Ask with heart

Juan José Silvestre-June 1, 2016-Reading time: 6 minutes

After the strong season of the liturgical year which, centering on Easter, lasts for three months - first the forty days of Lent and then the fifty days of the Easter Season - the liturgy offers us three feasts that have a "synthetic" character: the Holy Trinity, Easter, the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit. Corpus Christi and finally, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This last solemnity makes us consider the Heart of Jesus and, with it, his whole person because the heart is the summary and the source, the expression and the ultimate background of thoughts, words and actions: "God is love." (1 Jn 4, 8). When, with the communion antiphon of this solemnity, we place our gaze on the pierced side of Christ, of which St. John speaks (cf. 19:37), we understand the Evangelist's very strong affirmation in his first letter: "God is love.". "It is there, on the cross, that this truth can be contemplated. And it is from there that we must now define what love is. And, from that gaze, the Christian finds the orientation of his life and his love." (Deus caritas est, 12).

Sacred Heart
The Feast of the Sacred Heart makes it easier for us to open our hearts, helps us to see with our hearts. It is good to remember that the Fathers of the Church considered that the greatest sin of the pagan world was its insensitivity, its hardness of heart, and they often quoted the prophecy of the prophet Ezekiel: "I will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (cfr. Ez 36, 26). To convert to Christ, to become a Christian, meant to receive a heart of flesh, a heart sensitive to the passion and suffering of others. It is also Pope Francis who, in our day, forcefully reminds us that a globalization of indifference is spreading more and more: "In this world of globalization we have fallen into the globalization of indifference. We have become accustomed to the suffering of others, it has nothing to do with us, it doesn't matter to us, it doesn't concern us!" and that is why he asked with intensity: "God of mercy and Father of all, awaken us from the slumber of indifference, opens our eyes to their suffering and deliver us from insensitivity, the fruit of worldly well-being and from closing in on ourselves". (Francis, Prayer in memory of the victims of migration, Lesbos, 16-IV-2016).

We must be imbued with the reality that our God is not a distant God untouchable in his bliss. Our God has a heart; indeed, he has a heart of flesh. He became flesh precisely so that he could suffer with us and be with us in our sufferings. He became man to give us a heart of flesh and to awaken in us a love for those who suffer, for those in need. As St. Josemaría graphically said: "Notice that God does not declare to us: instead of the heart, I will give you a will of pure spirit. No: he gives us a heart, and a heart of flesh, like that of Christ. I do not count on one heart to love God, and on another to love the people of the earth. With the same heart with which I have loved my parents and I love my friends, with that same heart I love Christ, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit and Holy Mary. I will never tire of repeating it: we have to be very human; otherwise, we cannot be divine either." (It is Christ who passes, 166).

Tears of Jesus

An admirable manifestation of this heart of flesh of Christ is that our God knows how to weep. This is one of the most moving pages of the Gospel: when Jesus saw Mary weeping over the death of her brother Lazarus, even he could not hold back his tears. He experienced a deep shock and burst into tears (cf. Jn 11:33-35). "The evangelist John, with this description, shows how Jesus unites himself to the sorrow of his friends by sharing their grief. The tears of Jesus have puzzled many theologians over the centuries, but above all they have washed many souls, they have soothed many wounds" (Francis, Vigil of Tears, 5-V-2016). In the face of bewilderment, disconsolation, tears, from the co- reason of Christ flows prayer to the Father. "Prayer is the true medicine for our suffering" (idem).

Ask for forgiveness of sins

In the Holy Mass there are many moments in which we encounter the prayer to the Father in the face of suffering and pain for sins committed, the true source of all evil. One of them is the prayer that the priest addresses to God at the conclusion of the penitential act of the Mass: "May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and bring us to eternal life". This formula is already found in the 13th century manuscript of the Archive of Santa Maria Maggiore, and we also find it, in a similar way, in the 10th century Roman-Germanic Pontifical, among the prayers that, in the ordinances of public or private penance, accompanied the penitent's confession.

These words of supplication to God addressed by the priest, in which he asks in a general way for the forgiveness of sins ("dimissis peccatis nostris"), manifest his function as mediator, The Church is the sacramental representative of Christ, who always intercedes for us before the Father.

In considering that role of mediator, of intercessor of the priest, we can consider some words of Pope Francis in which he reminds priests of the need for the gift of tears. "In what way does the priest accompany and make grow on the path of holiness? Through pastoral suffering, which is a form of mercy. What does pastoral suffering mean? It means to suffer for and with people. And this is not easy. To suffer as a father and a mother suffer for their children; I would even say, with anxiety....

To explain myself, I ask you some questions that help me when a priest comes to me. They also help me when I am alone before the Lord. Tell me: do you cry, or have we lost our tears? I remember that in the old Missals, those of another era, there is a beautiful prayer to ask for the gift of tears. The prayer began like this: 'Lord, you who gave Moses the command to strike the stone so that water would flow, strike the stone of my heart so that tears would flow...': that was more or less the prayer. It was very beautiful. But how many of us cry before the suffering of a child, before the destruction of a family, before so many people who cannot find their way... The cry of the priest... Do you cry? Or have we lost our tears in this presbytery? Do you cry for your people? Tell me, do you pray the prayer of intercession before the tabernacle? Do you wrestle with the Lord for your people, as Abraham wrestled: 'What if there were fewer? What if there were 25? What if there were 20?...' (cf. Gen 18:22-33). That courageous prayer of intercession... We speak of parresia, of apostolic courage, and we think of pastoral projects, this is fine, but parresia itself is also necessary in prayer. Do you struggle with the Lord? Do you argue with the Lord as Moses did? When the Lord was fed up, tired of his people and said to him: 'You be still... I will destroy them all, and I will make you the leader of another people. No, no! If you destroy the people, you destroy me too'. They had the pants! And I ask a question: Do we have the pants to fight with God for our people?" (Francis, Address to the clergy of the diocese of Rome, 6.III.2014) How much good it would do us to pray this short prayer with the spirit of intercession of which the Holy Father speaks to us, with a true heart of flesh!

Our sins

Returning to the prayer, with its verb in the subjunctive, it expresses a wish or promise, so that the formula is presented as a supplication addressed to God. In this context, the Missal expressly recalls that this absolution lacks the efficacy proper to the sacrament of Penance (cf. Roman Missal, GIRM, n. 51). A final detail of this formula of absolution is the use of the first person plural ("we... our sins... take us") which shows that the priest, who had joined the assembly in the general confession, now also feels in need of the propitiatory value of the Eucharist and seeks to dispose himself to the fruitful participation of the Holy Mass through a suitable spirit of penance. The priest intercedes before the Father, but he is also a member of the People of God. Like any member of the faithful who participates in the celebration, the celebrant recognizes himself as a sinner, needing to dispose himself fruitfully to the celebration, confessing that he is a sinner and invoking the purification that comes from God. As St. Augustine recalled: "I, brethren, because God has willed it, am certainly his priest, but I am a sinner, and with you I beat my breast and with you I ask forgiveness" (St. Augustine, Sermon 135, 7). Thus, the whole Church "is at once holy and always in need of purification, and constantly seeks conversion and renewal" (Lumen gentium, n. 8).

This brief prayer reminds us that I ask God for forgiveness, for only He can grant it to me, and at the same time, I ask forgiveness with the whole Church and for the whole Church. In this way to celebrate is really to celebrate "with" the Church: the heart is enlarged and one does not do something, but is with the Church in conversation with God.

La Brújula Newsletter Leave us your email and receive every week the latest news curated with a catholic point of view.