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Broken Hearts

Today I will talk about broken hearts.  Not a pleasant topic.  But the experience of a broken heart is a part of everyone’s life.  Parker Palmer, one of my favorite authors, says that everyone will have A BROKEN HEART AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER.  It is part of the human condition.


In today’s Gospel, Simeon predicts that the Virgin Mary will have a broken heart.  He says to her, “A sword of sorrow will pierce your heart.”  Simeon is pointing toward the day when she will stand near the cross at the side of her dying son.  No one is exempt from experiencing a broken heart.


I turn now to the year 1926.  My mother was 3 years old when her mother died after given birth to her younger brother.  After the funeral Mass and burial and funeral dinner many of the relatives went to the family farm west of Perham.  While people were visiting and sharing their grief my grandfather went looking for my mother.  Nowhere to be found.  Then he thought about a relative from Montana who was always bemoaning the fact that God never gave her any children.  She too was absent.  He put two and two together and jumped in his car and drove cross country to the railroad tracks.


In those days Minnesota had a law that said that the engineer must stop the train if someone is standing near the tracks and waving.         When the train came along my grandfather waved and the train stopped.  He went on board and found my mother and took her back to the farm.  He was determined to keep his family together…even in the midst of a great trauma.


The bottom line is this:  On that day everyone had a broken heart:  my mother, her older sister, her older brother, her father, her grandparents, her uncles and aunts and the woman who couldn’t have children.  As the years went by, they did experience some healing for their broken hearts.  Some healing.  Not total healing. 


Where did the healing come from?  It came from their loving Creator.  Yes, God provided them with healing for their broken hearts.  Psalm 147 says, “God heals the broken-hearted.”  Psalm 34 says, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; healing those whose spirit is crushed.”  And part of their healing came to them when they showed compassion for others who were grieving.  “Heartfelt compassion.”  That what Saint Paul talked about in today’s second reading.  Heartfelt compassion.  Those are his words.  He says that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ can change your heart so that you can offer heartfelt compassion to those who are hurting.  


 So far I have talked about the pain and partial healing for the pain.  Now it’s time for Part Three: Family Life. 


Saint Paul says that having heartfelt compassion is the secret to having healthy relationships, including family life.  The best symbol for this is the picture of the broken mirror.  When I look into a broken mirror, I see myself and I see my jagged edges and I see that I am broken…


When I look through the jagged edges of the mirror, I see my family members and I see that they too are broken and hurting.  They might be victims of bullying.  They might be grieving the loss of a job or the death of a friend.  They might be suffering from the stress of a poisonous relationship or the loss of a good relationship.  They might be hurting because no one takes them seriously.


Today’s second reading says that I should respond with heartfelt compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility, and patience.  And I should forgive them if they have hurt me, and I should ask for their forgiveness if I have hurt them.  Having heartfelt compassion is the secret to improving family life.


I will close by repeating these words from Sacred Scripture:


1.     Psalm 147 - “God is healing those who are broken-hearted.”

2.     Psalm 34 - “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; healing those whose spirit is crushed.”

3.     Colossians Chapter 3 - “Brothers and sisters, put on heartfelt compassion.” 

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