Hospitality of the Heart
by Catherine Doherty
Long ago and far away the disciple John, an ordinary man, laid his head on the breast of Jesus, his Lord, and listened to his heartbeat. Jesus and John ("the one whom Jesus loved") and the other disciples were preparing to eat their last supper together. Who can venture to guess what John felt as he heard the beat of Jesus' mighty heart? None of us can ever be in his place, but all of us can hear, if we will but listen, the heartbeats of God, the song of love he sings to us. For he has loved us all so much!
If we love him back we can learn from everything and from every creature the answering song of love that should swell in our hearts.
If we stop to listen to nature, to its rhythm and its songs of obedience to the laws of its Creator, we can hear and learn how to sing our love song back to the Creator as well.
If we listen to the songs of the city, to the noises that sometimes irritate us, we can realize that even they, in their own way, praise God. If we keep machines in their place – as our servants and instruments of love and not our masters – their songs praise God also. Yes, even machines can teach us how to return the love of Jesus' Sacred Heart.
If we ponder deeply the themes of the Scriptures and Prayer of the Church, we will distinctly hear the loving, powerful, immense heartbeat of God. In fact, we will hear his heart speaking to us.
If we meditate on the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist we will not only hear his heartbeat, we will hear our hearts beating in unison with his; we will be in communion with our Lord and our God.
So let us enter the great silence of our own souls. Let us pray there humbly, lovingly, plunging into the riches of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Then we shall know God in a way that no book can tell us or teach us. Then we will love him so passionately, so tremendously, so utterly and completely, that it will become simple for us to be the kind of Christians we must be. We will not have to say very much. We will only have to walk upright, crying the gospel with our lives, reflecting our Lover in our faces.
Every person is on a pilgrimage, seeking to encounter others like himself. The greatest need of all is the need to be loved. But we pass by one another without noticing, without stopping, without the slightest sign of recognition. This is why modern man daily comes closer and closer to despair, and why he frantically continues to search for the one who will love him.
Everyone's search is for God. But God isn't easily found if he isn't reflected in the eyes of men. It is time that Christians began to take notice of each person they meet. Each person is a brother or sister in Christ, who must be "recognized". Each person must be given a token of friendship and love, be it only a smile, a nod of the head. Sometimes it may require the total availability of one person to another if they are to fulfil a particular person's hunger for God. Such love and recognition must always be given with deep reverence, irrespective of the status of the person encountered.
What the world needs most today is the hospitality of the heart. The hospitality of the heart means accepting all others as they are, allowing them to make themselves at home in our heart.
For human beings, the heart has in many cultures been a symbol of love. So to be at home in another person's heart is to touch love, the love of a brother or sister in Christ. And to touch the love of another means to begin to recognize the love of God. For it is by being loved by another – our neighbour – that we can begin to understand that God loves us.
This is especially necessary in this modern age because of the strange technological loneliness that has separated us so thoroughly not only from our neighbours, but from our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, in short, from all our relations. Our technological age has begotten a terrible loneliness!
We have to shed our "stiff upper lips." We have to be open to one another, share with one another, express our love for one another. We can only do this if we open the doors of our hearts now, before they are frozen shut by our technological achievements!
Yes, we must open the doors of our hearts. We must open the doors of our homes. We must accept people as they are. We must serve them, and we must show them the wounds of our love. Love is always wounded because love and pain are inseparable.
The Lord said we must love our enemies. Until we do we cannot show Christ to others. We must go further: We must lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. By emptying ourselves, according to his commandment of love, and with his grace, we can allow God to love in us.
The world needs the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The world needs human hearts united to his Sacred Heart. The world needs human hearts united to each other through their communion in his heart. Without love the world is very dark. Let us arise and resurrect the world by bringing love to it and it to God.
We must begin to give the hospitality of the heart. We must open ourselves to a sharing of friendship that is rooted in the very heart of Christ whom we call our friend.
Adapted from The Gospel Without Compromise by Catherine Doherty
Copyright: Madonna House – With Permission. Creative Commons License