Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Heart Of The Gospel. Part 19.

By Francis Patrick Donnelly


Let not your heart be troubled.


AN eclipse of the sun is full of terrors for those who do not know its nature. The high position, the lordly movement, the warmth and the splendor and the magnificence of the sun have made it a god for some minds. To see, then, that resplendent orb and its universal flood of daylight blotted out of the sky by a mysterious shadow could not fail to disturb and terrify its worshipers. Christ our Lord is the sun of justice, the light of the world, and true God. For three years He had filled the lives of His followers, and on the night before His crucifixion, as they saw and felt the shadows of death upon Him, no wonder their hearts were troubled. The mysterious solemnity of the Last Supper weighed them down. The betrayal of Judas had been revealed; the denial of Peter predicted; the departure of Jesus proclaimed, and their hearts shuddered as the light seemed to be shorn from Jesus entering the eclipse of the tomb. Christ knew the trouble of the Apostles, and He offered them the remedy for it. O troubled hearts of the world, hearken to the peaceful words of Christ!

St. John has kept for us the whole treatise on troubled hearts. "Let not your heart be troubled," Christ says at the beginning of chapter fourteenth, and towards the end of the same chapter, after His teaching, He says again, "Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid." Jesus furnishes His followers, one after another, with motives of consolation. Commentators have numbered them, and one can hardly believe they have found them all. The Father's mansions prepared for them, the second coming of Himself, their own following after Him, the gift of miracles left to them, the promise of the Paraclete, the indwelling of the Father, the peace of Christ which the world cannot give—these are a few of the sources of consolation Jesus points out to the troubled hearts before Him.

But why enumerate and count the reasons for consolation? They are all resolved into one sufficient and satisfying reason, the person of Christ. He is the calm of every trouble; He is the answer to every difficulty. Christ began His discourse in the thirteenth chapter of St. John, and He began it with love. "Love one another as I have loved you." Peter was the first, as we might have imagined, whose troubled heart voiced its difficulties. Christ replied that Peter would follow Him thereafter. Thomas, as blunt if not as impulsive as Peter, was the next to cry out in trouble: "How can we know the way?" "I am the way," came the answer. Then Philip, who on a former occasion thought that a few loaves and fishes were an insuperable difficulty to feeding a multitude, once more spoke with some impatience from a too matter-of-fact mind: "Show us the Father." Christ reproachfully complains of Philip's lack of knowledge, but the answer is the same: "He that seeth me, seeth the Father also." Judas, not the Iscariot, is the last to let his troubled heart find expression: "Lord, how is it that Thou will manifest Thyself to us and not to the world?" Christ had meant a spiritual manifestation, and He makes answer that since as God He was one with the Father, He will come to those who love Him and keep His word, and He will love them and will abide with them.

One after another the troubled hearts cry out, and in their sad cries our own troubles find an echo. They were our spokesmen, and in His replies through them Christ offers Himself as the solution of every difficulty. For our distrust He is the hope; for our wandering, He is the way; for our ignorance, the truth; for our unbelief, the fulness of belief; for our coldness, divine love; for our troubled hearts, the peace which the world cannot give. The person of Christ is the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night when our hearts are in the desert.

But why should the person of Christ be so completely the end of every way which the sad heart may travel? The reasons are many. One may be dwelt upon which will show how the Heart of Christ bears with It the gift of peace.

That reason is the personality of Christ's love. Love may be called the selection, the preference of personality. In that is the very essence and life of love. A person singles us out Of many and prefers us and makes us the center upon which his heart's inclinations are focused. On the other hand, the torture of jealousy consists in the realization that our preference is imperilled. But is not the recognition of that preference, pride? Not where there is true love. In true love there is a humble wonder that we should have another's affection; there is a sense and feeling of complete unworthiness that another should give place in his thoughts to us and turn his heart to us.

There, too, in the same truth is the dignity of love as well as its preciousness. To drop personality out of view is to degrade love and doom it to a speedy destruction. Passion, or selfish advantages, or mere pleasure are all signs of a mortal, passing affection.

Such brief desire we give to things. We have an appetite for a dish, a gratification in a trolley ride, a satisfaction for a tool, some excited interest in a new toy, but for a person we have love. Passion is proud; it makes itself the center and end of all. Passion is selfish; it exists but for its own gratification. As well eat your dinner to appease some one else's appetite as make passion unselfish. But love is humble and unselfish. It goes out to another and centers upon another, not knowing, not caring whether it will come back to self again.