By Nimmi Candappa
Ever look deeply into the eyes of an infant? Those of us who have had the blessing of holding a baby in our arms would be aware of the presence a baby holds. Seeing the innocence and vulnerability, goodness, beauty and trust in the eyes of the baby, our hearts cannot help but skip a little with joy, and even be moved by some sort of reverence for this pure form of life. Maybe the way John the Baptist skipped in his mother’s womb when he encountered the Source of pure goodness within Mary’s womb.
As we enter into our second week of Advent, how shall we approach the coming of Christ? How are we expecting to be changed as we receive the baby Jesus into our lives? What will it take for our hearts to skip with joy this Christmas?
St Eugene seemed to know intuitively that he needed to keep his heart soft even though this opened him to pain. He refers to himself as a man with an overly sensitive heart, one who gave away his breakfast even when he was hungry, or gave the clothes off his back. He was known as a man of the heart, one who ‘thought’ with his heart – ever compassionate to the needs of others.
In a letter, St Eugene also refers to how the young people who hung around him, responded to the deep love he had for them as a spiritual father. It seems that when we keep our hearts tender, we can better feel for others. We can then show love for them. And they respond to this love.
Keeping our hearts tender goes hand in hand with keeping our hearts vulnerable. When we are open to others, willing to relate to their pain, we also open ourselves to potential hurt. This is the cost of love: I open my heart to you, and so take the risk of being hurt. In a world that reveres being in control, where the pendulum swings towards choosing the easy, the sensible and rational ways of life, and away from St Eugene’s daring and radical, it is not easy to say yes to an open and vulnerable approach. Yet this might be the difference between a tepid faith and one where we encounter Jesus in the everyday. An approach that had St Eugene’s heart “bursting with joy” when he recognised that members of his order are full of zeal and generosity for others.
This fortnight, in expectation of the coming of a Baby that can splay open our hearts, let us allow our hearts to be a bit freer, allow ourselves to ‘think with our hearts’. Lower our expectations of others, find ways to excuse mistakes, see struggles as tenderising the heart. So the heart can skip with joy as it encounters Jesus this Christmas.