by Sister Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH
This is a reprint of a letter that is circulated among the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart on the Feast Day of the Sacred Heart, June 27.
In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola invites us to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation. In so doing, we are exhorted to envision the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – looking upon our world: “Men and women being born and being laid to rest, some getting married and others getting divorced, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the happy and the sad, so many people aimless, despairing, hateful, and killing, so many undernourished, sick, and dying, so many struggling with life and blind to any meaning. With God, we can hear people laughing and crying, some shouting and screaming, some praying, others cursing”.
And then, “The leap of divine joy: God knows that the time has come when the mystery of salvation, hidden from the beginning of the world, will shine into human darkness and confusion. It is as if I can hear the Divine Persons saying, “Let us work the redemption of the whole human race; let us respond to the groaning of all creation.” (*)
From this Trinitarian relationship of love, God took on human form in the person of Jesus. In the words of Wendy Wright, “When the mystery of the Godhead spoke itself to the world that had emerged from its own ripe, generative belly, it spoke in the language of the heart. It spoke a tenderness so poignant it would break our hearts if only we would be still enough…It is said, in the devotional tradition, that when the body of God was broken open so we could peer inside to divinity’s innermost depths, it was discovered that the heart itself was pierced. Not by the soldier’s lance, for that entered the body’s right side. Instead, the heart, lodged in the chest’s left cavity, was pierced by Love’s own longing”. (**)
The history of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart reveals a heartfelt response of love to the love and longing of the Heart of Jesus. Mary Frances Cunningham’s vision of an apostolic community of women who live among and minister to those in need mirrors the Trinity’s own desire for an intimate relationship with human creation. Her response, and that of hundreds of sisters through the years, was one of relationship and intimacy. She and they worked to break down barriers that divide and oppress people; that blind them to their identity as beloved of God. In her own words, “As Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart we should strive ever more earnestly that the love that brought Jesus to earth be our distinguishing mark, the sign by which all may know that we follow closely in Jesus’ footsteps.”
As we look to our future as a Community, filled with hope yet cognizant that there are challenges that we must engage, we will be well served to remember that the heart is a dynamic place of change and exchange. Wendy Wright states that “…God’s heart is the center where all paradoxes are held in tension. Christianity is a religion of paradoxes. Three in one. Fully God and fully human. Life born through death…The tradition of the Sacred Heart seems to me to be a vehicle through which we locate the place of paradoxical convergence. The heart is at the center of God’s body, the center of the liturgy, the center of our redemption, and the center of the universe. There all things converge, but their convergence does not dilute distinctiveness into sameness. Instead, the incredible tension of holding opposites together generates intense creativity. For the center is not static but dynamic, and the existence of paradox there is not chaotic but life-giving.”(**)
Grounded in our relationship with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with each other, and with all we encounter, we can turn toward our future with hope and courage. Happy Feast Day!
(*) “Draw Me Into Your Friendship” by David Fleming SJ
(**) “Sacred Heart: Gateway to God” by Wendy Wright