Ambiguity, abundance and the Open Heart

Here in the northern hemisphere there is a real lushness to June: a greenness, a blossoming of wide-open peonies and poppies and roses, greenery and flowers tumbling, cascading over borders, an abundance of life all around. And it occurs to me that this is very right for the month of the Sacred Heart; a wide-open Heart, source of an abundant outpouring of love, and of so much life, in all its fullness and abundance.

And yet, alongside all this life, our world is full of so much pain, injustice and legalised cruelty. Today, World Refugee Day, there are children crying for their parents near the US border, boats sailing precariously on the Mediterranean and people fleeing bombing in Yemen and elsewhere, to name only a few instances of suffering and desperation - and people who are indifferent or uncaring.  Last week I wrote about this co-existence of beatitude and pain, and how both can be held within the Heart of Jesus. And then the other day, as I was dipping into the letters and conferences of Helen McLaughlin RSCJ (Superior General of our Society from 1982 - 1994), I came across something which struck me as containing a very relevant message for these mixed-up, suffering times, and for the signs of life and hope to which many of us cling.

In June 1984, as per a Society tradition, Helen gave the group about to make their perpetual vows a name and devise (motto), which she then expanded on in her conference. The group's name was The Open Heart, with the devise “I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance” (Jn 10: 10). Sometimes the connection between name and devise is immediately apparent; at others, it is only clear to the group, who have lived the experience which makes them both significant, if only to them. Here, the link corresponded with my own summertime thoughts, springing from our spirituality, on the open Heart, life and abundance.

And then I read on, as Helen expanded on all this...

This Heart is open, not as a public place or a “pensione” is open, nor without pain or difficulty. If this Heart is open, it is because of a wound... This opening leads us into a new life. From this Heart, because it has been opened, springs a source of living water... In the whole Gospel, Jesus reveals to us that He is Life, but this revelation culminates in this image of the open Heart... He did not come to give life to an ideal world: no, it is a wounded Heart that gives life to a world full of ambiguity, of suffering... this bursting forth of life, this superabundance of life, springing from a Heart that has been touched by suffering.

Here we have a paradox as breathtaking as it is bold. Jesus is Life... but this culminates in a body which is dead and disfigured... and yet it is from the very heart and depths of this that he is able to give life, in abundance and in perpetuity. And Jesus is fullness and strength, though his Heart was wounded - is still wounded; and it is precisely this wounded Heart that gives life to a world full of ambiguity, of suffering. And it is this Heart, too, which holds all the ambiguity, all that is dead and in need of healing.

Probation conferences are addressed to a particular group, at a particular time, but their calls and challenges can be universal, and rarely grow stale. So today, for me, there is the reminder that today, tomorrow and afterwards, we have this mission to give life, there wherever the Society may send us, to everyone whom the Lord puts in “our road”... and that somehow, quietly, mysteriously, it is always a wounded Heart that gives life to a world full of ambiguity, of suffering...