By Francis Patrick Donnelly
THE BURNING HEART
Was not our heart burning within us?
Will not a thicker cloud of incense hide it from view? Alas, it would, except for one thing: others know of the failure. Self has not come up to its own expectations, and the world knows it. Look at the shrine! The incense is burning rubber; the candles are smoking wicks; the flowers are—bah! take them away, and the golden statue is that of a calf. The new religion, with its highpriest, temple and ritual, passes into dust for ever. If there is humility near, a better, truer religion will be built up on the ruins; if pride rules, then there is lamentation and the loss of all religion. A youngster once said: "I just eat two 'smoof bugs and two woolly ones"; and when asked why, replied: "Because nobody loves me." That was an early instance of self-disappointment. Older people, when deprived of their self-satisfaction, turn to drink or death instead of bugs. If many people saw themselves as others see them, the list of our suicides would be inordinately
There is a notable instance of self-disappointment in the Gospels that had a more fortunate ending than is usual in cases of the kind. That surely was a sorrowful and gloomy set of Apostles and disciples which gathered together in shivering silence in Jerusalem, when Christ, their leader, had been killed as a traitor and a malefactor. They were the cold-hearted remnants of a lost cause. "We hoped" was their cry.
The gorgeous sunset in which they basked had suddenly become a very thick and a very disagreeable and a very chilling fog when the Sun of Justice had set behind the hills. "We hoped" is the cry of self-disappointment, the lament of a cold, dark heart.
Among that crowd were two whose hearts had become lumps of ice. Their thoughts turned towards insect food. Perhaps that would warm them up amid the general low temperature that prevailed. "Away from Jerusalem," said the cold heart, "and back to Emmaus!" Their gaudy hopes had burst. They heard whispers around them of the body of their Master not being found, but their cold hearts urged that these were tales of women, frightened and trying to frighten them, that it was before the light and that those early risers had seen a vision. "We hoped" quenched all their faith, all their humility. They had constructed a brilliant plan upon which the universe was to be managed hereafter. Divine Providence had not seen fit to conform to their view, and their hearts were disappointed and cold, without faith, without humility, without hope.
It was not done all at once. A sudden transportation from the arctic to the torrid zone is violent. It was not so the Heart of Jesus worked. He came upon their hearts with the steady, melting, almost imperceptible force of the spring. They had humility enough to let Jesus draw near, and so merited the greater humility of confessing their condition. They listened humbly. He brought them to see that their hopes were childish, that the Messias was too large for Palestine, too great for a kingdom of earth, that the death which had chilled their hearts was the very proof of the Messias, the very battle which won Him His true kingdom. "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so have entered into His glory?" They went out from the dictation of self and let themselves be taught. Yes, their humility went farther. They were willing to depend upon another. Here before them was a religious teacher who was building for them a better shrine of enduring hopes, and they humbled themselves to prayer. "Stay with us because it is toward evening and the day is far spent." There was to be one more step in their progress. Jesus drew near. They welcomed Him and kept Him near. To bring the full force of His Heart upon theirs, He should come still nearer. "He took bread and blessed and brake and gave to them." With their hearts besides His Heart, they needed no longer His presence before their eyes.
"Away from Emmaus," is the cry, prompt and resolute, "and back to Jerusalem."
It was our Lord's will to ransom us in the way of justice, to pay the price for us. His Heart consoles us in disappointment because He experienced the keenest pangs of disappointment. We shall have no path of sorrow on which to tread in life where we may not see the red foot-prints of the Saviour. Naturally, He felt the exultation of success. His Heart exulted in joy and it was depressed in sadness. His triumphal entry into Jerusalem marked the highest point of his exultation. The very stones, He said, would take voices and acclaim Him. The world is wreathed in smiles for the exultant heart and dances with its dancing. That sunshine of Christ's glory is noonday whiteness when set in contrast with the midnight blackness of His disappointment. His Heart when it sent forth that agonizing cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" was not in despair, yet it was deeper down in blacker disappointment than that which has sent many a weaker heart to suicide. In that hour Christ's Heart paid the price of our consolation. Then it traversed the bleak and barren fields of arctic cold, and as its weakness became our strength, so its coldness became our warmth. There was kindled the fire He came to cast upon earth, fire to melt away the ice of pride from disappointed hearts and fill
them with flames of faith and humility, surging through the burning hearts that touch the burning Heart of Christ.