On Expanding the Heart

I have decided to break off my hiatus early, my dear readers.  But, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus provides a great reason to get back to blogging about Christianity and Anime.  All sorts of ideas for anime articles bagan popping into my mind as soon as the hiatus began anyway–that figures!  The themes in Saber Marionette J, the latest anime to steal my heart, and the Feast of the Sacred Heart incline me to write about the heart.  (Only two more episodes to go before I tuck another anime under my belt.)

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N. B. Couldn’t find many good pictures from the anime online, so I cheated and used manga ones. But, I will warn you that the manga–like all old manga–is ridiculously fanservicey. I could not help but burst out laughing at the lengths to which it goes.

Saber Marionette J features some female androids who have something called a “maiden circuit” which allows them to empathize with others and have emotions.  Essentially, they were programmed with a heart.  The greatest joys and sorrows come from having a heart.  The greatest hearts feel most keely the highs and lows of life.  During these low periods, when love appears extinct and and pain everpresent, people often fall into the temptation of becoming bitter and seeking means of escape which only harden and diminish the heart.  Some may even fall so low as to wish that they had no heart.  Why have an organ capable of experiencing such beauty and love when all it finds surrounding it are ugliness and hate?  In Saber Marionette J, Lime gives in to the temptation of abandoning her maiden circuit in order to escape the pain of a traumatic event.

Not a spoiler.  You know this kind of things had to happen once, and it's unrelated to the traumatic event I mentioned.

Not a spoiler. You know this kind of things had to happen once, and it’s unrelated to the traumatic event I mentioned.

However, losing her heart does not increase Lime’s happiness.  She comes to realize that the joy of loving Otaru is worth all the pain she meets in life.  In a similar way, the Sacred Heart was tempted not to love us during the Agony in the Garden, especially in seeing how many souls would either not care about His Passions or prefer hell to the Source of Goodness and Love.  Despite the many thorns with which humanity has pierced the Sacred Heart of Jesus, He chose to accept all the pain of loving us, even the reprobate, for the joy of seeing us happy.  The hardships endured by Christ through His entire life which culminated in His Sacred Passion produced the most magnanimous Heart ever to beat in a man’s breast.  Christ is divine but also human, and His humanity required Him to grow through experience: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).  We must never forget that God Himself knows suffering and the misery of the human condition even more personally and perfectly than ourselves.

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This picture of the Agony in the Garden hangs in my room. One of my favorite paintings

Those who wish to follow Christ must endure similar struggles knowing that perseverance in love and righteousness enlarge the heart.  The grace of God is so infinite that God can use loving imperfectly or outright sinning–through repentance–to building up the heart as long as we keep our gaze on Him.  So, let us celebrate today the love with which this Sacred Heart burns for us, which came down from heaven to remove our stony hearts and to give us hearts of flesh.  One day, we’ll see that our hearts are no longer small and stony, but large and ardent–pointing to that Heart which fashioned all our hearts.

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Plenary Indulgence This Sunday!

This is a last reminder that this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, offers the Faithful a chance to gain a plenary indulgence.  The conditions are described as follows:

The plenary indulgence is granted (under the usual conditions of a sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and a prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on Divine Mercy Sunday, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, recite the Our Father and the Creed, and also adding a devout prayer (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!).

So, go to confession this Saturday or that Sunday if your Church offers it then, receive communion, have a strong resolution to turn from sin, pray the Our Father, the Apostles’ Creed, and “Jesus, I trust in you.”  Should you die immediately after that, you’ll go straight to heaven without a moment of Purgatory.

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How many of my dear readers balked at this bold assertion?  A villain becomes a saint in the space of one or two days?  And quite painlessly?  No, they should have to suffer more!  Forgiveness should be more difficult!  But, we are forgetting the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, where those who worked one hour are given the same reward as those who bore the day and the heat.

We forget one more thing: mercy is unearned.  At least, mercy was not earned by us.  It was earned by Jesus Christ for all that would receive His mercy.  Either through the instrument of His Church or without the instrumentality of His Church, Our Lord can apply mercy to whomever He wishes.  Our very willingness to receive mercy, our tenderness of heart, is something Jesus Christ earned for us.  Therefore, we have no right to be like the Prophet Jonah and sulk because Our Lord shows mercy in a manner which doesn’t meet with our human values.

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But, we are so quick to doubt God’s Mercy and Love for us!  In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Father does not have the wayward son weep for a week outside of his door and fast on bread and water before taking him into His house.  Rather, He does so immediately.  To use an example from the life of St. Gertrude, she once wished to gain a plenary indulgence, but illness or business kept her from being able to obtain it.  The Lord asked her if she wished to have it, to which she responded yes.  After the Lord’s blessing, she doubted the very purity which she felt in her soul.  Knowing her doubts, Our Lord recalled to her that the sun can bleach dyed cloth to a pure white.  Our Lord said to her: “If I have given such power to a creature, how much more can I purify souls?”

And so, let us allow the Lord to shine down as much mercy as He wishes upon us two days from now on Divine Mercy Sunday.

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