By Fr. Ric Chinchilla, CJM
When we reflect on the heart of Jesus, we try to think about the unthinkable, for example: how big is the love of God; how deep are his loving ways; how much love does he have for all humanity from the day of creation until the end of times?
Let’s hear Saint John Eudes opinion:
My Lord and my God, how wonderful is your love for me!
You love, desire, and seek me with intensity and fervor, as if I were of great concern to you, as if I were indeed truly necessary to you.
You want to possess me and are afraid of losing me as if I were a precious treasure.
You pursue my friendship with as much insistence as if your happiness depended on it. Would there be anything more you could do for me, Lord, even if your whole happiness and glory depended on my love?
Oh, profound kindness, I throw myself in your fathomless love!
(Kingdom of Jesus O.C. 1, 397-401)
Now, let me introduce you to 3 cases in the gospels, where the heart of Jesus was moved out of compassion for us.
1. When crowds look for him
When Jesus heard of it (John the Baptist’s death), he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
On various occasions in the gospels, we encounter different versions of the multiplication (breaking) of the bread; in all of them, when Jesus sees the people coming to him, his heart is moved with pity.
In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 14:15, the word used for “having mercy” of the people is the Greek word “Splagchnizomai,” which means all his insights shake out of compassion; some translations, like the one above, translates: “He was moved with pity.”
In the text of Matthew, Jesus was trying to get away from the crowds; he was going to a deserted place; he needed some alone time after learning about John the Baptist's death. Little did he know that the people knew where he was going and arrived ahead of him; his desire for a small retreat is interrupted. Even though he was expecting to be alone, he doesn’t get frustrated; instead, he starts immediately tending to their needs, and he starts healing their infirmities.
And not too long after, he would break bread for them and feed five thousand men (with their families).
He renounced to having some time for himself; his would-be "retreat time" becomes a self-donating time with the crowds and serves them integrally through healing and bread.
The crowds know his goodness and make the journey on foot to have a moment with Jesus, and they are not disappointed; they felt welcomed by him.
The heart of Jesus, which was moved with pity, feeds those souls who longed to be close to him; they got more than what they ever expected. Getting close to the heart of Jesus will always have immense benefits for our souls.
2. The heart of Jesus moves for the weak
Lk 7: 12-13
As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her, and when the Lord saw her, his heart was moved with pity, and said unto her, Weep not.
In the beginning of Chapter 7 in the gospel of Luke, Jesus has performed a miracle for the servant of the centurion. People were amazed and followed him until he reaches a city called "Nain," and once at the gate, he meets another group of people coming out of the town.
This group is not rejoicing; the description in the gospel of Luke depicts an unfortunate moment.
The exiting group will bury a young man. He is the only son of a woman who also lost her husband.
The gospel’s description of that situation is the saddest for a woman in the society of 1st century Israel; this woman has lost the only remaining male support she had.
She will be helpless; people will repeatedly try to take advantage of her because she will not have any male figure to protect her.
She knows very well that life will be very tough after her son's burial.
Jesus, without asking, already knows the situation, and that's the reason why his heart is moved with pity; instinctively, he approaches her and tells her not to cry.
But how can a mother, after losing all hope, will stop crying? Even if it is not apparent, it's because Jesus is there; he is already asking her (silently) to have faith.
Then Jesus goes ahead and stops those who are carrying his corpse, and he touches the stretcher; And he says: "Young man I tell you to stand up." And the young man regained his life and stood up and started talking, which was the sign that he can take his place back in society; also, a sign that his mother is back to life.
The mercy coming out of the heart of Jesus will wipe away our tears of desperation, will stop our procession of death, and will restore us to life. It is the most beautiful heart that doesn't want anything for himself. The only wish he has is to give himself to us, truly an everlasting life source.
3. When we run out of options
Mark 1, 41: Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, I do will it. Be made clean.
The gospel of Mark shares the episode where a leper came out into the presence of Jesus and kneeling, he said: "if you wish you can make me clean."
There is no description of the environment; is it in the desert? Did this leper dare to come into Capernaum? We have no information from the gospel writer; we only know that it was forbidden for lepers to do what he was doing today.
It seems this man is at the edge of existence with his leprosy. He doesn't have any more options and decides to give it all and try risking his life to see Jesus because he has nothing to lose at this point.
And just like in the previous cases, when Jesus saw him, his heart was moved with pity. It feels as if Jesus can read in this man's bold action, the desperation and loneliness he was going through.
The next action will be more daring; Jesus will touch him. To touch a leper is wholly forbidden in his culture because it immediately turns Jesus into an impure person who would have to be out of any village or city.
The leper asked him: "if you wish," and with Jesus' touch, our Lord is breaking first his loneliness because he is showing him affection.
And then Jesus reassures him, "yes, I wish it," followed by the imperative
"Be made clean." And so, it happens.
The life of a leper is tough because it means that nobody will ever touch him: nobody could show him a sentiment of affection. Jesus healed that loneliness when he touched him, healing in the process, not only his skin but his heart.
The heart of Jesus makes what today we call a "wireless connection” with the heart of the leper. In the gospel logic, it is a heart to heart conversation.
The heart of Jesus has no repulsion for all our sins, but only the desire to restore us to our original creational state.
We can give thanks to God for being so magnanimous, with love that is so everlasting despite our unworthiness. He will surely complete what is lacking in each one of us.
« Jesus has an extraordinary love for humanity, the good, but the wicked as well; for his friends as for his enemies, for whom he has such intense charity that even the overwhelming torrents and floods of their innumerable sins are not able to extinguish it; A love no flood can quench, no torrents drown (Song of Songs 8, 7).
Oh, sacred fires and flames of the Heart of my Savior, rush in upon my heart and the hearts of all my brothers and sisters. » Saint John Eudes O.C. 8, 350-352