By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published January 9, 2020
Maybe it’s the darkness, the steady rainfall, the dreary skies, but January has always seemed like the longest two months of the year. Yes, two months, because it seems to drag on forever.
Evening Mass helps keep me centered on Christ, on the things that last, rather than the passing fancies of the world. The candles on the altar battle the descending darkness and the brilliance of the host sheds Christ’s light throughout the chapel.
Jesus was the light of the world, the one who “came unto his own,” but they knew him not. As St. John tells us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Driving home from Mass in the dark, I’m sometimes unexpectedly overwhelmed by sorrow, and walk into the house in tears. The rational part of me says that suffering comes to everyone, and everyone dies.
“The heart has its reasons that reason does not know,” said Pascal. And that’s the crux of the matter, of course.
We can tell ourselves that everyone loses someone dear to them. Everyone falls into the deep well of loneliness at one time or another. This is simply the human condition.
Still, Jesus wept over Lazarus’ death, even though Jesus knew Lazarus would rise from the dead. And Jesus surely wept when he heard about the death of that kind and godly man, John the Baptist.
Grief comes from the heart, the part that reason doesn’t control. The door of the heart is where Jesus awaits us.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” he tells us. “If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me.”
Sometimes, during good, happy times, we forget he’s out there. We forget that he’s the foundation of our world. And then our world shifts and shatters, and the barriers around our hearts break down.
And the words of Oscar Wilde ring true: “How else but through a broken heart may Lord Christ enter in?”
Tiny children have no barriers around their hearts, no walls, no protective mechanisms. A harsh word, a look can bring on tears. “He hurt my feelings” can be the only explanation for a meltdown.
As we grow up, we start building protective walls, we stop crying when someone calls us a harsh name. We pretend it doesn’t matter when someone disappoints us, someone betrays us.
We do exactly what Jesus warned against—we harden our hearts. And when hearts are overly hardened, we turn away from God. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
During Christmas week, I was with my cousin Julie and her husband, Charles, in Florida. They have four sons and nine grandchildren. The mornings were quiet—cups of coffee, bowls of cereal in the serenity of a still house.
Then came knocking at the door and the parade of grandchildren arrived, along with toys, stuffed animals, books and games. Hugs were generously doled out by the children, especially by one fellow, Seth, who nestles against me so tenderly.
God came into the world as a baby, who needed love, protection and nurturing. He asks us to do what seems impossible, which is to have a radical conversion of heart.
We have to become like little children. That means vulnerable, unguarded, tender, fully alive.
That can be scary, because children’s feelings are so intense. They are so vulnerable and easily hurt, just like Jesus was when he was led, like a tender lamb, to slaughter.
Tears are part of becoming like a child. We can’t build a barrier big enough to keep out tears. But Jesus has told us, “I will give you rest.”
As children of God, we must trust that he loves us, he has a plan for us and he won’t abandon us. As God’s children, we must open wide the door to our hearts.
True, we may at times slip and fall back into the darkness, but when we do, let’s cling to the promise that never fails. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Artwork by Lorraine’s late husband, Jef, who was also the model for the sketch. Lorraine’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.