Every Heart Beat

When I was a young man I attended church at a First Baptist Church in a small town in rural Virginia.  They used to reward us for memorizing scripture.  Free pizza hut pan pizzas, candy, even money.   The very first challenge I received in youth group was to memorize the 23rd Psalm.  “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”  I still remember sitting in my room at night opening my King James bible and closing it, reciting what I could and then repeating, until I could say the entire Psalm without fault.  That week at Wednesday night youth group I received a certificate for a free personal pan pizza.  I didn’t even realize the true gift was the Psalm itself, all I wanted was free food.

Years later I find so much comfort in that Psalm.  When we pray it in the Liturgy of the Hours or sing it at the Mass it touches me in ways that I cannot express in words.  The very thought that Ezekiel expresses in the first reading for today when he says that God himself will be the one to enter into the dark, cloudy places where we have been scattered.  That He will be the one to give us rest, the one to pasture and feed us.  How apropos that the Church in her wisdom has chosen these very readings.   To remind us that even in the darkest of times God will set a table for us, and all we have to do is come in and eat.  He himself will robe us and put a ring on our fingers.  Heaven itself will rejoice at this one single sheep coming back as if they were the only one in the universe, ah how grand a party that will be!

478 Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us: “The Son of God. . . loved me and gave himself for me.” He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, “is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings” without exception.

Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  That’s so powerfully important for us to understand.   It isn’t about getting right first, it’s about letting Him make you right.  I have heard people say “when I get more time, then I’ll pray more.”  Or “I’ll go to adoration when I retire, I’m too busy now.”   God does indeed love you exactly as you are, but too much to leave you there.   He wants the best for you.  He wants you to live that life of fullness that he created you to live.  Not a life of half truths, not one filled with clouds and darkness, but one filled with joy and peace.   That peace comes directly from a relationship with the Shepherd.   It is He who will provide you with food to pasture on, and He is indeed the very rest you seek.

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” – St. Augustine

God seeks us out in the darkness where we are, and He sets a feast right there before our enemies.   The thing is, that feast does not leave us unchanged.  He IS our pasture.  The incarnation, the Sacred Heart, became man that man might be transformed into that image that he was created to be.   Every day at Mass he condescends to our level, becoming what we need, sustenance.   Food.   Drink.  Bread and wine.  It is in this way that Christ pastures us.   He gives us himself to eat, the true bread from Heaven, the real Manna, greater than anything our forefather’s received in the desert.   It is this very bread which gives us life, which transforms us, if we let it, into the body of Christ itself.   We become ‘christ’s’ in the world.

That means we are challenged by this Eucharistic feast which we partake of.   Challenged to not just be pastured and find our rest, but also to go out into the world as shepherds.   To find the lost sheep and guide them to the table in the midst of their own enemies.   To point them like sign posts to the Eucharist, to the Church, to Christ himself and show them the peace and joy they can only receive in a relationship with Him.  We must feed them.  We must help them find rest.   The darkness is all around us.  Poverty, illness, abortion, moral decay….  These are just a few of the clouds and darkness that gather around our children, families, and friends.   These are the oppressions which push down the widow, the orphan, and the refugee.   Brothers and sisters, The love of God has been poured out into our hearts.  Are you ready to leave your comfort zone, and be the vessel through which God can reach the one who is lost?  Are you ready to be the living heartbeat of Christ’s sacred heart, drawing others to Him through the sound of your own life?

His servant and yours,

He must increase, I must decrease.