understanding, for being angry, slow, lazy, ignorant, mean, impatient – for you know perfectly well that there will be many times when you will need someone to forgive you.

+ Now, trust that this situation is completely seen and known by God and that it is good for you, that it is a moment full of God’s flowing love – if you are open to it.

+ Smile and be generous with the love and wisdom that God has given to you, accepting, empathizing, forgiving, and believing in the goodness of the irritating person, being generous with your time, talents, efforts, goodness, and your unshakable joy from God….
clipart relieved-face

When this works out the way you want it to, be grateful. When this doesn’t work out the way you want it to, be grateful. God’s love is in this situation, no matter what. And you know that this is true because God made it happen – and, by the grace of God, you let it happen. You chose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit – you chose to let God love.

There. Now for me to live it …

© 2016 Christina Chase


You may also like:

 Who God Loves More  (last week’s post)

Mercy Is Joy or It Is Nothing

 Righteous Not Riotous

The Heavy Laden One

 Obedience Is Nothing without Love

 

Who God Loves More

Because of my physical disability and suffering, some have strongly suggested to me that God loves me more than other people.

Yeah, I don’t think so.

I’m a sinner just like you.

And even though there was a time when I rolled my eyes at anyone who said “God loves you”, this post is precisely about God’s love – for me, for you, for everybody. It is a re-presentation of the gift that was given to me (through inspiration) a couple of years ago during Lent. I had wondered for years how God could love everyone and, yet, not everyone would be saved. Did Christianity actually teach that there were some people that God loved more than others? Short answer: no. Long answer… well, read on…

Why God Loves Anyone At All

We may think that God loves us because we have professed belief in His Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ and/or because we do good things that are kind to others. But, that’s not why God loves us. God doesn’t love me because I smile despite being physically disabled and in a wheelchair. God doesn’t love you because you praise His Holy Name from a pulpit or in a blog. God doesn’t love them because they are poor and simple or them because they are successful and generous. Nope.

God loves each and every human being because God loves each and every human being. God loves because that’s what God does, because that is exactly who God is.

We have done nothing, and can do nothing, to deserve or merit God’s love – because God has already done it for us. We are lovable precisely because God independently chooses to bring us into being through His Own Creative Love. God loved us enough to take on our humanity and die for us through Christ our Lord. It is for this reason that no human being is worthless. For this sacred reason – and for this sacred reason alone – every human being is valuable, is precious.

We should never think of ourselves as any greater than this. And we should never think of ourselves as any less than this, not even when we sin.

Loved by God Is Who We Are

You know that person who really hurt you and doesn’t even seem to realize how badly, even though you tried to explain it to her? God loves that person intimately and infinitely. You know that person who is always so arrogant and says such cruel things about other people? God loves that person intimately and infinitely. God takes no joy in their sins – God takes no joy in our sins – but He eternally loves sinners. That means that God eternally loves us, each and every human being no matter what we do – no matter how badly we screw up His Commandments or how well we keep them.

Why, then, do we believe that some people go straight to heaven and others do not? What makes the difference of whether or not we will be holy lies in how we answer one question. It is a question we must each ask of ourselves:

Will I allow God to love me?

Maybe you thought that I was going to write that the question is whether or not we will choose to love God. I thought about it. But, then I wordlessly remembered in my heart (or the wordless memory was pushed forward for me) that we love because God first loved us[1]. The only reason that we can love anyone or anything at all is because God loves us. So, even if I want to love God, I must first let God love me.

Letting God Love

What does that mean?

It means that I have to acknowledge and accept who I am – who I truly, honestly, and eternally am: made with and for Love, loved intimately and infinitely by God. Then I can let God forgive me, heal me of my wounds, comfort me in my sufferings, and guide me in my decisions – knowing that God will always lead me to the best place.

Letting God love means that I must acknowledge and accept that every human being is also intimately and infinitely loved by God. And I must ask myself if I love others as God loves them. Do I treat my fellow human beings as sacred and beloved? Do I open up my heart and allow God to love my fellow human beings through me, through my words and actions?

Love cannot be bottled up and kept to myself or it will becomes stagnant. Love must flow.

