At mass yesterday, the pastor at my church, Fr. John, started off his homily by telling us about the part he played in an eighth-grade love triangle. Girl A, he said, was enamored of him and, while he was friendly with her, he wasn't interested, instead casting his eye toward Girl B.
Apparently Girl A thought all her future happiness (like you do at that age. Oh, the drama!) was encompassed in the now-married-to-the-Church Fr. John, and wrote him many love letters in which she called him the handsomest, most intelligent boy she knew (which Fr. John joked at least proved she had good taste).
He went on to say that he tried to ignore it for a while (which didn't help), and did his best to make sure Girl B knew where his affections were placed. Then one day things came to a head. He told Girl A, in no uncertain terms, that he didn't like her in that way.
"I was quite cruel about it," he said, adding Girl A subsequently wrote him many poison pen letters and tried to spread rumors to his detriment as a way to get back at him for rejecting her. Decades later, he said "I still feel a little bit guilty about how I handled it."
"We've all been rejected," he continued. "But that doesn't mean we should build walls around our hearts, because we lose out on love and friendship." Those walls keep us safe, but don't let anyone else in, either.
And for the rest of his homily, while I was listening, this song was also running through my head:
The homily struck a chord with me for another reason, too. There's a saying girls and women are often told in Catholic and Christian circles, that we should "guard our hearts." While I certainly want to give my heart to a man who is worthy of it, I sometimes wonder if I've been too diligent in that regard in the past. Not that I'm encouraging abject recklessness, but I've never once, for example, told a man I was interested in him -- well, I shouldn't say never, because I have, but not until ages after the fact and I was long over him, ergo, safe from heartbreak, and the point completely moot -- and occasionally give a thought to what, if anything, would have been different had I done more than moon from afar.
Perhaps nothing, but I write this to illustrate the care I've taken to keep my heart from being ill-used. I recognize that particular wall especially, the yearning for self-preservation, and know it's something I need to work on. I have never been brave enough to hold my heart in my hands and give it to a man. Not romantically, at least, though I've wanted to. Or, if I've been considering it, sometimes circumstance and timing (and God, wiser that I am) takes a turn and the opportunity is lost...which are stories for another day. :)
But we give our hearts to family and friends as well, and they, too, can have the power to hold or scorn us. Family especially, as the ones closest to us, knows all the right ways to hurt us, all the buttons to push. It's not always consciously done, but that doesn't necessarily change the sting. Friends, too, can sometimes betray us in ways both large and small.
And that's where forgiveness comes in.
At the close of his homily, Fr. John went on to say that Jesus, too, is holding His heart in His hands, offering to entrust us with it to do what we may. He knows that there will be times when we will reject it, stomp on it, grind it into dust at our feet, and yet He holds it toward us still. That, Fr. John explained, is Jesus' Divine Mercy -- which we celebrated yesterday -- forgiving us all we've done and all we've yet to do, even though He knows we might not be worthy of that trust, hoping just the same that we will give our heart in return.