What the beloved disciple felt
in listening to the heartbeat of Christ
as he leaned against his breast
at the Last Supper
the night before he died:
Ah, my Jesus, my dear friend!
What I feel beating within your Sacred Heart!
I lean against your loving breast
as you speak to us, your Apostles,
and as you give to us that bread, that wine,
which, you say (and I believe),
has become your very Body and Blood.
I feel something so deep it is inexpressible,
a heartbeat that sounds continually
as your own, and not your own alone.
The Father is in you, and you in the Father.
Ah! And even when you speak of betrayal,
when you foretell for us your suffering,
and darkness crosses your countenance
(a darkness taken from us in compassionate love),
I sense something present in your very words,
and indeed burning like a flame in the darkness
of your anguish and your pain.
I cannot give it any other name, than:
All that you are, Jesus, is pure Joy,
and all that you do springs from joy.
From joy it springs and joy it deepens,
joy it seeks to spread and share
to every heart willing to welcome it.
I realize, in the beating of your Heart,
the truth that you have been teaching me:
that God is LOVE.
And now, in this place of intimacy
where we, your disciples, share with you,
and where you unveil before us your inner Heart
in its prayer before the Father, in its compassion for us…
in this place, my Jesus, I recognize the truth:
that LOVE and JOY are one and the same.
You are Love, my God incarnate,
and you are Joy, burning in our sorrowful world,
loving us joyfully to the end,
so as to take us up to rest, to rejoice,
in your love and your joy, forevermore.
The person cannot live and act
except through the motive of joy—
not only toward a joy that is sought
but from a joy that is a starting-point,
the place from which life and action spring.
This is why they don’t understand obedience,
nor fidelity, nor radical self-giving,
who see it as an external demand,
rather than as the mature fruit of joy
blossoming forth in the flower and fruit of joy.
When there is no joy in an act,
in a word, a disposition, in concrete life,
then it is dead and lifeless, meaningless.
For joy is not some merely subjective feeling
but the simple awareness of enfolding gift,
of gift made present in this moment,
and of gift beckoning to yet greater union
with the beauty of the gift,
and especially of the Giver.
Joy is simply the echo of meaning,
the acknowledgment of purposefulness,
the touch of beauty, goodness, and truth
present lovingly to the receptive heart.
Indeed, joy is the kiss of life and sacredness,
the meeting and embrace of lover and beloved
in the shared movement of their giving.
When the heart despairs of joy
then it begins to live through empty demand,
a responsibility that bears no inherent meaning,
no inner movement of expansiveness.
Or perhaps even this heaviness bears seeds of joy,
as hidden and dry as they may be,
for with not a trace of joy—as presence or hope—
there is no possibility of living or acting at all.
The seeds of joy in the human heart
are only in need of moisture to germinate,
the touch of the gift inundating the soul
through an encounter with the beauty,
with the goodness of what truly is.
But the other danger is that the heart,
feeling like joy is too distant or difficult,
will settle for pleasure and for ease.
But this is directly contrary to the movement of joy,
for joy of its nature is expansive—an ecstasy—
whereas pleasure is a narrowing in possessiveness.
Here it is clear how sin is sadness,
the betrayal of the joy of God’s loving gift.
The heart, created for Love and within Love,
seeks to grasp for itself immediate pleasure
and the ease and exhilaration of control.
Therefore it collapses in upon itself
and loses its sensitivity to the joy of gift,
to the enfolding presence of the One who is Love,
who cradles the beloved ceaselessly in his arms.
It cannot see the burning flames of joy,
veiled and yet powerfully present
in even the slightest of reality, radiant,
and yet calling beyond in an ecstasy of love.
Instead it sees, feels, and grasps
only in order to serve the fallen self
—the “self” which is truly self-alienation,
exile from the authentic, inner truth,
because it is exile from the One who upholds,
by his abiding love, his beloved one.
Dear Jesus, sweet Jesus, my Friend,
the one Beloved of my heart…
I thank you for admitting me to this place,
to rest against your breast in tender love.
Here I discover that for which I have longed
for all of my life, but found only here.
And yet here I discover anew that mystery
which I glimpsed even in my childhood,
as I was held in the arms of my mother
or as I played in simplicity on the floor.
I lost it through fear and through sin,
through the closure of heart that came
as a result of insecurity before others
–the fear that I am not truly loved,
that I will be rejected or abused–
and through the disordered grasping,
the isolated sense of possessiveness
and the false autonomy and independence
which compensate for this deep insecurity.
Every person who is born into this world
is born from the wellspring of your Gift,
and yet we are born also in brokenness,
bearing the inheritance of original sin,
and so our hearts are inclined to turn inwards,
to close in on themselves, away from gift,
and away from the open vulnerability of love.
But Love envelops unceasingly, Love holds…
even when we close in upon ourselves.
And Love comes to us in so many ways,
seeking to touch, unlock, and liberate the heart,
drawing it into the dynamic movement of love again,
this movement of acceptance and reciprocal gift.
I sensed this Love at work in my heart’s longings,
in the deepest desires of my soul, my being
–even though these were obscured by fear.
I sensed it in my restlessness for something more,
but also in my growing awareness
that this “more” cannot be found in ease,
in the passing pleasures of this world,
nor even in perfect “performance” according to law.
Yes, I sensed this Love in John the Baptist,
whose life was like a burning flame
heralding the coming of One greater,
who was himself the eternal Light illumining all.
And then, Jesus, Incarnate Son of the Father
–his eternal Word ceaselessly sounding,
who became flesh in the midst of our world–
you came to us on that day to be baptized,
Purity descending into our filthiness
and Light into the darkness of our sin.
And then, after your time in the desert,
in which you bore this sin on our behalf in love,
confronting and overcoming the ancient tempter,
the serpent who lied to Adam and Eve…
you came to us again, passing by.
“Behold,” John said, “the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world.”
We came to you, Jesus, and you turned to us:
“What are you seeking?” you asked.
“Lord, where are you staying?” we said.
And ever since then, Christ, I have stayed with you.
Ah, and I have learned more and more, Jesus,
to abide in you as you abide in the Father,
to find a dwelling-place in your Love
as you dwell forever in the Love of God.
I know, I feel this enveloping, cradling Love,
which I had glimpsed in the beginning of my life,
and sought forever since then, unceasingly.
Now it has come to me, inexpressibly,
in a way that no human heart could imagine:
for you are this Love, my Jesus,
and I rest in you as a child in his mother’s arms.