"Acquire a heart and you shall be saved," declared one of the desert fathers of the 4th century. What he meant was a heart riven through by love and transfigured by compassion. Here we might ask: what are the characteristics of a compassionate heart? In the 7th century St. Isaac of
“Acquire a heart and you shall be saved.” Compassion is the balm which heals us and the world. Nurturing the seeds of compassion within us is the essence of growth into the fullness of Christ. The entire thrust of the spiritual life is toward the acquisition of a compassionate heart. As a Christian community, our mission is to help each other acquire such a heart for the sake of the healing of the world.
How do we acquire a heart for mission, a mission with heart? St. Isaac of
“Eyes filled with tears”
The question we must ask ourselves is “Who or what am I unwilling to love, both in myself and in the world?” When we are honest about this, we can ask God to give us the willingness to embrace even the unloved parts of ourselves and of the world. When we practice this kind of vulnerability, our eyes will fill with tears. Such tears are a sign that we are becoming fully human, acquiring a compassionate heart.
“Never ceases to pray”
A compassionate heart is heart that grows ever larger to embrace more and more of life as it is, and not simply as we want it to be. Such prayer does not leave us or the world unchanged, but it begins with a stance of humility and acceptance. It is only then that we begin to see what part we are called to play in God’s great project of healing the world.
Only after turning everything over to God’s care, when we have nothing left, can we ask the question: “Now God, what work do you wish to share with me?” It is then that we begin to become transparent to the power of God working through us.
“Glorious like God”
As we acquire a compassionate heart, the glory of God begins to shine right through us. We become transparent to the divine love that created and redeemed all things. What begins in tears, praying on our knees, moves toward our transformation into the very likeness of Christ, in whom the love of God for each and all shone with perfect clarity.
Jesus said, “Be compassionate, as your heavenly Father is compassionate.” It is through acts of compassion that the glory of God shines through us, that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. This is how we become fully alive and reveal the glory of God.
This fall at my parish,
An Invitation to Joy
“Acquire a heart and you shall be saved.” This is the fundamental spiritual truth that must guide our discernment about mission. We must acquire a heart for mission, and the heart of our mission must be compassionate action for the healing of the world. When we become transparent to God’s love in this way, we discover true joy. The question before us, then, is “How may the glory of God shine through us, so that others may share our joy?”