Hearts that don’t grow old (or weary)
– Have you ever met somebody that made you feel better about growing old? Somebody who made you feel you wish you’d be like them when you reach their age? Maybe you feel old already, but maybe you can remember a time in your youth when that happened to you to meet that kind of person. Maybe you still try to live up to this example…
I met a few people in my life who made me feel better about growing older, and I noticed it was not necessarily people who managed to stay in shape, or who kept really active. Most of the time, it was people who had true goodness in their hearts, yet they weren’t only “Sweet old ladies”. What characterized them is that they managed to keep (or even to develop) their “spark”: playfulness and joy.
The best way I have found to describe them is to say that these people had a sense of wonder in front of existence and an energy to respond to it, even if they were very limited in their bodies or even in their minds.
A sense of wonder:
We often assume that wise people are those who aren’t surprised by anything, who have “seen it all before” and have something clever to say in every situation. But Plato, who was this great philosopher who lived centuries before Jesus, said the other way around: He said that wonder is the basis of wisdom. Wisdom is to see life with new eyes, to not take for granted what we believe or what we are taught. To be curious and rediscover the world everyday. That’s also how you get to know God. If you think about it, it is indeed difficult to find God if you “have already seen it all before”!
– These are the thoughts that come to my mind when I read about Simeon and Anna. They both had this quality of people who age well. They spent their lives in the Temple, and yet God was no routine to them. Although they were very old, they were still on the look to see what God was up to, and even at the brink of the grave, they still expected the best out of life and even out of human History, when they could have been very disabused / bitter with the world / life as they were (Roman occupation, endless widowhood…)
– But Simeon and Anna kept their hearts burning and longing. Although they probably had seen thousands of babies in their lives, they hadn’t “seen it all before”, they looked at this young family coming into the Temple with new eyes, and they saw something wonderful. It is a very good example for us, as we too often assume that to be good Christians, we have to be somewhat resigned, accept things as they are and be satisfied with our lot. Simeon and Anna show us what it is to have faith: We believe that God will bring the best, come into our lives and bring us the comfort and the strength we need.
– Yet, it does not mean that we have to be optimistic in a naive way, like these who believe everything is always fine or will be fine, and remain superficial in the way they lead their lives and are unconcerned by the suffering around them. Simeon and Anna weren’t naive, they saw the struggles of their people, and they had a sense of the difficulties Mary and Jesus would have to go through. Simeon said to Mary that a “sword [would] pierce her soul”, and it’s not only about Jesus’s death. Jesus, and as a consequence Mary, will experience misunderstandings, rejection, hate…Anna and Simeon knew life and they knew that life breaks your heart / Maybe especially when you are a loving person who refuses to be tough, violent and revengeful. You can become a target for other people’s frustration and anger/ Constant criticism or prejudices.
Sometimes we think we suffer b/c we have done something wrong, but sometimes we suffer b/c we have done something right. I heard one day someone saying: “Sometimes we suffer just b/c of who we are”. When you love, you make yourself vulnerable and so often it’s wonderful but sometimes you can get really hurt.
The letter to the Hebrews today talks about “Test” – that Jesus was “tested”. Well, when we are “tested” (“Purified and refined” as Malachi puts it in OT) it is not about God watching us from above to check on how well we do when God sends us trials. “Test” is in this that unavoidable suffering and trials reveal “our inner thoughts”, reveal who we truly are, in the same way that some people will reveal “their inner thoughts” when Jesus is going to oppose them.
A theologian named Ramsey said that you cannot minister to others until God breaks your heart, meaning until you open yourself to suffering by suffering yourself. As Christians, we cannot love if our hearts are not open, if we cannot be touched by others. Mary had her heart broken, but it is believed by many people that, in this, we can see in her a mother to all of God’s people, b/c she knew everything there is to know about suffering b/c the worst happened to her.
Life constantly asks us this question: Are you going to let your heart die / become hardened / weary or are you going to keep on loving no matter what? Paradoxically, a broken heart is a heart that is (still) alive.
The story of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is a bitter sweet story. Sense of awe/joy and pain/danger in the same time. But it is how life is. Older people know that Life is both beautiful and tragic, wonderful and terrible.
– How do we navigate that with faith?
How can we live with a sense of wonder and joy and be heart broken in the same time?
I discovered a poetess a few weeks ago. Her name is Cleo Wade, and she wrote a book called “Heart talk”. She writes something I find really beautiful. She says we all go through life holding the pieces of our broken hearts but along the way we meet someone and with all the pieces of our broken hearts, we make a new heart. With all the pieces of our broken hearts, we make a new heart.
She mostly talks about romantic relationships, but I think it can be true for all kind of relationships, and especially for us as a Christian community. We bring the pieces of our broken hearts, and together we create a new heart / should create a new heart, find together the ability to love and serve and respond to the suffering of the world. We find joy and purpose again by being together.
This is the sense of our rite of healing this day
Often when we think of healing, we say “We need time to heal”, like it’s something we need to do on our own, hiding. But in a Christian community, we don’t / should not have to hide when we suffer, when we cry…we should be able to heal together, to bring our hearts back together remembering that God is the one who bring our hearts back together and with one another. Who makes us whole and keep our spark going / keep us going...