Leaning Into The Heart of God – A Reflection on John 13

I offered a reflection on John 13:21-38 at Taize Evening Prayer tonight. It was our last Taize prayer for Lent. These weeks have been a real gift. Plus tonight, my boss was able to attend and he proclaimed the Gospel for me; that was really special. The church may be a giant CF (sorry!) in some ways but it, like Rolheiser points out is also the dwelling place of saints. And those saints might be you or me.

Anyway our Evening Prayer is beautiful – the music is so sublime – you just melt into it. In fact, as I was preparing this post, I realized that is what I talked about and that is what the Taize chant invites you to do… Lean deeply into the heart of God.

The environment is lovely too and I am sorry that this photo does not do this scene justice.  My friend Chris has such a gift for environment and I stand in awe of her talent. The glass bowl containing stones and light also has some sand in the top where we have a charcoal burning; incense is put on and it is gorgeous. 

This was my typed text from last night. It was a bit shorter (although still too long- *sigh*) and I did not read it but spoke from notes, so it was a bit different. So it was not what you see here, but this is close enough and I can’t rewrite it!

Holy week – it was a tough week for Jesus. It is a tough week for us Catholics in the present moment. We need to pray and act, but that is not what I am here to talk about tonight. However, when preparing for this, I did come across this quote in reference to the current situation. It is from Ronald Rolheiser, Catholic Priest and author who writes in his book “The Holy Longing”:

“To be connected with the church is to be associated with scoundrels, warmongers, fakes, child-molesters, murderers, adulterers and hypocrites of every description.

It also, at the same time, identifies you with saints and the finest persons of heroic soul of every time, country, race, and gender.

To be a member of the church is to carry the mantle of both the worst sin and the finest heroism of soul because the church always looks exactly as it looked at the original crucifixion, God hung among thieves.” – Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing

I have been reading about Ingatian spirituality lately – the Spiritual exercises. One is encouraged to read Scripture and enter into each of the parts of the story. From where I sit, it is a lot more attractive to want to be the disciple that Jesus loved rather than to be Peter or Judas in today’s Gospel.

However, I can tell you that I don’t have to study the lines in order to be Peter or Judas however – I have a lot of practice.

In any event, we must enter into the story over and over and at some point, and meet God and ourselves in all of them.

We spent all that time in the desert and have returned to Jerusalem. It would seem a relief to be out of the dry and desiccated landscape and back into life. We leave behind the barren landscape and re-enter the lively city. However, Jerusalem is not just any city and to enter it is to know you will not leave it the same person you arrived.

Jesus gets this – the poor apostles, not so much. Have you listened to them? Jockeying for who gets to be the most important? Peter swearing that he would never deny Jesus – something we know he does in a few short hours. Judas thinking about his 30 pieces of silver and whatever else might have attracted him to betray the Lord.

Of course there is the one that Jesus loved, in the endearing image that associate with something that Fr Pat said a few years ago… At rest, with his head on Jesus’ chest. ……….. It is like our opening Taize song – Be still, Be still and know that I am God.

Silent. Listening. Leaning into the heart of God.

Just saying that scares me, I think I might rather be Peter seeking affirmation by promising to be a good boy or, Judas – transactional matters like being in charge of the money is a more antiseptic place. I might like that.

The dynamics of leaning into the heart of God and having God’s heart lean back into me seems much more frightening to me because it is to know and to be known in the most intimate way. God’s love envelops us.

And when that happens, not unlike Mary’s receptivity that we recently commemorated on the Annunciation, it requires openness, transparency and a true lack of defenses.

I’m sweating now, just at the thought of it. It does not mean absenting ourselves but rather simply being who we are, in all of our integrated wholeness. It makes me shudder, can I do that?

Can’t I just go back to managing my time and productivity? Must I really surrender into becoming the person that God has loved me into being? For me, like for Peter, jockeying in my own bumbly way to be number one comes very naturally – you can ask my boss, he’s here.

For Peter, that seemed to mean promising more than he could deliver because he was not promising out of his deep center and his integrity… he was promising out of his wounded ego. I don’t know about you, but I could write a long autobiography just for my wounded ego, let alone the rest of me.