Countless times I have allowed my annoyances, fears, anger, habits, and self-centered desires to lead me to say “No” to God’s Love. In so doing, I turned away from my own identity. I put up a barrier. I refused to give myself to the flow of love… to forgive, to heal, to strengthen, to comfort, to honor. I miss the mark, I sin.

That is why life can be ultimately dissatisfying. That is why, during the 40 days of the Lenten season, we, who acknowledge our unlove, are mournfully repentant, longing for forgiveness and newness of life. Forgiveness and Newness of Life are precisely what God wants to give to us through His Love – precisely what Christ brings to us through his Passion and Resurrection.

God wants us to be restored to our true selves. The Holy Days of Lent and Easter are a gift from God to help us remember, anew, that we are all divinely loved.

So, let us each ask ourselves:

Will I let God love?

I am only human, and, as such, I can only do so much. But, God can do everything. Will I let Him? Because the thing is… God loves me enough never to force me.

© 2016 Christina Chase


[1] 1 John 4:19

Respect Life – What Does That Mean?

You may or may not know this, but – October is Respect Life Month. This is certainly not as “mainstream” as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which has even caused football players to wear pink, and which has become somewhat glamorous with all of the media attention. But, those pink ribbons could just as easily be worn for Respect Life Month. No, I wasn’t thinking of them as a representation of the estimated 1,500 little girls who are killed every day in the United States by abortion – every day…. I was thinking that breast cancer is frightening and something that we want to see cured, because we love and respect life.

Respect Life Month is not about one subject – unless that one subject is humankind.

Some of you may have rolled your eyes and felt indignant when you read the abortion statistic above, shutting your mind to another “pro-life” post. Some of you may have even stopped reading. For those of you who consider yourself to be “pro-choice” and are still reading this, I thank you and congratulate you. You have an open mind. Together, along with people who devote their lives to helping unexpectedly pregnant women to choose life for their unborn babies, let us really consider what it means to Respect Life.

What does it mean to respect life?

For those of you who may not really like to talk about God and such, just consider the throwaway society that we are becoming. Things are undervalued, rendered cheap, replaceable, disposable. But, knowing the importance and vulnerability of our common planet, we know that we cannot be wasteful, greedy, and selfish. There are consequences to our actions and life is too precious for us to be reckless in our living of it. Thus, the environmental message and warning is being sounded in many places: “Respect the Earth!” Rightly so.

We want to protect the environment, keeping the ecosystems of our air, food, and water healthy and vibrant because we love and respect life.

As a believing Christian of the universal Church (Catholic) I see that there is simple, profound, and beautiful consistency here. And it begins with the First Cause and Final End of all things…

Begin at the Beginning

Respecting life starts with this – God created everything. And God looked upon what he created and saw that it was good. God’s creation is beautiful. Matter matters to God and he loves everything that he has created. And God created human beings in his own divine image and likeness – that means that we have a uniquely intimate relationship with God among all of the living. God loves each and every human being intimately and infinitely. God gives each and every human being special gifts and purpose – whether we can see them or not. We are important to God. Every human being is sacred.

This truth is good for us to remember, especially when we’re down on ourselves. When you have setbacks or failures, difficulties and heartbreaks, know that you are intimately and infinitely loved by God. You are important to God. You are sacred.

Authentic Love of Self

This is true love of self – for we don’t learn to love ourselves because of our worldly accomplishments, good looks, or athletic abilities. I certainly don’t love myself because of these things! True love of self comes from knowing that God loves us. In fact, we can only love because God first loved us. With this love in mind, we reflect upon Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves. For every human being is sacred, intimately and infinitely loved by God.

Do we look upon our fellow human beings and try to see them as God sees them?

If we did, then surely we would respect life. We would understand that every life is worth living because every human life is important to God, every human being is created for loving relationship. We are most truly and fully ourselves when we are in loving relationship with God – and with others, with our fellow human beings.

Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” And he did not tell us to love the good-looking, the accomplished, the athletically gifted, or the super intelligent. Jesus did not tell us to love the strong or the independently wealthy. He simply told us to love one another. And he simply showed us that those who we may think are unlovable are our true neighbors in need of love. Jesus bravely and affectionately loved the lepers, the little children, the mentally ill, the possessed, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the outsiders, and the poor. Jesus told us that whatever we do to the “least” we do to him. God identifies himself with the littlest and most vulnerable among us.

