Open my heart! In all the opening to God that I have sought to practice in these days of Lent, the most important one is to open my heart. I feel as if I have an open heart, have invited its blossoming and strengthened it for years, but as I take the turn in to Holy Week, I see the true exemplar of an open heart in Jesus.
Each gospel tells a unique story of good news in its version of the Jesus story; I am most drawn to John, whose storytelling I have been reading this Lent. I have been struck again by the number of unlikely people and systems to whom Jesus opened his heart: someone of another ethnicity; someone of another theological point of view; an insignificant housekeeper, Peter’s mother-in-law. In his encounter with the young man called a rich ruler he wasn’t taken with his money of his intellect, but looking at him, he loved him. With little children, he didn’t find them a nuisance, but invited them to come up and engage him. He had a capacity to see beyond the initial impression of each one and beyond what the projections of the culture was into the soul of a person, made in the image of the Holy One. Even in his own extremity of death from the cross, he opened his heart to the thief executed next to him, to his mother–entrusting her to John, and to all those who conspired and acted to kill him, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing”
As I have been attending to my own openings, I see how what can seem to be appropriate boundary setting is often a closing of my heart to the God-shaped soul of the persons I encounter if I am not mindful and attentive. Each person that I ask to be of use to me–to cut my hair, to help me find something in a store, to show me how to use a new gadget–is someone made in the image of God, who has a story to tell, who is worthy of love. My call is open my heart to that soul for the time I am with them with attentiveness, love, and non-judgement. I too often don’t remember that call to an opening of my heart.
I watched a movie called “Nebraska” this week on Netflix, highly acclaimed from two years ago. The spine of the story was a son’s open-heartedness toward his aging, alcoholic and confused father. On the surface there was very little that was winsome or even tolerable about that father, but the son kept opening his heart and his action to his dad because he saw his heart and soul. It was breath-taking! Later in the week I saw an interview with the father of one of the victims of the Germanwings flight in France. He was grieving for his own son, but his deeper concern was for the parents of the co-pilot who apparently has deliberately killed the entire airplane; again, I witnessed his compassion for them and for their journey of grief which was astonishing and full of grace.
As I travel this week which we as Christians call holy, I am looking again at Jesus and those he encountered even as his went toward his own death, and at the way his heart never closed–even toward those who denied and betrayed him. I am looking at the exemplars in this world whose heart stay open against all odds int he face of unbearable oppression, cruelty and injustice. And I ask the Spirit for the courage and the Grace to be one of the open-hearted ones, who as Isaiah commended, is not one who points the finger speaking evil, but rather offers food for the hungry and satisfies the needs of the afflicted (Isa. 58: 9-10). I want with my open heart, not only to allow the angels to feed me as thy have throughout Lent, but to be one who sees, who feeds, who helps heal the wounds of this fractured world.
Personal photo of work by Judy Chicago, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico.