We are called today –
To be people of the heart, to be those for whom love takes form, not in the Valentine form, but in the real stuff of life.
I am a Religious of the Sacred Heart, an international congregation of women for whom our charism animates both our identity and mission “to discover and reveal God’s love.”
We are drawn to the heart of Jesus, the heart of God – where the heart of humanity is united in the paschal mystery of both suffering and incarnation…where all is one.
It is from that heart, opened by love and my mission as an educator with a passion for justice and the spirit of an artist who is really a story-teller that I am here to break open the scripture with you.
My parents were married for 66 years – 66 real years of the tough stuff of life – from my father’s years in the Navy, to raising five kids in tough economic times, to the losses and re-imagining that happens with dreams lost and found – and with 17 geographic moves along life’s journey – it was the real stuff of life. What love looks like that requires a faith that depends on hope in something unseen.
After my mother died, my father was lost. He had planned to go first. A diabetic – every night at 10 pm, he and my mother shared a snack that helped regulate his blood sugar through the night. Every night at 10 pm – they broke bread – literally they ate toast.
I was with my father a couple of weeks after my mother died, and it was 10 pm and I said to him, “I’ll go and make us some toast.” He shook his head with definitive clarity – “No. No toast.” Presuming this was to protect his open heart of grief, I said, “Because you ate toast with Mom every night?”
“No” he said, “Because I hate toast.” I was baffled and sat back down. “Wait. For 66 years, every night you ate toast and you don’t like toast?” “That’s right” he replied. “Why didn’t you ever say something? I queried. “Because your mother loved toast. That’s why I ate toast.”
That’s what it means, for me, to dwell in the heart of God. It is not soft or luxurious. It is to be so willing to step outside the ego of self that we are drawn into the heart of another. We are drawn into the heart of God… Sometimes we are the one who makes the toast for another and sometimes we are the one who eats it because that’s what love calls us to do. It is never one or the other – it is always both/and.
We live in a divided world and we are the instruments of the heart of God, who choose to build bridges of relationship in places, structures, attitudes and experiences of difference. We do not remain in the polarity, but live from the unity of knowing that we – each one of us – has the possibility of prophet or persecutor.
Today’s readings might seem to create the image of a dualism of polarity. Like the culture in which we experience so much of our lives these days, the “in and the out” – the path of the one Jeremiah illuminates between barren and fertile – as Paul separates the believers in resurrection and the unenlightened, or the psalmist who shares the way of the wicked and the prosperity of the one planted near the running streams. It is not hard to know where we want to be.
And yet, as I approach 25 years of sitting at 12 step recovery meetings, I stand in the midst of the plains with Luke, listening to the words of Jesus, and I know that my journey has been one where I have stood on both the side of the “Blessed Builders” and the side of the “Woe Warned” –
I have been among the persecuted and the prophetic. I have stood as one who has judged those I have determined unworthy and one who has been judged and in need of the compassion and forgiveness in the experience of being human. I have stood in the midst of those whose commitment to Catholic Social Teaching leads to presence in places of active protest and public witness, and I have seen compassion and right action from those with whom I stand in opposition and judge as in need of “woe-warning.”
Each of us, I believe, at some moment in our lives, can find ourselves among the wheat and chaff. At some moment, we feel ourselves a barren bush in the desert and at other times a tree planted beside the waters near the stream. There are moments in each of our lives when hope in the God of yield and plenty has felt distant and others when we rejoice in our presence as one whose life proclaims resurrection. Many of us, I suspect – if not all of us – find ourselves as those who are “Blessed-bringers” and those who receive the “Woe-warning” as we hear in the Gospel today. No one of us is given lifetime admittance to those who make the dream of God – the Kingdom of God—come true - forever in our midst.
Today, we are issued both an invitation and a choice. God leaves us free to look within our heart and see what love calls us to do – AND where our feet take us. Do we nourish the soil on which we are planted by keeping our eyes open, our hearts wide, and our hands outstretched? Our past history, our giving record – the social action we took yesterday does not exempt us from the discerning heart that requires that our insides and our outsides match- today. I am challenged again, in this day – to make my life the Gospel read by another – to make visible the vision of Jesus and the tools he left us. When was the last time I washed the feet of the ‘woe warned’ or allowed my own heart to be cleansed?
When our eyes are open to the needs of the person next to us – when we can see the inequality promulgated by silence – then, we know that the dream of God (the Kingdom of God) in our midst –requires something of us today. Where will our feet take us? Love demands doing something with our feet.
In our midst is the invitation and the call – to make room at the table for both the Blessed Bringers and the Woe-Warned – where each of us makes room for the other – I for you and you for me – no matter what category we place one another -- so that we might hope again – that the dream of God is our dream…
A dream where we will each have the chance to make the toast and to eat the toast of love.
To be the bread of life with for one another.
What does love ask of us this day?
Bridget Bearss, RSCJ
Bridget Bearss, RSCJ
Bridget Bearss, RSCJ is an educator, artist-writer, activist for the Beatitudes, and facilitator of processes to build and strengthen the experience of communities of dialogue, justice and hope.
She is a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart, United States-Canada Province, currently serving as Executive Director of a work of her congregation, Stuart Center for Mission. Stuart Center hosts the work of the United States-Canada Province, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation office, provides conference space for religious communities and faith based non-profit groups to gather, retreat and create, and is the home for the work of the CEDC design center which creates web and graphic design for non-profit organizations which share the priorities of the Society of the Sacred Heart.
As a Religious of the Sacred Heart, the integration of contemplation and apostolic mission into a single movement is a source of both inspiration and life-integration for her. It is the journey of living from the heart of God into the heart of the world that most characterizes her journey.
She is a graduate of two university communities in St. Louis, Maryville University (BA in education) and Washington University (MEd/Educational Policies and Leadership). Prior to moving to Washington, DC in 2018, she spent 35 years working in the Network of Sacred Heart Schools, 26 years at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, Bloomfield Hills, MI.
She loves the exploration of the pathway to justice, education and spirituality through the presence with and among the people of God. She brings her creative energy and the heart of an educator to whatever unfolds in each day.
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