Recently, I came upon a speech by Meryl Streep given at the 2017 Golden Globe awards that captured a painful moment we should not forget. I invite you to view Meryl Streep’s speech here. In a way, this is all we need to know during Lent: that our broken hearts need mending. Healing is a slow and grace-filled process that requires our courage, not just on a cosmetic surface level, but in a deep way that gets to the roots of our pain.
Matthew’s Gospel for Ash Wednesday would have us rend our hearts, not our garments. To open up our broken hearts and seek healing, to tend to our hearts, seek compassion, receive the forgiveness and acceptance we long for. This year, this very strange and challenging year, Lent may be an invitation to tend to our own broken hearts, in the places where we have lost sisters and family members without the ritual, the visits, the gatherings that help us remember. In the absence of touch, the embrace, the close physical encounters that help heal our hearts, how might we mend our hearts and the hearts of others?
Streep talked about the art of empathy. She asks: Isn’t that what actors do, offer a glimpse into the experience of someone else? Reaching into that sacred space of another’s heart. The art of mending the broken heart, is this what we might be called to this Lent?
Last month, I mentioned an article in Sojourners magazine about this very topic. In God is in the Making, Makoto Fujimura talks about the art of kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics using gold, or silver to restore a cup or bowl. It is the act of repairing, but not masking the fractures. In fact, in kintsugi, the breaks still show, so that we can appreciate the beauty in the brokenness. I’m suggesting that in these days, the Gospel call to rend our hearts, not our garments, is calling us to open our broken hearts to the suffering of those– near and far –who are in pain. To again recognize that all of us have known disappointment, sadness, loss, and brokenness.
This is how Jesus healed. He met people where they were, not denying pain or suffering, but facing it, (rending open his own heart). He acknowledged the pain of the other (tending to the wound in the other). And He brought forgiveness, healing, and wholeness to the other. (mending the other person)
The art of empathy is about presence to the suffering or disappointment of another person, with whatever circumstances we find ourselves: the sister down the hall, the children home from school, the spouse who goes out to work every day. Could this be our call at this time as we look at one another with new eyes? Is the art of empathy what Lent is offering us this year?
Empathy demands deep listening to the experience of the other, even if we feel like we have heard the same story over and over again. The same complaint, the same whine, the same grumbling. Empathy is an act and an art. It is an acknowledgment of a fracture, a wound, even a chronic condition. And we may not even know that our open hearts have begun to heal another person because we met them where they were, listening for a time and held their pain. We are all artists, all of us can rend, tend and mend.
As Princess Leia said, “Take your broken heart and make it art.”
For more Lenten resources from the Dominican Sisters of Peace, click here.