Return to the Heart
There is an old(er) delightful rom-com called Return to Me that I loved growing up, and still will turn to when I am in need of some light-hearted laughter, a sweet love story, and a happy ending. In the movie, the main character Grace must have a heart transplant if she is to live. She finally receives one, donated by a woman who died in a car accident. After the requisite rom-com meet-cute, she falls in love with Bob, a widower who is completely lost and low after the sudden death of his incredible, beautiful wife. Grace eventually realizes that the heart she received was from Bob’s wife, which sends them both into a tailspin. Grace’s loving, hovering, faith-filled grandfather tells Bob that the heart that once belonged to his wife, and now belongs to Grace, was meant to be with Bob, and that it was always going to find a way back to him. The return of one heart to another helps both characters to begin to truly live to the fullest. The story is a sweet, silly reminder of something bigger that is true: heart speaks to heart, and our hearts will be ever restless until they return to the one that they were made for.*
God, our loving Father, is constantly calling our hearts back to his. On life’s journey, isn’t it so easy to become wanderers? To turn away because of distraction, sin, discouragement, despair? If we are to have any peace in the highs and lows, we must turn toward Him and return to the heart of God who loves and seeks us. But in order to do so, we must also make space for silence in our lives, so that we can hear the Lord’s heart calling to ours. In the movie, there is a poignant scene where Bob and Grace embrace and he places his ear near her heart so that he can hear it beating. That connection, that relationship, cannot happen unless one is listening—and it is so hard to listen in the midst of noise, anxiety, and busyness.
When the roar of the world—cultural and political battles, family strife, illness, financial worries, and so on—and even the noise in our minds of our own internal struggles can be deafening, we must find a way to return to the heart of God. We can do that by carving out small moments of prayer throughout each day, fasting from screen time, making it a point to stop by a church or Adoration chapel and sit quietly with the Lord for a short while, rising early or spending time before bed trying to still our minds and hearts to hear the beat of God’s heart for each one of us.
The Church, in her wisdom, has also set liturgical seasons for us to live by. In just a few short weeks, we will begin Advent, the time of waiting and anticipation before the celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas. Advent is an incredible gift to us, and an opportunity to focus on preparing our hearts to welcome Jesus into them. In the world, Christmas or “the holidays” have already begun. Festive lights have replaced political yard signs; every store is selling Christmas goods; holiday tunes are being played everywhere. As we head into December, the busyness always seems to ramp up even more: there are presents to buy, school concerts and holiday parties to attend, cards to send, memories to make with family and friends. But as a church family, the season we are currently in is simply Ordinary Time, a beautiful time in and of itself. It can be hard to live the liturgical seasons well when it feels out of step with what is going on in the world around us. Even in the midst of all this activity (much of which is good and necessary!), we can still “return to the heart” in different ways. We can slow ourselves down and ask what is drawing us toward Christ, and what might be distracting us from him, and more selectively choose how we spend our time and energy. We also can be intentional with our time now in order to have greater freedom to slow down and step into greater silence during Advent. It may be unrealistic to think that we could somehow completely sidestep all the hustle and bustle of the upcoming season, but there are ways that in the midst of it all, we can turn toward the Lord, who is waiting for the return of each one of our hearts to His in order to fill it with His love and mercy.
[*Hat tips to St. John Henry Newman (Episcopal motto: “Cor ad cor loquitor” (Heart speaks to heart)) and St. Augustine (“Our heart is restless until it rests in thee”) for those beautiful phrases.]
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