Sacred Heart of Jesus: March 2007 Archives

Gazing on Christ's Open Heart

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Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Ezechiel 47:1-9, 12
Psalm 45:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
John 5:1-16

All You That Thirst

Today’s texts are just waiting to be developed into a pre-baptismal catechesis. “All you that thirst, come to the waters: and you that have no money come, and drink with joy” (cf. Is 55:1). The Entrance Antiphon is addressed to all who thirst; there is nothing to purchase. The waters flow freely. The last phrase of the antiphon — “drink with joy” — is not found in the biblical text. It is the Church’s word, making clear for us here and now, the prophecy of Isaiah.

Flowing Waters

The Responsorial Psalm sings of the river that irrigates the Church, the new Jerusalem: “The city of God enriched with flowing waters, is the chosen sanctuary of the Most High” (Ps 45:5). The Communion Antiphon praises Christ the Shepherd who, in the Eucharist, “leads us by refreshing waters” (cf. Ps 22:1-2). In the Gospel we see the waters of Bethesda, a bath of healing stirred by an Angel of the Lord. All around the pool of Bethesda lie the diseased, the blind, the lame, and the disabled seeking to recover from the infirmities that oppress them. Bethesda is an image of the baptismal pool of regeneration, the bath from which in a few weeks the catechumens will emerge clean, healed, and altogether new.

Vidi Aquam

The centerpiece of today’s Mass is the reading from the prophet Ezekiel. The title printed in red above the text in the lectionary is most unusual. It reads: “I saw water flowing from the temple, and all who were touched by it were saved.” It adds, “See Roman Missal.” Where in the Roman Missal are we to look? Go to the antiphons sung at the Rite of Sprinkling with Holy Water: the Asperges me, taken from Psalm 50, and used outside of Paschaltide; and the Vidi aquam, taken from Ezekiel 47, and sung at the Paschal Vigil and on the Sundays of Paschaltide.

Look for a moment at the text of the Vidi aquam. The prophet Ezekiel, in a mystical rapture, sees the Temple as the wellspring of an immense river irrigating the whole country and making stagnant waters fresh. The Temple is the abode of the Glory of God (Ez 43:1-12). It is the source of a river, teeming with fish, and on both sides of its banks grow fruit bearing trees because the water for them flows from the sanctuary.

The glorious body of the of the crucified and risen Christ is the new and indestructible temple of which he himself said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19). At the death of Christ, the veil of the Temple was “torn in two from top to bottom” (Mt 27:51); Saint John, by recounting how the side of Jesus was pierced by the soldier’s lance, translates the same mystery. Out of the pierced heart of Jesus flows blood and water (Jn 19:34), recalling the water from the rock struck by the rod of Moses in the desert (Num 20:2-13), the fountains of salvation prophesied by Isaiah (Is 12:3), and the great river of Ezekiel’s vision.

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Just as one learns what is in the heart of one’s dearest friend by looking at his face, just as a wife can know what her husband carries for her in his heart by reading his face, so too does the Church look to the Eucharistic face of Christ to discover there all the secrets of His Sacred Heart for her. The connection between face and heart is something deeply inscribed in the human person. Face and person are, in fact synonymous, not only because in Greek the same word denotes both but even more because there is nothing more personal, nothing more precious, nothing dearer than the face of a loved one.

The psalmist’s cry, “I long to see your face” (Ps 26:8), is the cry of every lover to his beloved, the cry of child to parent, of parent to child, and of friend to friend. The most poignant moment in the rites of Pope John Paul II’s death and burial came when a veil was laid over his face. We cherish photographs of those we love, but what is a photograph without a face? The relationships that we call “heart to heart” never tire of the “face to face to face.”

The more one is drawn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the more one experiences the need to seek His Face — and to seek it in the adorable mystery of the Eucharist. The heart is a secret organ, a thing not visible to the eye. The “thoughts of the heart” are transmitted to the face. It is true that some persons try to dissimulate what they hold in the heart by putting on a plastic face, a professional face, or a face of stony indifference, but all of that dissimulation is related to sin. In Jesus Christ, the Lamb without stain, there is no disconnection between face and heart.

All that Jesus holds in his Sacred Heart for us and for his Father is revealed on His Face. If you would know His Heart, seek His Face, and seek it in the Eucharist. It is in the contemplation of the Most Holy Eucharist that, fulfilling Zechariah's ancient prophecy, we “look upon Him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:37).

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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