It is quite by accident that today's commemoration of St. John Eudes coincides with the readings for Thursday of the twentieth week in ordinary time. In today's first reading from Ezekiel, we hear the Lord promising the Israelites that he will replace their "stony" hearts with "natural hearts." How fitting a reading for this 17th century apostle of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!
What is promised, metaphorically, to the Israelites in exile is given, spiritually, to Christians who seek to conform their hearts to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The process by which our hearts become more like the Heart of the Savior is an exercise in expansion. Our hearts cannot grow to be like His Sacred Heart and make room for others if we ourselves are strangers to suffering.
When we experience sufferings -- be they circumstances which befall us, illnesses that afflict our loved ones, the grief of losing a family member or a close friend or *merely* the vicissitudes of daily life: the little injustices and unkindnesses which remind us that we're still on the near side of eternity -- we find that, here and there, these sufferings tear open the corners of our hearts. And as painful as that may be, our hearts are ever more capable of opening wider and wider to the needs and cares of those around us. What happens when our hearts are perforated by suffering? Wounded ourselves, we become aware of the need to be gentle with the wounds of others. We enter more tenderly into the lives of those whom the Lord has put in our path. Ever more keenly will we feel the pain of those who entrust their cares to us; ever more deeply will we experience their joy. The price of conforming our hearts to the Throne of Mercy which was pierced for love of us: nothing less than everything. The reward: a profound joy which is out of this world -- literally and figuratively.
"This heart in love with its God, desiring infinitely to love, sees notwithstanding that it can neither love nor desire sufficiently. And this desire which cannot come to effect is as a dart in the side of a noble spirit; yet the pain which proceeds from it is welcome, because whosoever desires earnestly to love, loves also earnestly to desire, and would esteem himself the most miserable man in the universe if he did not continually desire to love that which is so sovereignly worthy of love. Desiring to love, he receives pain; but loving to desire, he receives sweetness."
St. Francis de Sales