The elderly man who is lonely and in pain; the 40-year-old woman who is dying of cancer; the homeless man on the corner with a drug addiction and no shoes; the pregnant 19-year-old who is scared, confused, and desperate; the boy with Down syndrome whose mother doesn’t think he should live outside her womb; the twentysomething man who is about to be killed by the State; the young woman who is being physically abused by her boyfriend; the 16-year-old smuggled to the US in a shipping container, slaving at a sweatshop; the severely disabled veteran, overcome with depression, who wants to commit suicide… God is in each of these human beings. Do we see them as God sees them?

Each one of these people is sacred, loved by God infinitely and intimately. We are to love them as we love ourselves – we are to love ourselves as God loves us: unconditionally.

To respect life is not to meet people’s problems with death as the answer. It is to love. True love does not merely find expedient ends, but gives loving care, attention, and appreciation, to every human being.

We can’t live in a throwaway world.

© 2015 Christina Chase

Hope, Part 2: Eternal Perspective

Continued from Hope, Part 1: The Four-Letter Word

I have never wanted to fall for wishful thinking – I have only ever wanted the truth. Before I became a true-believing Christian, as a preteen, teenager, and young adult, I viewed Heaven as a comforting fairytale and a false hope. Coming to know the real Christ, however, and growing in relationship with him, my understanding of Heaven was inevitably going to change.

I am still growing in my understanding….

I love life here and now and I love God, here and now. There is still a small part of me that is fighting against the thought of Heaven, not wanting to be patronized like a child told to hope.

However… I’m beginning to understand that I am behaving like a child by fighting the reality of Heaven….

Hope Is a Virtue

As a believing Christian and committed practitioner of the Catholic Faith, I know that I must take seriously the theological definition of hope:

“a Divine virtue by which we confidently expect, with God’s help, to reach eternal felicity as well as to have at our disposal the means of securing it.”[1]

“Eternal felicity”….

“Confidently expect”…

Hope As Part of the Big Three

The theological virtue of hope presupposes belief in the existence of eternal life and, specifically, in the existence of “eternal felicity”, or, namely, Heaven. Hope, then, is a firm faith, or kind of knowledge, that one can, through Christ, enter into this eternal life, because the way through which to enter it is given to us by God in Christ Jesus.

I had been thinking that it shouldn’t be hope that helps Christians through rough trials and tribulations. I had been thinking that faith is what does that – the assent, the trust in, and the commitment to God and to what God has revealed. But, if it is not to be mere wishful thinking, then hope, which is that “confident expectation” of “eternal felicity”, is a result of faith. It’s the natural living out of faith.

And that faithful, “confident expectation” that is hope can only exist and be realized through love.

The Reality of God’s Love

Although I am naturally an optimistic and content person, there are, of course, many times when I have been laid low by my disease and disability. In these times, I have been sustained and carried by love… By my love for life and for my family – and by my family’s love for me. Now that I have given myself in faith to the reality of God, I know that this sustaining love comes from God’s love. And believing Christians experience spiritual aid and comfort, not only from human love, but also (and more deeply and profoundly because it is the source of human love) from God’s love and the willingness and eagerness to love God in return.

Christianity is not all about rewards after death – it is fundamentally about the giving and receiving of divine love from pure and generous hearts. I understand, now, that “eternal felicity”, that Heaven, is the reality of God and God’s love for me. And so, too, is the divine disposal of “the means of securing it”. We can never earn Heaven or wishfully think our way into it – it is purely God’s gift, freely and graciously given to all who are willing to receive it.

As a committed lover of God, I am willing to receive all that God wills to give to me.

And, so, yes – Heaven is real, and hope is good.

Living Hope Every Day – Eternal Perspective

One way that I think that we can describe the practice and the effect of the theological virtue of hope in our lives is as eternal perspective. One can say that one believes in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come. But, does that belief influence and effect one’s daily life? To live in hope is to have an eternal perspective in the mundane living of every day. For, surely, if one is confidently expectant of something, then one lives in preparation and readiness of its coming.

