February 16, 2024

Journey of the Heart / Jennifer Burger

May we have the courage to heal, to forgive, to love—to truly be human

Jennifer BurgerWe tend to think of winter as a time of hibernation. And on a recent walk with our dog in my neighborhood, there was evidence of this all around me.

I saw very few people outside. Passing by the houses of those we’ve come to be acquainted with on our frequent summer walks, I wondered how they were doing. I noticed the yards and trees barren of color. I became aware that “life” exists within these homes and in nature this time of the year—we just don’t see it.

There is wonder and mystery in what is hidden—and within this, we have opportunities to find discovery and revelation.

One needs only to look at the life of Jesus to understand this. We find no record of his “hidden life” between the ages of 12 and 30, but we understand this was a part of his life during which he grew and developed in stature and knowledge.

His human nature was shaped by his holy parents to be worthy of his divine nature, so that all would come to believe and be eternally united with the Father.

All that is hidden in the life of Jesus, and his nature as fully God and fully human is revealed in the paschal mystery. I think of this often when I’m in eucharistic adoration. Jesus holds nothing back!

But what about us? Do we hold back? Do we keep pieces of our lives to ourselves, hidden from others? And in particular, hidden from God?

We all have some kind of “hidden life,” whether it be a deep-rooted trauma or some part of our sinful human nature. We may prefer to keep these parts of our lives to ourselves.

Our wounds may be too painful to share. We are embarrassed or ashamed of our mistakes. We fear rejection or admonishment in admitting our weakness and our failings.

Perhaps we find ways to redeem ourselves, proving our worthiness of being accepted and loved. In all our efforts to hide or disguise ourselves, what we truly desire is to be known.

With our hearts heavy in this contradiction, it is easy to forget that to be fully known is to be fully human. Our humanity can be messy, complicated and difficult to piece together. In admitting and sharing this brokenness, we can be made complete—or at least the process can begin.

God sees and knows every piece of our lives. More importantly, he knows our worthiness and loves us so much that he gave us his son Jesus so that we would be saved. When we can let go of our self-redeeming ways and surrender them to the Redeemer, our journey can become one of both wholeness and holiness. Not only does this enrich our relationship with God, but also with others.

In his book The Ignatian Adventure, Jesuit Father Kevin O’Brien says this well in the “second week” of this guide to the Spiritual Exercises: “The path to divinity is through our humanity and not around it. … The more we express our humanity in loving, healing, forgiving, serving and rejoicing, the more our divinity or holiness is revealed.”

As we begin this Lenten season, may we have the courage to be human. May we reveal our hearts more intimately with God and share our lives more fully with each other. Let us ask for the grace to honor the “humanness” of each other.

May we walk together the path of salvation with our Lord—He who gave all and does not hold back!

(Jennifer Burger is program manager at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis and a member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. She is also a spiritual director.) †

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