June 14, 2012

The Heart of Christ - Our Hope for Holiness

Holy Cross Church, Santa Cruz, California
Why do Christians strive for holiness?  It is certainly not because we are naturally inclined to set ourselves apart for God or that we are very successful at it.  Wounded by sin, we constantly feel thwarted each time we try to act on desires we deem noble.  Instead of accomplishing something beautiful for God, it is as if the Lord allows us to fall flat on our face.  Then comes a temptation to discouragement and the heart feels itself drowning in a host of insurmountable difficulties.  What is our reason to hope when faced with such moments and why does this hope cause us to rise up again and follow our crucified God? It has to do with Him and not us.

Though there is no earthly reason to believe it, the hope of Christian holiness burns brightest precisely in this kind of trial, these moments when we see unfold before us the antithesis of what our hearts most desire.  It is in these moments when our hearts are laid bare that God lays bare His Heart to us.  When our inadequacies and failures to love appear the most overwhelming, God is inviting us into the purifying fire of His love.  This unquenchable fire burns in His Heart for us, each of us personally and uniquely, and He longs that the whole world be ablaze in it.  In such trials and hardships as in no other moments of life the Living God offers His Heart in an uncommon, unrepeatable, most intimate and person way.   In these moments, humbled faith beholds the Heart that has humbled itself unto death, and the Heart that is risen and raised to the right hand of the Father gives cause for us to lift up our hearts anew.

What happens when we say "yes" to the Sacred Heart in the midst of our defeats and failures?  If we are to live by faith, if we are to let ourselves be moved by the heart of Christ, our job is not to be overwhelmed, not to run away from such moments, not to give into anxiety.  Before the ineffable love of the Savior, we must die to all cowardice and self-occupation.  Instead, we must trust in the One who is righteous and true.  He alone is our Vindicator.  When we do, when we make even the frailest effort to trust in Him, we discover, to the degree we surrender to His power working through our weakness, a new nobility is born in us even as our broken efforts to be noble seem to fall apart.  The love of Christ is greater than the sin that weighs us down and His love restores our dignity by working all things for His glory - if we trust in Him.

The movement of the Heart of Jesus moves us to holiness informing our natural efforts with new life, a life that raises us above our failures and into the victory Christ realized for God the Father, the victory of Good over Evil.   The unfolding of this mystery in our lives and our lives in this mystery - this is the life of faith.  Where it leads we do not know but we do know we shall be like Him - for we shall see Him face to face. This is our hope, the hope of the children of God.  And, our hope does not disappoint.

For those who have been following my pod-casts with Kris McGregor and Miriam Gutierrez at Discerning Hearts, click here for episode #17.