Real life example: let’s say you’re arguing with someone whom you truly love. The argument won’t last forever and the two of you may even forget the very thing over which you were fighting. Because you truly love each other, you will forgive each other and continue to live your relationship rooted in that love. The argument is finite. But the love experienced, expressed, and manifested through your relationship is infinite, it belongs to eternity – because it is the experience, expression, and manifestation of God’s eternal love, which is the Source and Sustainer of all love. And, so, even in the midst of the argument, you can step back for a moment and regain this eternal perspective. Having this eternal perspective fosters the true forgiveness, healing, and continuation of your relationship’s joyful love, which is carried into eternity itself.

Eternal felicity.

My Hope

So, I don’t do this-or-that hoping, like some kind of wishful, fingers-crossed-wanting, that it will turn out fabulous in the end. I live with confidence. I trust in God’s Word and, so, have faith that eternity is real. The things of God last forever and other things don’t. This knowledge, this “confident expectation”, our Christian hope, is the fruit of our Christian faith, brought into true being and sustained through Christian love.

Thankfully, God is merciful… If my human weakness cannot yet handle the word, then I do not need to think of this thing called “hope”. I need only to live it.

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase


[1] http://newadvent.org/cathen/07465b.htm

Words to Live By

Christian humility and charity are neither timid nor sappy – they are a radical recognition, a bold transformation of life: Metanoia.

Yesterday was the Feast Day of the patron saint of my home parish, St. John the Baptist. In his honor, I’m reflecting upon three phrases attributed to him in the Bible. This voice crying out in the wilderness gave us words to live by…

“… there is one among you whom you do not recognize…” (John 1:26)

We never know when we will have an encounter with the Divine. The truth is that wherever we go, in every moment of our lives, we are in the presence of God… God, who is always watching us… who is always loving us where we are…. If I truly become conscious of this truth in my every waking moment – how will my life change?

For the people of 1st century Israel, to whom John spoke these words, the meaning was of particular and immediate import. There was literally a person among them whom they did not recognize as being any different than anyone else. And, yet, although he was a human being just like them – he was profoundly different, because he was also God.

Christ Jesus walked among many unremarkably. The power of the Creator of the Universe was within him – but, to most, if their eyes even fell upon him, he was just some guy. Like so many strangers that we pass on the sidewalk, on the road, in the office, in the park, or in the mall, Christ seemed ordinary… dismissible. We think to ourselves now that it’s a shame, an utterly wasted opportunity, that some of the people back then went right by Christ without even knowing who he was. Yet… those strangers that we pass by every day… do we not know that they are images of God? And we pass them by without a single thought or care for them. Do we not know that Christ is within each and every one of us? Whenever we skirt around a homeless person, we are skirting around Christ. Whenever we say, Good Riddance, about a criminal who is put in prison, we are saying good riddance to Christ. Whenever we ignore the plight of the jobless or the hungry, of the lonely or the diseased, we are ignoring Christ in his sorrow. Whenever I am cruel to the person next to me, it is like I am piercing that person with a thorn… I am piercing that thorn into Christ.

I am only one person, limited, as every human is, and I cannot be everything to everybody. God knows. Being human like us, there were countless many who Christ Jesus could not help in person during his earthly life, countless many to whom he could not speak face-to-face while he walked upon the roads and through the fields, villages, and towns. His earthly mission was to open.

It’s like, by the Mystery of the Incarnation, a divine portal was created to the kingdom of God – and by his death and resurrection that portal was opened to all. Not all will pass through, because we must choose to do so – we must choose to follow Christ. In order to fully and truly encounter the Divine and enter, eternally, the kingdom of God, we must recognize God’s love for us and choose to follow Christ. My mission (say it with me) limited as I am, is to love Christ… and I do that by loving others as Christ loves me. I do that by recognizing my cruelty to another as cruelty to Christ my beloved… and I repent and ask forgiveness.

