Archbishop's Message

Shepherd's Voice November 2021 - LET CHRIST RULE IN OUR HEARTS


The Solemnity of Christ the King falls this year on November 21. Once again, due to Covid-19 related restrictions, we may not be able to organize the annual Mass cum procession in all its enthusiastic and splendid festivity as earlier but that does not prevent us from enthroning Christ as the King of our hearts. Ultimately what Christ wants from us is not the external display of a colourful procession alone but the witness of a true Christian life of authentic discipleship by letting him rule in our hearts as the Master and King of our lives. If he rules us then our lives will be filled with his Spirit, and this will manifest itself in our behaviour. The question we have to ask ourselves all the time is this: ‘Who rules me, Christ and his Spirit or the evil spirt?’ ‘How do I walk, by the law of the Spirit or by the law of the flesh?’ (cf. Gal 5:16-26).If I have enthroned Christ in my heart then I will endeavour to live a life in accordance with his Gospel which is contrary to the wisdom of this world (cf. 1Cor.1:18-25). The Solemnity of Christ the King calls for a seriou s examination of my conscience to become aware of the forces that control me and the direction in which I am m oving.
The ‘heart’ as the symbolic source of the human willing and decision-making and the core of our personality is very important in the entire Bible:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men”(Isaiah 29: 13).
“return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:12-13).
“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my rules” (Ez. 36:26-27).
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person . But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (Mt. 15:18-20).
So external acts of religion are important but they mean nothing before God if the ‘heart’ is unclean – “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8).
The interiority of the heart or the inner self is so much stressed by St. Paul as the source of a new Spirit-filled vision of the unity of all humankind and creation in Christ:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:14-19).
It is not without reason the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are so dear to us in the Catholic tradition. This is what St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) to whom Christ revealed the devotion to his Sacred Heart has to tell us (cf. Office of Readings, October 16):
- the reason behind our Lord’s great desire that especial honour should be paid to his sacred heart is his wish to renew in our souls the effects of our redemption.
- for his sacred heart is an inexhaustible spring which has no other purpose than to overflow into hearts which are humble, so that they may be ready and willing to devote their lives to his goodwill and pleasure.
- outof this divine heart three streams gush uninterruptedly: mercy for sinners leading to contrition and penance, charity which flows to help all those labouring under difficulties and especially those seeking perfection, love and light to those who are Christ’s perfect friends whom he wishes to bring to complete union with himself.
- this divine heart is an ocean full of good things wherein we can cast all our needs, an ocean full of joy to drown all our sadness, an ocean of humility to overwhelm our folly,
- unite yourself to the heart of Our Lord so that you may make satisfaction for sin.
- whenever anything happens to you that is painful, hard to hear, or mortifying, tell yourself this: ‘accept what the Sa cred Heart of Jesus sends you in order to unite you to himself’.
- but above all things maintain peace of heart which surpasses every treasure; for maintaining this peace nothing is mo re effective than to renounce one’s own will and to set in its place the will of the Sacred Heart.
The one commission Christ has given to us at his Ascension is to be his ‘witnesses’ (cf. Lk. 24:48). To be a witness to Christ is to testify by word and deed to the truth of the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are witnesses to Christ not only ‘externally’ but above all ‘internally’ in our hearts where we can make our choices and decisions. The internal fidelity to Christ is as important as the external display of our faith, if not more. The daily abiding in his love and his word, the daily dying to ourselves and taking up our cross and following him, the daily call to love, forgive, be humble, empty oneself of pride and ego-centrednes s, the daily ‘yes’ to God’s will in all circumstances, some of them very trying, constitutes the ‘valour’ of a true Christian soldier of Christ; and this begins primarily in the family and from there encompasses the whole of our life. This is the only way that will ensure our entry into eternal life.
By walking on this way, we witness to Christ who declared before Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18: 36) and further on the purpose for which he came into this world: “to bear witness to the truth” (Jn. 18:37).
St. Ambrose (Sermon 20, 47-50 in Office of Readings, October 9) offers a profound reflection on this interior martyrdom which should be the mark of every Christian in one’s daily life. He says:
“As there are many kinds of persecution, so there are many forms of martyrdom. You are a witness to Christ every day. Tempted by a spirit of fornication but fearing the coming judgement of Christ, you concluded that chastity of mind and body must not be profaned; you are a martyr of Christ.Tempted by a spirit of avarice to seize th e possessions of a minor or violate the right of a defenceless widow, you yet judged in the light of God’s c ommandments that you should offer help rather than inflict injury; you are a witness to Christ. Christ desir es such witnesses to stand by him… Tempted by a spirit of pride but seeing the poor and the needy, you tend erly took pity on them, loving humility rather than arrogance; you are a witness to Christ. What is more, y ou gave testimony not mere in word but in deed.”
What St. Ambrose emphasizes is being martyrs of Christ and confessing the Lord Jesus each day ‘in secret’. This faithful witnessing to Christ interiorly belongs to the ‘testimony of the conscience’ – the inward following of Christ which is more important than the outward confession because ‘we may confess him outwardly and deny him inwardly’.
He exhorts us to be faithful and strong in the interior persecutions where, like the Lord, we will have to stand trial before ‘interior’governors, kings and judges i.e., before our own vices and sins. There are as many ‘kings’ as there are sins and vices but when we confess Christ, at once our Saviour takes that king prisoner and cast s him down from his throne in our souls, because the judgement-seat of the devil cannot remain in the soul of the person where Christ’s judgement-seat is set up.
Another Father of the Church St. Cyprian in Chap 13 of his treatise To Fortunatus (Office of Readings, October 14)) exhorts us to be soldiers of Christ who do their utmost to attain to the great glory which makes us friends of God and sharers straightaway in the joy of Christ not only by courageously facing persecutions and torments in times of persecutions but by defeating the devil in our consciences on a daily basis:
“There is a crown for those who in times of persecution fight the good fight; there is a crown too for those who in times of peace keep true to their conscience”.
So, there is the ‘soldier’ whose valour lies in being ‘true to one’s conscience’.
May Christ our Saviour and Lord reign in our hearts.

Yours sincerely in the Lord,
+ Anil J. T. Couto
  Archbishop of Delhi