In a nearby town, there's a tattoo parlor called Sacred Heart. For years, I thought it was a poorly done billboard advertising a Catholic school. I couldn't help but laugh at myself the day I became enlightened. Coming from a Protestant background, I must admit that I've never quite understood what the Sacred Heart emblem is all about. But after a little image searching on the internet, I've discovered that many do indeed go for this particular brand on their body -- and often in some of the oddest locations.
So what it is about the Sared of Heart of Jesus that attracts so many -- to churches, to schools, to tattoo parlors? As I looked at the images on the screen, there were several things that stood out. For one, Jesus was almost always pointing to it or holding it. Secondly, it was always, except for on one occasion, on the outside of His body. And lastly, it was always burning.
So what does all that say to me? Love. Love. And more love.
In my times of (attempted) centering prayer here on my deck, I have been using the word "love" to draw me back to God's presence when my mind begins to wander to other things. I had already noticed a large opening in the oak branches above me, allowing me to see through to the blue sky. But when I opened my eyes after my quiet prayer and looked again, I noticed that the aperture was in the shape of a heart. Tears welled and my own heart swelled as I realized that God pours Himself through the heart. His Sacred Heart.
Jesus paid the price for loving, and in giving His burning heart to us, as so portrayed in all those images, He tells us to do the same. To love. But here's the catch: when we love, we, too, must pay the price for loving. We, too, have to risk the pain; to suffer for it. But to do so is to be Christ-like. I agree with Richard Rohr: "The cross is not the price that Jesus had to pay to convince God to love us. It is simply where love will lead us. ... Jesus names the agenda: If we love, if we give ourselves to feel the pain, it will crucify us." Yes, crucifixion is painful. Thus, so is love.
Are we willing to pay the price of love? A price that demands we give up our rights to have our own way; to dominate; to always be right. A price that necessitates we lay down our hurts, our feelings of rejection and injustice, our grievances, our unforgiveness. A price that leads us to lay down self-centeredness that pretends it's all about you when really it's still all about me, which just might be the most insidious one of all. In short, to love with a price means discarding any behavior that does not take us forward into the nature of God and committing to a behavior that does.
This Sacred Heart of love is risky business. Sometimes I wonder if it's even attainable. For now, I will stand in the place of grace, receiving from His hand this gift of burning fire and pray that its glow will attract others to do the same. Maybe then and only then can I truly be branded.
See you at the tattoo parlor.
Just an ordinary moment...