And Judas, where was he coming from? We know that John tells us that when Judas took the morsel, he went out…. Night had fallen. The darkness had come.

Going hard on Judas is easy sport. While he was the lynch pin in the operation of getting Jesus arrested and crucified, we should always remember that if he did not do so, we might not be sitting here

I once heard a story that in some places that Judas Iscariot is revered as a saint because at the moment of his death he understood just what he had done wrong and turned back to God in a moment of true transformation and metanoia. Who knows? I do like the sound of it although it was jarring at first and may sound bad to many.

Whatever happened with Peter, with Judas, with me or with you – its all the same. We get caught in this dyad of good or bad, right or wrong and with Jesus, it might mean just leaning into his chest to hear his heart.

I’m sweating again.

Whatever it is, the darkness does fall – it had to. It had to fall in Jerusalem on that night so long ago and it has to happen to us too.

I’m not suggesting we go headlong into the darkness on purpose and succumb to it, but that we might accept that the darkness comes and that we must stay with Jesus. It is the only way to be transformed.

At least that is what I am told. And if I return to the quote that I opened with and if I think about myself, if I think about so many people I know, if I think about the church at large, it makes perfect sense.

Jesus was not really throwing people out – he was simply pretty clear about how to follow him. The Samaritan woman, tax collectors, the woman caught in adultery, lepers, Judas and Peter himself – there are numerous characters who represent that totally not-in crowd that Our Savior was so often seen with.

And maybe that’s because he understood that you have to have a clear understanding of who you are and how God has made you. Then when the darkness falls… and it always does and more than once, it is about integrating the darkness and not just be in or out of it.

It is a kind metanoia that stretches our imaginations and our hearts to points we might not have wanted, but that we truly need. That stretch of mind, heart and body is what the cross is about.

Of course the way to do that is to lean headlong, deep into the heart of Jesus and just listen. There you will find Light and transformation – which is what Easter is about.

Night has fallen and you can go out into it or you can stay with the Lord and be transformed.

Please – lean in.


13 thoughts on “Leaning Into The Heart of God – A Reflection on John 13

  1. Thanks — I think the image of John leaning on Jesus' chest able to hear the heartbeat of God – looking out at the world as Jesus does – is what speaks to me. Thanks to John Shea of storytelling theology.As to Judas – my favorite poem – Robert Buchanan:The Ballad of Judas Iscariot


  2. Wow. I'm with Ann. I SO love that image. Beautiful.And…in another of those parallel twin moments, does it surprise you that my SD has been working with me via the Ignatian Retreat? He takes the 30 day version and spreads it out over 120 days. It has been an amazing trip, b/c we by accident coincided it with the liturgial year, so I was doing the Advent exercises during Advent, and the Passion and Resurrection meditations during Lent/Holy Week and Easter.You have a gift, Fran–this is wonderful.


  3. And Kirk… that's the 19th Annotation you're doing. Around here, whole groups of people go through the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life–and it follows the liturgical year. Have you discovered the Creighton University site? (Or maybe save it til you're done with your retreat.)


  4. Hi Fran,This post is full of life-giving and heart! You really were near the heartbeat of Jesus because the pulse running through the writing here is God given.Thank you so much. I hope the rest of Holy Week for you and your parish community is blessed with the gifts we all need in our daily lives to keep the flow of Christ's life strong. Pump it up Fran !!


  5. Fran, thank you for the image of leaning into the heart of Godde and having Godde's heart lean back into me… What a beautiful meditation you are offering us! What a graced gift!Blessings and Joy for you in this Resurrection.


  6. To think all these years of looking at so many images depicting the beloved disciple resting on Christ–and not once connecting that with hearing/feeling the beat of God's heart!Fran–always so generous with your wonders–you've given me, us, a great gift as we turn our mind's eye to the Last Supper. Instead of thinking, "I don't want to be Judas or Peter," you've planted a new prayer in me: "Let me be the beloved disciple. Let me hear Your heart."Thank you.


  7. Thank you one and all for your comments and for always walking with me in prayer out here in our bloggy church.I try to lean in but running around comes so much more naturally to me.Blessings of this sacred Triduum to one and all.


  8. like the whole thing Fran, but especially the final line, to stay and be transformed.I've been thinking about transformation a lot lately.


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