Last Friday was the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I was in Casper, WY at Our Lady of Fatima Parish to celebrate Mass and dedicate a new statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The next day I celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Parish in Casper where I dedicated a Celtic cross donated in memory of all the foreign-born Irish priests who have served in this diocese. It was so good to be in Casper and meet the people of the area.
If you know someone’s heart is to know the person. Maybe that is why the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is so powerful. By his pierced heart Jesus humbly invites us to know him and to be with him. Praying with the image of Jesus’ heart is to have an intimate conversation with Jesus himself. And through his heart Jesus shows us the Father’s heart. He brings us to that place of abiding with the Father.
So let’s ponder the heart of Christ. This passage from Matthew’s gospel is a rare moment when Jesus describes his own heart. “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Matt. 11:29).
How often do you think of Jesus as “MEEK and HUMBLE”? We think of him as almighty with power to heal, to calm storms, to cast out demons and to raise the dead. Meek and humble are not the first words that come to my mind about Jesus, but here, that is how he describes himself.
In the Old Testament, the words meek and humble are used to describe the anawim, or the poor who trust in God to rescue them. The meek person has a gentle strength. The meek man is often afflicted or beaten down; yet he knows that God has his back. In the Bible, the meek have an acute sense of how weak they are by themselves, but they trust in God as their rock and strength. That is why the meek person has a gentle strength.
We’ve all met people who are so strong and calm in distressing circumstances. That is what I am talking about. In my life one of those people was Leona Ryan, an elderly lady on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. When her husband Gene died I was working in Rome, so I called to offer my sympathy. I said that I was sorry to hear of the loss of her husband, and she immediately replied in a matter of fact and almost forceful voice, “Father when you have God with you, you can do anything.”
Now, if you didn’t know Leona you might think that she was avoiding the pain, or hiding in a false piety. But her response was true to her spirituality, “When you have God with you, you can do anything.” That is the kind of gentle yet fierce strength that Jesus had as he went to the cross. Imagine what it was like the day of the crucifixion to hear Jesus say, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they do.” He does not have to force his way. But with gentle strength, rock solid in the Father’s love, he offers us a fierce unfaltering forgiveness.
Today, we marvel at the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a meek and humble heart. This is the secret to his greatness. In his little book Poverty in Spirit, Johannes Metz said that Jesus’ poverty in spirit, or humility, was the secret to his greatness. Because Jesus stood before the Father with open and empty hands, he was granted all of the Father’s gifts. So he says in this gospel, “All things have been given to me by my Father” (Matt. 11:27).
Jesus says, “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” The meek and humble Jesus invites us to follow this way in the Beatitudes.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit’ who humbly and totally depend on God.
“Blessed are the meek” who are gentle and unassuming before others.
Today, we ask Jesus for the grace to be meek and humble like him, to trust completely in the Father to carry us through every trial. The person with a meek and humble heart receives the immensity of God’s mercy and emanates that mercy to others.