Good Zeal

“First, you take a maple sapling…”

Conversation topics amongst the theology students here are often wide ranging. At dinnertime one night this week, as we moved from Heidegger to hunting (I am not kidding!), we stopped briefly on the topic of homemade snow shoes. One student actually knew how to make them and began, “First, you take a maple sapling and bend it into an oval.” The instructions went on from there, but I was already captivated by the initial image of a young tree that, instead of becoming protecting shade, becomes a protecting shoe that prevents one from sinking into the snowy depths.

The pliability of a young tree is such an appropriate image for the flexibility and adaptability required of monastics as we engage in the conversion of heart to which the Rule of Benedict calls us. This adaptability isn’t just the practical kind where you can shift your activities as easily as a conversation can move from Heidegger to hunting. Rather, it’s about the capacity to interiorly move and breathe and bend and grow as we are formed more and more into the likeness of Christ. To borrow words from Ezekiel, we exchange a heart of stone for a heart of flesh.

Today, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we commemorate the expansiveness of Jesus’ heart, a heart that encompasses in love all being, all time, all creatures… A heart that provides shelter from heat and protection from the miry deeps… A heart that pours itself out in self-giving love… May our hearts beat, move and expand with and in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, encompassing in love all those to whom God calls us in service.

“…As we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexspressible delight of love.” (Rule of Benedict, Prologue, 49)

Postscript: I remain here at Saint John’s with two more weeks of class yet to go. Then home to Sacred Heart!

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