I carry out my mission of love (which is your mission, too) limited as I am, by recognizing the gifts that God has given to me, in His infinite love for me, and then giving those gifts in the service of those in need of healing, nourishment, guidance, compassion, and light, wherever I can. There will be times when I falter, times when I fail. But, I will recognize my failures as human weakness – and I will not deplore my human weakness but, rather, unite my struggles with the struggles of Christ as he carried the Cross of Salvation to Calvary. Divine and human, it was only with pain that he could place that key into the lock and grant our freedom. He dreaded, he suffered, he was tormented and ridiculed, he fell flat on his face along the way – but he persevered because of love. Christ loves divinely – infinitely and intimately. Profess my love for him as I might, I cannot recognize him in others – and therefore love him in others – unless I recognize him in me.

“He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Do I recognize and love Christ within me? Do I recognize and give forth the particular gifts that God has given me? This is what true Christian charity is all about – this is the heart of true Christian humility. It is not overly sentimental, it is not hanging my head down himself abasing shame. God chooses to make a home inside of me… Christ dwells in me in a personally particular way, lovingly unique – as Christ dwells in everybody. Christ is everyone… Christ is you and me and them. Christ IS. That is what we, as Christians, need to be able to see. I open my heart to God’s loving presence and let Christ live in me… through me… through the gifts that are particularly unique to me, which he knows so intimately.

This recognition of Christ is the encounter with the Divine that pulls us through the sacred portal to the fullness of truth, the fullness of life… into the kingdom of God. For, as Christ is ever present, so is the kingdom, so is the loving and saving presence of God. We encounter the Divine, not only in the life to come, but also here and now.

And that’s pretty radical.

“Metanoia, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase

The Sacred Heart of Reality

 

The Treasures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Here is a re-presentation of an earlier post for June:

Catholic imagery can be beautiful… and also a bit terrifying. Gruesome even. The picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that I use in the header of my blog is a classic example: a red, pulpy, bleeding heart, gashed, burning on fire at the top, encircled with a barbed-wire-like crown of thorns. Its blood is dripping down to a smaller heart below that is blooming with flowers and fruit. The inscription reads: The Treasures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is, of course, highly symbolic – but also rather startling and seemingly disconnected from what we see and know in “real” life. It begs the question – What are we supposed to do with an image like this?

I am consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  I am not consecrated to an image of a fleshy, bloody organ. I am consecrated to Christ, to the fullness of reality – which is terribly beautiful, after all. I have committed myself to more than the material, more than the reducible – I have committed myself to life in its entirety, the physical and the spiritual. I refuse to be one of the surface people, fearfully hiding my power and vulnerability behind a fig leaf, and deceiving myself into thinking that only my five natural senses can detect the fullness of reality. I want to be like Christ. To be like Christ is to be most fully human, to be fully alive as we are created to be. Exploring the Mysteries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to explore his inner life, the core of who he is – and that is the exploration of the Mysteries of truth, of what is really real. All I’ve ever wanted is the truth.

But, why, then, some may ask, do I not write of the Sacred Heart in all of my posts?

I started this blog when I began my consecrated devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in hopes of more deeply exploring the Mysteries of Christ’s heart – and of my own. This doesn’t mean that every post is going to be directly about my act of consecration, or Jesus, or even Catholicism. But, I do believe that every post that I write is about the Sacred Heart. Not always explicitly, but always. For, to put it as simply and plainly (though also, I understand, as complexly and mysteriously) as possible, Christ is Truth Incarnate. And his Sacred Heart is the heart of truth, the heart of reality. As long as I tell no lies and make no conceit in this blog, striving for the honesty of life and of my mind and soul – then here is Christ. I press my ear to the heart of the universe and listen…

To put it another way:

Christ Jesus presents and embodies the reason for and meaning of reality – because Christ Jesus is the reason for and meaning of reality: God loves Creation into existence, creating human beings with the capacity to naturally and supernaturally receive divine love and to transmit, to share, this love, agape, with others. This interplay of God’s love for humankind and humankind’s loving response to God is perfect in Jesus Christ. For he is fully divine and fully human. This interplay is his interior life, the core of his being – his heart. Therefore, to delve into the Mysteries of being, of life, to delve into the Mysteries of the Divine and the human, to delve into the Mysteries of love, suffering, and joy, is to delve into the Sacred Heart of Jesus – whether we use that term and imagery or not. For Christ is Universal. Every human quest on earth for beauty, justice, goodness, knowledge, wisdom, or peace is a quest for Christ. In every religion, and in no religion, whether spiritually intending or not, I believe that all honest quests for truth and love are seeking what is found in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And it is the Holy Spirit that inspires, guides, and guards such seeking.

