Grace: That my heart be on fire with the same zeal as Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
Reading: Revelation 3:14-22
Reflection: Did you see any of the commercials during the Superbowl this year? There’s this one in which Sir Elton John sits on a throne, dressed in some kind of ridiculous royal garb, begrudgingly judging whether or not the entertainer that sings to him (Melanie Amaro) is deserving of a Pepsi. While Amaro belts out a stellar rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” Sir Elton stairs on unimpressed as if to say “thou art boring me.”
The Commercial might be ridiculous, but it also exemplifies the seductive absurdity of tepidity within the spiritual life.
Tepidity of the spirit doesn’t happen over night. Fr. John Brown wrote in 2010, “Tepidity is a state of the soul brought on by repeatedly missed opportunities to offer oneself in the service of God our King.” Tepidity creeps on me slowly, almost unnoticeably, like the notches on an ever-expanding belt. I know it to be tepidity when my belly is full but my heart is empty. A tepid spirit seeks fulfillment in what is easy, comfortable, and (as we find out overtime) boring. It thrives when we ignore offering any kind of regard, reflection, and appreciation for the various instances of beauty and truth in our lives. This is precisely the fault of Sir Elton in the Pepsi commercial. Complacency toward his comfortable way of life had crippled his ability to rejoice when true beauty and talent came his way. However seductive a tepid existence might seem in a world of so many uncertainties, in the end, tepidity does nothing but paralyze our souls.
Why did St. Ignatius concern himself with tepidity? It is not to make us scrupulous. St. Ignatius wanted us to live so as to trust in the dynamic vibrancy of Christ’s spirit. He didn’t want us to take for granted the abundant graces Christ daily offers us. As the reading from Revelation suggests, Christ is knocking at the door of our hearts . . . all the time. Are we too lazy to open the door and welcome him inside? Are we too ashamed, embarrassed, confused, or preoccupied to even hear the knock? I am fooling myself if I fail to confess that my conviction toward the mission of Christ is, at times, tepid.
If that be the case, praise God, I am not alone in the struggle. I share the same experience of tepidity with people all over the world, Christians and non-Christians alike. We can hold one another up to something more than boring apathy, to courage and beauty. Moreover, we share the same experience as the disciples in the upper room after the Crucifixion and subsequent Resurrection of our Lord. Knowing their story gives us true hope.
Christ came to the first disciples in their weakest hours, when their hearts were most vulnerable. Rather than covering up our hearts’ weakness and vulnerabilities with a tepid spirit, let us be like the disciples and pray for the grace to offer them to Christ. In offering our fragile hearts, we believe that Christ will in turn light them with his sacred love. That is his promise.
The traditional iconography of the Sacred Heart depicts Jesus holding his burning heart outside of his chest as if offering it to the viewer, saying, “take my heart and make it yours.” Live to seek the goodness in all of creation, to offer yourself in service to your fellow persons, so as to bring about the Reign of God. We cannot live out the Christian journey on our own; in this way, sin will surely conquer over time. Rather, we need to do it in communion with others. We need to do it in communion with Christ, relying on the graces which flow from his Sacred Heart.