Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Sacred Heart's Sadness and Anger

One way in which we practice devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to prayerfully enter into the movements of Jesus’ Heart as we find them in the gospels.  The gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A (John 11: 1-45), shows us that both sadness and anger moved the Heart of Jesus.

Jesus planned to raise his good friend Lazarus from the tomb.  This is why he delayed in going to Bethany rather than responding as soon as the message of Lazarus’ illness had come to him.  This is why he told his disciples, “This illness is not to end in death….” 

Yet, though he knows he is going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he cries. Verse 35 is said to be the shortest verse in the Bible: “And Jesus wept.”  Why does he weep when he knows he is going to raise Lazarus?  The Heart of Jesus, filled with compassion, shares the sorrow of Mary and Martha and the many others who were grieving over the death of Lazarus.  His Heart is moved by the sadness he sees.  His Heart shares in that sadness.

But his Heart is moved in another way as well.  Twice, in verses 33 and 38, it says that Jesus was “perturbed.”  One dictionary defines “perturbed” this way: “to be greatly disturbed in mind, disquieted.”  I have always used the word when speaking of anger.  One who is perturbed is angry. 

The Scripture scholar Fr. Raymond Brown thinks that this is what moved Jesus’ Heart here.  In his Anchor Bible commentary on this passage, he writes that there is difficulty in translating the Greek word here, but that it is possible “that Jesus was indignant or angry.”  Why?   One reason could be at the lack of faith of the disciples and other mourners, but I think there was a deeper reason. I think he was angry at death and the cause of death—sin.  It is as though Jesus is thinking to himself: “It didn’t have to be this way! You were not made for death but for life. It’s because of sin that you have this pain and sorrow.” 

It is good for us to enter into the Heart of Jesus and to share in its movements.  The compassion we find there leads us to share in human sadness and also to get angry at what causes it.  This anger should then move us to “right the wrongs” that we find in the world and especially within ourselves.  We ought to be angry, not at ourselves, but at sin.  The Lord sees us with a compassionate Heart, heals us with his mercy, and then calls us to fight sin. 

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