Know Your Inmost Heart

We held a Corpus Christ procession after the Saturday evening Mass. An experience that was beautiful, and joyful in ways that I would not have expected. I walked under the canopy carrying Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and He was my focus most of the way. By my side walked Deacon Duncan, singing his heart out and a line from one of the hymns registered strongly with me every time he sang it – “Truth itself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.”

In the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist we encounter Truth in a very clear and liberating way and my favourite place of prayer is in front of the Tabernacle, mostly in the mornings where Truth reveals itself most in my inmost heart – “in the secret of my heart teach me…” (Psalm 51)

The phrase “inmost heart” has come to me from various unconnected sources over the past week. It appears in the first reading Deuteronomy for the feast of Corpus Christi – the “remember” and “do not forget” that are central to the celebration of the Eucharist.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you; he made you feel hunger” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

Know your inmost heart! The first thing that was revealed in my inmost heart is the discovery of a new love for Jesus, loving him in a way that I have never done before and it caused my soul to soar like a brilliant white seagull high up in the blue, blue sky of summer. It was a truly wonderful experience, an incredible feeling. I have loved Jesus all my life, but this was new.

Then two days later, in the same place of prayer, my soul came tumbling down as something very different was revealed in my inmost heart, something that seemed even to contradict the love I had come to celebrate.

It was as if Jesus Himself identified, uncovered a thing called embarrassment, the truth that I am embarrassed! Embarrassed first of all by myself as a person, embarrassed by the ordained priesthood of which I am a member, though embarrassed is too light a word for it. Embarrassed too by the Church.

Embarrassed by my faith which I hold rather privately apart from within the embrace of the parish community where I feel safe. I am not one to declare from the rooftops what I believe. It has never been my way to push religion on others or to correct others. I live within the glass house of my humanity, and I don’t throw stones.

Last week in the hospital where I went to anoint a man, as I was waiting for the congestion of doctors and nurses to disperse, I saw and overheard a doctor speak to one of the nurses, “you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” as he continued walking on. The nurse turned round, saw me standing there and put her had over her mouth in embarrassment. I didn’t need to say a word and in any case, unlike the doctor, would not have said anything even though I am very careful about the Holy Name. I am intolerant of its use in movies and tv dramas which means I can hardly watch anything now because the name of Jesus Christ is deliberately written into most dramas as a swear. Deliberately written and deliberately spoken. I am more tolerant of people using the Name unconsciously, without malice, though I do think there is great lack of respect for the person of Jesus as well as His Name.

That’s just an example. I say nothing. I do nothing to attract attention to my faith and I find public displays in the streets to be uncomfortable. The Procession of Witness which is held on our street every Good Friday leaves me feeling very uncomfortable, partly because I feel that all drama is artificial, the Procession is artificial but also embarrassing.

My current embarrassment was triggered by the request to have the Corpus Christi procession. I agreed to it but felt very challenged by it, thinking that it would bring too much public attention on me. And it is one of the graces of community that we are brought by it to places where we would rather not go.

And as I sat with the embarrassment in prayer it seemed that Jesus was saying, “you are also embarrassed by me!” That was very difficult for me to take on, to think that I am embarrassed by Jesus whom I have loved all my life. Difficult but true! I felt I was like a small child at the school gate, the child who once had no problem being kissed by his mother or father but there comes a time when he is embarrassed by that, and he pushes them away. Like a teenager embarrassed to be seen in public with his parents whom he still loves.

But I am neither a small child nor teenager. I need to grow up! And in growing up I needed to forget about myself, take the monstrance in my hands and walk humbly, but confidently with my Lord, the children running ahead with their petals strewn on the pathway of our journey; people of all ages delighted to be part of something that was beautiful, joyful, and humble.

The inmost heart has need of probing. God probes the loins which is the location of the spiritual heart in Scripture. This probing is particularly necessary for us who are faithfully religious, maybe even proud of our faith but that fidelity, that pride may be masking something that needs to be addressed, as happened with me on this occasion.

Eamonn Monson SAC