Spes unica

Twelve years ago this month I was in Rome, with a dozen others, preparing for our perpetual vows. It was a precious, growth and grace-filled time, in which I learned and gained so much that has stayed with me throughout the following decade and more. It was a time, too, in which I learned a great deal about what it means to love and to be loved; and what can be accomplished by love, freely given, regardless of whether it might "work" or be reciprocated, just as Jesus did, to the very end.

One morning, as I prayed with the cross I would receive for my profession, I received an intuition to pray, not with the side on which our motto is engraved, but "the other" side, on which are the words Spes Unica - one and only hope. In this intuition I heard Jesus tell me that it is here, in his death, his piercing, his woundedness, wherein lies my only hope of resurrection, reconciliation and new life.

Today, Feast of the Sacred Heart, I find myself especially recalling that intuition, which for me was part of a long, ongoing journey into the Open Heart of Jesus. I recall it because today's Gospel is about the piercing of the Heart; that moment when Jesus' vulnerability and powerlessness were most exposed, when sin and evil appeared most triumphant. But I also recall it because of the sometimes overwhelming, despairing pain and the piercing I encounter every time I pick up a newspaper or watch the news; every time I talk to someone who is hurting, or stop and pay attention to the pain and the piercing within me.

That intuition reminds me that the piercing of Jesus' Heart was not the end of his mission, but the beginning of an outpouring of love and grace; a wellspring to which all are invited and which will never run dry. Death, violation and humiliation were not the end, but the cause of an even greater torrent of love and redemption, and of hope and new life. And somehow, in Jesus' pain and woundedness, in our pain and woundedness, and that of the world, lie the seeds and the hope of redemption and new life. That is our Spes Unica, our only hope, and it is a hope forged and filled with abundant, redemptive, life-giving love, freely given, to be freely shared.

Today RSCJ around the world renew their vows in a spirit of gratitude and re-commitment to our mission of making known the love of the Heart of Jesus. May we do so too in the spirit of our General Council's message for the Feast, turning our gaze to the God of deep compassion, to the God of love and mercy, who, knowing the world in which we live, its sorrows, violence, possibilities and challenges, reminds us that God is close to us, among us, teaching us to walk, raising us up in arms of love, curing, freeing us from yokes… placing ourselves in the Open Heart of Jesus, wherein lies our only hope, our spes unica...