The Catholic Church offers the month of June for special consideration of the Sacred Heart. Therefore,  let us consider this  image of The Treasures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the image, we can see that God’s love pours forth from the Sacred Heart of Jesus to bring our hearts into full flower and fruition. May it serve to remind me, not only of God’s love, but also of the human dimension of that love – and of my own responsibility. Divine incarnate.

Prayer:

– Lord, God, you so love us that you have become one of us, opening your heart for us in all ways. Help me open my heart to you so that you can transform me into a rich garden of blossoming, yielding fruitfulness of body and soul in all my thoughts, words, and actions – all for you, Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!

 unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase

What Is Religion?

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”[1]

Sometimes, holding onto the Mysteries of Faith is like holding onto a stack of smoke rings or trying to grasp moonbeams. The Dogma of the Holy Trinity, Hypostatic Union, images of the Sacred Heart, the Doctrine of Transubstantiation… Religion can seem a cluttered tedium of academic explanations. It almost makes me want to shake my head and walk away.

But then, I remember… Love.

Love is the highest Good, the highest Beauty, the highest Humanity. Whatever religion one practices or rejects, it is commonly understood, simply known, that love is the answer to everything. When there are difficulties with another person, what’s needed is the forgiveness, compassion, and patience of love. If others are troublesome or cruel, then it is with the strong arm of love that we are to guide them to their truest selves. When I am dissatisfied with the pot in which I am planted, I must learn to love the bloom that I can be – the bloom that I am created to be.

Love is the way. Love is the truth. Love is life. The visceral goodness, beautiful ecstasy, and full truth of life is love… and we know it. We are less than what we really are without it.

This knowledge can lead some to false, trivial excesses – defining, portraying, and seeking love as pleasure or even as pain. But, real love isn’t cheap, usable, or disposable. It isn’t invented or manufactured, it can never be forced – and, when love is real, it can never be lost or destroyed. Love is as intimate to the body as breath and heartbeat, and as infinite as Spirit and Infinity Itself. The Divine is divine because the Divine is love – pure, real love. God is love.

The knowledge of this truth does not mean that I should only be spiritual and not religious. God created me of flesh and spirit, God knows. And God loves all of me, the whole of me, body and soul. God doesn’t simply want to reach out to me in a spiritual way, but also in a physical way, drawing me into Divine embrace. Religion is where we catch at God’s reaching out to us. Sometimes, we may only catch at a small portion and be led, like a child by the hand, to the places of real love in the world. Other times, perhaps rarer times, our responsive reaching out catches us up entirely into the loving and intimate dance of covenant relationship, divinely loving always and everywhere.

Christ is God’s profound and tangible presence in the world, a being, like us, of body and soul, who is human, like us, but also Divine. Christ is Love Incarnate sent to us, coming to us, to take us up into the full embrace of Love. He does this through mysteriously divine actions – those as he walked and breathed upon earth, and those as he ever was and ever will be – loving in nature, loving in the world, loving in our hearts, moving and acting there to draw us ever closer to our Divine Source, to Divine Union, to the truth of who we are – to love.

Every dogma and doctrine of the universal Christian religion are simply, and profoundly, the means to this. As real as sunlight are the gazes, the caresses, the embraces… the infinite human/divine intimacy of love.

Unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase


[1] Jeremiah 31:3

She at Pentecost

On creaking knees, worn with repeated hours on earthen floors making bread and coaxing coals into flame, she now knelt in the upper room in the city – and prayed.

“This is how you are to pray,” she remembered her mother telling her when she was but a little child, standing not much taller than her mother’s knees. The older woman had bent down and had put her warm, wrinkled hands on either side of her face, looking deeply and sweetly into her eyes as she had continued to speak. “You are to pray to the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your strength. You are to pray as you are to love – with your whole being and without ceasing. For you must remember that you are always and everywhere in the presence of God and His Infinite Love.”

