A reflection on the readings for Epiphany 6:Deuteronmy30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8;I Corinthians 3;1-9; Matthew 5:21-37; by The Rev. Camille Hegg
I bought valentines on Thursday, two that I hoped two granddaughters would think cute. On Friday morning I put $5.00 in each envelope, signed the cards and mailed them. One was a stylized butterfly covered in hearts; the other a ladybug, her “spots” different colored hearts, Three or four three years ago the little one asked me (she is now seven) how to draw a heart. I broke it down to two motions and told her she didn’t have to make each side even or the same size. She draws hearts all the time now. They both have T-shirts that read “I (heart) NY,” their special request as I went to New York last year.
Heart shapes, especially during valentine season, are very visible these days. There is a national jewelry store that designs necklaces, earrings and bracelets in heart shapes. One advertises jewelry that is an open heart saying that an open heart allows “love to come in.” Pajamas come with hearts on them, we are encouraged to buy candy, flowers and cards during this season of heats. And remember those little candies in the shape of a heart that have a message on them? “Be mine”’etc I understand they have been updated with things like “text me.”
But it is always a ‘season of hearts.’ The ancients wrote and pondered that part of the body that is called the heart is, in fact, the center of the emotions. It does seen that way when we experience some things: our loved ones; our new baby; a sunrise; full moon. A feeling of excitement does seem to start from the heart. Likewise, a sense of guilt, remorse, or grief also seem to start from the heart. A “broken heart” comes from betrayal or deep sadness. Whether emotions actually begin with the heart, or the heart registers and transmits them is a question people have long pondered. The metaphor of the heart is found throughout the Bible and especially in many of Jesus’ teachings. As a metaphor, there is an understanding that the heart represents a core of humanity, our loves and cares, and implies that when we are authentic with ourselves and others heart and actions match.
In the gospel for this Sunday Jesus, teaches about actions that refer to the heart and which match the feelings. When Jesus speaks about lust, anger, reconciliation, careless oaths, he is talking about hearts, and actions that reflect authenticity. We see throughout his life this authenticity. This gospel is not just a list of do’s and don’t, but a glimpse of the heart of God.
In her new book “The Meaaning of Mary Magdalene” Cynthia Bourgeault says Mary Magdalene is the “woman at the Heart of Christianity.” For so many women she is a hero in part because she is so prominent in Jesus’ life and because even a smidgen of it made it into scriptures. Knowing what we know about how scriptures came to be written, chosen and preserved we realize that it is remarkable that Mary Magdalene was included in stories of his life and death. For me she is brave and determined to function authentically in spite of the patriarchy. So has she done so for these two thousand years of Christianity which have not silenced her but have enabled us authors to explore her and her role with Jesus.
Her heart seems to be Jesus’ heart. And Jesus taught and acted so as to show us the heart of God. It is that the physical life can mesh with the spiritual life and help us be “fully human,” reflecting the wisdom of “what is above is also below” The one who is fully human has grasped the essence of God. Bourgeault expresses it as a union of finite and infinite, or a union of opposites within oneself. Mary Magdalene was able to become fully human, not by parroting Jesus’ teaching, but because, as it says the in Gospel of Mary Magdalene, she was able to ‘turn the hearts” of the disciples to the Good. She lived so that she could move in the world and especially with the disciples seeming to understand that an apostle is as an apostle does. For me, Christian and feminist, Mary turns my heart to the Good. The more she is written about and pondered over, the more I can take heart for her presence in history and my own life.
Valentine’s day may be a season of hearts, but turning our hearts to the Good is always in season.