Monday, February 17, 2020

Jesus "Groaned Deeply"

I have recently been thinking about our Lord's Sacred Heart; and because of that, I've been struck by the past week's Gospel readings. 

On Friday we heard how Jesus healed a man born deaf, and who had a speech impediment: "then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, 'Ephphatha!' (that is, 'Be opened!')" (Mk 7:34). On Saturday, in the account of Jesus feeding the four thousand, the Lord says, "My heart is moved with pity [splagxnízomai] for the crowd" (Mk 8:2). Jesus was moved in His "inward parts," in his "entrails." And now this morning we hear of His reaction to the Pharisees' demand for a sign: "He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, 'Why does this generation seek a sign?'" (Mk 8:12).

All of this reminds me of the need to remain engaged, to be a person of feeling. In all honesty, it's far to easy for me to put up walls, to interiorly distance myself, from the pain that surrounds me. It's a defense mechanism, for fear of being overwhelmed. But the danger is for that to become my default position instead of a defense. Yes, love is an act of the will; but in Christ we see it engaging His entire Person. I hear Christ's warning to the apostles about the difficult times ahead, "because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold" (Mt. 24:12). I don't want that to be me.

I'm not giving up, though. Because at the same time I hear the warning, I remember the promise: Jesus' gives us His Spirit, the very Love between the Father and the Son, to act in us. And just as Jesus groaned from the depths of His heart, so the Spirit both groans within us (Rom 8:26-27) and moves us to cry out to God from our depths (Rom 8:23; Gal 4:6). We are not left to our own strength.

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