Remembering, she lifted herself a little higher on her own aging knees and pressed her hands upon her heart. Lifting her eyes to the invisible heavens, she was keenly aware of Heaven’s listening. “For Love,” she prayed in her silent way, with every fiber and synapse-firing of her flesh, with the peaceful, fervent purity of her soul. Her own particular affection for the people around her, gathered closely together in the upper room, drowsy with their own prayer, radiated like the soft fragrance of a rose on a still summer day. “Oh, my God, that they may be healed, bound, and filled with Love… this is the prayer in the heart of your lowly handmaiden to whom You, Most Gracious and Good Father, gave the most precious and sublime gift, in all mercy and generosity. My Lord and my God, my Creator and my dearly beloved son, You who are Infinite and Eternal, You whom I love and adore beyond all measure, beyond imagining, may Your Holy, Perfect, Loving Will be made known brilliantly to those faithfully gathered here, those who have labored and loved with you, those faithfully awaiting the Holy Advocate to lead them out into the turbulent world and into the sure forming of Your Kingdom. This Advocate is Love, Love most holy, Love most pure, Love Divine. You are Love, Lord. You live and give Love – infuse Love into the hearts and minds of your faithful disciples here.”

The night wore on, and while some ate and others slept, all were praying. As they served, as they chewed, as they dreamed, every action, voluntary and involuntary, was an action of prayer, for all were caught up in the net of spiritual vigilance, awaiting the word of release – without even knowing exactly for what they were waiting. Though some were fearful, she knew, all had faith… faith and trust, trust and hope.

Before the cock crew his song of awakening, before the light of the sun broke the slumbering darkness, she lifted her unsleeping head again, the pain in her knees the joy of a deeply planted tree. Her heart in her chest lifted to God, her arms outstretched, she gazed sweetly and deeply with maternal love upon the men and women gathered in the dimness whose prayer, even as they slept, was for the power of illumination of mind, heart, and will. Her own tenderly loving face was radiant with her wordless prayer… “Oh, my Little One, Mighty Lord and Savior… The cavern of sorrow that hollowed so deeply at my heart has been filled to overflowing with everlasting joy! Ever sweet, ever kind, ever generous, You allow my heart to beat with yours… to beat with theirs… I suffer when you suffer and triumph when you triumph… And still I long as You long, I ache as You ache, for every heart to be restored, for every human to be healed of all division that can keep them from Your Love… I yearn for the hearts of these, your own dear friends, to be dispelled of all darkness and lack of understanding, to be filled with Light… with Truth… with Courage… with Love.”

The wonderful sparklings of her mind reach deeply into her heart, through the universe, and beyond… “Once, was I overshadowed by Your Power, oh, Most High, and always and everywhere am I embraced by You, enraptured by Your Love. My Beloved One… the more I gave wholeheartedly to You, the more You gave wholeheartedly to me. The sacrifice of the mother is the bliss of the child of God – I am she! You know my heart! Ready, willing, and able, always and everywhere, to love You, to receive You, to hold You – and to give You away when You will… and the child heart within me rejoices to serve You and to be loved so intimately and infinitely by You.”

Joyful tears welled up in her eyes from her blameless heart. “Your Spirit came personally to me once in intimate mystery, I trust and believe that You will come, now, and send forth Your Spirit again to overshadow and lift up Your disciples here. Enkindle in us the fire of Your Love, Your Word breathed in flame, that we may ceaselessly bear forth the transformative power of Your Love to the hearts of others, everywhere, for generations to come… Your will be done, my Lord. My heart is one with Yours… I hear Your Love whispering now, cooing softly in the coming wind…”

*          *          *

            So quiet was she…. So filled with Love from the moment that she was conceived in the womb of her mother…. With empty hands she had given herself wholly and completely to her Creator, had lovingly surrendered herself, body, mind, heart, and soul to God….

Above the heads of the disciples, tongues of fire burned… above the beautiful humility of her head, the fire burned with the wings of a dove, with the caress of hands, with a baby’s kiss.

Unpublished work copyright 2015 Christina Chase


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