The Heart Sees the Essential

Antonio Zebedeo Abad

French pilot and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in his book, The Little Prince:1

Here is my secret,
A very simple secret.
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, France, 1943

We had just gone through another Holy Week experience. Every year, we commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We already know what happened. But for the disciples and the women of Jerusalem, it was a first experience, and a very shocking, horrible experience that led Judas to take his own life. It was a very confusing time. How can we have a Passover meal without an unblemished lamb? We now know that He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus Christ’s prior words to His disciples were not enough to make them realize what would happen. And only the very young disciple John was left there at the foot of the cross with Our Blessed Mother, who was truly with Our Savior from womb to tomb.

Every year, I have a Lenten journey, very occupied with spiritual goals, and hold my Holy Week retreat somewhere meaningful. This year, for the annual visita iglesia or church visitation on Holy Thursday, I visited historic churches in Tucson, Arizona. I spent the entire day of Good Friday in the Sonoran Desert, contemplating the Lord’s passion amidst nature in Saguaro National Park. It was certainly not a walk in the park in the intense desert heat covered with desert-appropriate attire and carrying water, supplies and camera. It was exhausting. But the exhaustion was nowhere near what Our Savior went through in His passion, with no sleep from the previous day, intense heat, and a very heavy cross, after all the beating, scourging, crowning, spitting and insults, dripping in blood and sweat.

Throughout the history of civilization, there have been hate crimes that take various forms, from Cain and Abel,2 the early Christians being fed to the lions for Roman entertainment in the Colosseum, to the Jewish Holocaust, to today’s abortion and hate crimes. How do we measure our advancement as a civilization? Is it through economy and technology without regard for humanity? Modern man has made the dog his best friend, and his fellow man his worst enemy. We have an Animal Protection Agency, but none for the oppressed. We have rationalized oppression into ¨rational lies¨. And those who protect the oppressed are themselves persecuted. In the beginning of Christ’s ministry, He stood up in the synagogue and read from the scrolls in the book of Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Luke 4:18 from Isaiah 61, NABRE

A theologian once said, there are three P’s that take away our Peace.

  • Proving to others
  • Performing for others
  • Pleasing others

And these three P’s characterize how a person whose name and initials start with P conducted himself in the accounts of the Gospels. His name is Pontius Pilate. He clearly did not have control of the situation, and was even being threatened by his wife to have nothing to do with this man. And the one he condemned whose name starts with C for Christ actually had the C’s of Countenance and Control of the situation. In spite of all the insults and torture He had gone through, he kept his C for Cool, even Carrying His Cross through the heat of the desert.

So, there we have the 5 C´s of Christ:

  • Countenance
  • Control
  • Cool
  • Carrying
  • Cross

From the last supper the night before, to His suffering, the Lord,

the Lover with His beloved, [man] transforming the Beloved in her Lover [the Lord].3

St John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel

This “transformation” happens principally in the Eucharist, and if we were open enough, it would also happen in reality. We can, as Saint Paul writes, be transformed into the image of the Lord and be glorified by his glory.4 Our earthly life can be transformed into a risen life.5

Stinissen, Wilfrid, OCD. Bread That is Broken.

But first, we must lift up our hearts, for it is right and just to give Him thanks and praise, to stand in His presence and serve Him. In those days, a servant has his hands together as in prayer in front of the king, and the king then accepts the servant’s humility by clasping his hands around the servant’s hands transforming him to a knight. This is how we lift up our hearts, our whole being, including the nakedness of our sins, and how our Lord transforms us in Him.

Many saints, such as St Teresa of Ávila6, considered themselves so wretched. As we progress in the higher realms of holiness, we encounter Our Lord even more, and we see ourselves as wretched in His presence.

Pope Francis writes, “What is mercy for you? Etymologically, mercy derives from misericordis, which means, opening one’s heart to wretchedness.”7 It is a heart of love that communicates to our miseries, the human condition.

Pope Francis. The Name of God is Mercy

We have our hands together in prayer and the Lord invisibly takes our hand in our humility to transform us into Him, for we believe in the visible and the invisible, even the virus that afflicts us today. The disciple Thomas relied on the visible, but learned to see with his heart and faith.

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, France, 1943
  1. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, France, 1943.
  2. Gen 4:1-16.
  3. St John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, in The Collected Works of St John of the Cross, trans Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD, and Otillio Rodríguez, OCD (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2017), 114.
  4. 2 Cor 3:18.
  5. Stinissen, Wilfrid, OCD. Bread That is Broken. trans Sister Clare Marie, OCD fr Bröd som bryts. Karmeliterna, Norraby, Tågarp, 1989. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2020.
  6. St Teresa of Ávila. The Way of Perfection. Tran Kavanaugh, Kieran, OCD. ICS Publications, Washington, DC, 2000
  7. Pope Francis. The Name of God is Mercy. Tran Oonagh Stransky. Random House, New York, 2016.
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