Immaculate Heart of Mary at Mississippi Abbey
Scripture Readings: 2 Tim 4:1-8; Mk 12:38-44
“…And Mary pondered all these things in her heart…”
The heart is the core of a person, the sine qua non location of her faith. When it is affected, as in falling in or out of love, one’s whole way of thinking about the world and of feeling it is profoundly and permanently altered. When so affected at the core, one realizes her whole life is at stake. In what or WHO will one put her faith; or on what or WHO will she set her heart?
This is what happened to Mary. It is what happens to anyone who has a vocation, marital or monastic. The heart was made to worship, to give itself totally to something. About that, Blaise Pascal has said that the heart has its reasons that reason cannot understand. That reason is called “Faith.”
But it is worth trying. It is a worthy, a most worthy use of reason. And so we have answered the call to a contemplative vocation, a vocation to ponder what seems to constantly elude our hearts, yet we constantly seek it. It eludes us because we experience our hearts as fragile. We hide them from ourselves.
Today we mark the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And the gospel is about her seeking. It is, perhaps, immaculate in part because she does not experience it as fragile, but as powerful. (And God is first and foremost a power.) She takes the movements of her heart as being from Him. That is why she takes faith as being not just intellectual assent, but faithfulness, loyalty, and devotion. So rather than hide her heart she ponders. She recalls the confusion and mystery of the annunciation and the joy of the visitation. She remembers the flight into Egypt. She experiences today’s agony of searching for a lost child. She will feel that power again when Jesus’ preaching is causing controversy and she tries to bring Him home with her. And she will experience it at the foot of the cross. She will not avoid its power.
She will let the power of the Father do its work. She will put her faith in it; she will set her heart on it. We who would be contemplatives are called to face the power of the heart and how God uses it to call us to Himself. We are called to such faith.(We ‘pledge allegiance’ to the faith that we set our hearts on.)Facing this power and allowing it to work is how conversion is different from mere socialization in religious life. In facing that power we must allow the heart to be broken… and then we listen to it. We learn the meaning of: “A humbled and contrite heart you will not spurn.”
When, with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we have renounced the fragility of the heart and allowed its power, we learn with her to keep searching for Christ. We learn that He is on a mission from and to the Father and what our place is in that mission. The letter of St. Paul to Timothy calls us to be wholehearted in our response. That response can only be made in faith.