Sr Bonnie Moser, fcJ, General Superior, wrote to all FCJ Sisters for the Feast of the Sacred Heart
9 June 2023
I am aware that the Feast of the Sacred Heart is fast approaching and perhaps we can discover a new message for this feast so dear to the heart of Marie Madeleine.
One way to discover anew the message of the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to go back to the book of Exodus where God sees the suffering of the people of Israel and thirsts to reach out to them through Moses. I have seen how cruelly my people are being treated says God, I know all about their sufferings… I have indeed heard the cry of my people. So often in the Gospels, Jesus is moved by what he sees: he sees sheep without a shepherd, a grieving widow, an unclean leper, a gentile woman not from his culture seeking healing for her daughter. Each time his heart is moved by that same ‘womb-like’ tenderness and compassion described in the Exodus story and he listens and reaches out and lives are transformed.
This tender heart of Jesus was clearly witnessed by the [FCJ] tertians, as they ministered among other volunteers during their apostolic experience in February this year. The volunteers were young, old, rich, poor, retired with plenty of time to spare, or busy working or studying but still finding time to move beyond themselves in service. They were as diverse as people everywhere, and yet in the uniqueness of each one there was always a visible spirit of gratitude. They had all experienced kindness, generosity and love somewhere in their lives and the natural response was to want to give back to those who are now not so fortunate as they are. Because their heart had been touched by someone, somewhere, now they were moved to reach out and change someone else’s experience.
There was often, too, a spirit of joy and companionship among the volunteers and a readiness to go beyond what was expected or required. On strike days they would face long, complicated journeys, but still turn up for their shift. They would be willing to come early for a particular reason, change their own plans, and then stay late if necessary to help out in an emergency.
A lady from Pakistan who had been through very difficult times in her life but had experienced countless kind people on her journeys who had reached out and helped her, says that she cannot help being kind herself because it is the natural response to all she has received. Have I contemplated God’s mercy in the heart of Jesus so that it just pours out of me naturally when I meet those in need?
All the examples of loving service are not without cost, of course, because to open our hearts often means to be open to piercing, to wounding, to keeping one’s gaze outward rather than inward. The heart of Jesus was pierced so that the life and love could pour out. Am I willing to be pierced, open like the heart of Jesus, so that love and forgiveness can be my natural response?
In Turin there is an organisation called Sermig (Youth Missionary Service), founded in 1964, and run totally by volunteers. In 1983 Sermig acquired a huge building and site (45,000 sq metres) which had been a weapons factory and it has become a place of peace and loving service – The Peace Factory (l’Arsenale della Pace). This is a powerful story of transformation. And at the heart of the weapons factory there was a small oven that was used to make bullets. This oven has been taken and adapted to be a tabernacle for one of the chapels in Sermig. What a powerful symbol! The place that was used to create bullets with the aim of killing and maiming is now a place where the Body of Christ is kept – to nourish, heal, give hope, strength and above all peace – to the weak and the strong, the poor and the rich.
It was only the eyes of love that could have seen the potential of the bullet oven to become a holy place. Those same eyes of love look on a migrant and see a brother, a trafficked woman and see a sister, a homeless family and see a holy family. How might we cultivate this transforming look of love? How might we allow God’s gaze of love to transform us?
Those same eyes of love look on a migrant and see a brother, a trafficked woman and see a sister, a homeless family and see a holy family. How might we cultivate this transforming look of love?
In today’s world there are literally millions of volunteers, people of all ages, races, beliefs, circumstances listening and responding to the cry of the poor, giving freely and joyfully of their time and talents and transforming the lives of those they serve. In calling Moses God saves a people by manifesting God’s closeness, in an eternal covenant of love. Jesus is the closeness of God made manifest here on earth. God attracts each of us through the unique circumstances of our lives to become the closeness of God to all those we encounter. Closeness implies warmth, overflowing love and welcome, attentive eyes and ears and presence. In our world where selfishness and indifference are still very present many are crying out for warmth, companionship, attention, care and closeness. This is what the great armies of volunteers are doing in all our countries. Perhaps it is the volunteers who are helping to create the culture of encounter about which Pope Francis often speaks. This is where the love of God is seen in action today.
We are born, beloved creatures of our Creator, God of love, into a world that has lived long before us. We belong to God and to one another, and we are part of creation. And from this understanding, grasped by the heart, must flow our love for each other, a love not earned or bought because all we are and have is unearned gift.
Pope Francis, Let us Dream, p 13
Let us notice all the signs of God’s love in action all around us and let us be that love in action as we go out of ourselves in gratitude, joy and encounter.
My heartfelt thanks are extended to the dispersed Tertian community who contributed so much to this letter from their apostolic experiences.
In Jesus, our Companion,
Sr Bonnie Moser fcJ