I like playing cards. It is true that I don’t know many games, but nonetheless, I enjoy sitting with friends and shuffling a deck. However, just as the cards are mixed while shuffling, so too, in life, many things get tossed out of order.
The king of hearts, which is just one of 52 exciting cards in a standard deck, never really struck me as a unique card. It was just one of the set…until now. The king of hearts is, in fact, not just a card in a deck.
The third Friday after Pentecost (19 days after Pentecost) is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is His heart, pierced by the soldier’s lance, which is truly the King of Hearts. In spite of this, in our daily lives, He so often gets “lost” in the shuffle. I know I tend, at times, to focus on worldly allurements, such as beauty (queen of diamonds), work (jack-of-all-spades), and pleasure (joker). But somewhere in that mixed lot of cards there is a King and His Queen Mother—the true King and Queen of Hearts.
It seems that, in cards, the king and queen of hearts have equal ground with the king and queen of any other suit; you can usually trump any lower card with a king or queen. This well-crafted symbol of deception is one that we are easily drawn into. If we give priority to all the kings and queens in our life simultaneously, we give to “God and Cesar” a mixed bag of everything. Didn’t Christ say something about rendering to Cesar what is Cesar’s…and so on? (Mark 12:17, if you need a refresher on that one!) When we put the true King and Queen of Hearts on the same level as the diamonds (pretty things), spades (work, work , work) and clubs (status) in our lives, we bring God down to the mire of our sinful human condition. Now, the Lord is not afraid or hesitant to step down to that level—in fact, he did so about 2,000 years ago, and continues to do so in the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation. But the fact of the matter is that we, as creatures, need to strive to perfect our humanity, so that we can come to be more like God, our ultimate goal.
What about the appearance of the cards in a deck? Ever notice that one side of each card has the same patter or image as the others? This masking of cards is essential to the game being played. In life, however, it is a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve (thanks, guys). Before the Fall, creation was at the disposal of man. After the Fall, man was betrayed by a corrupted creature from that same creation. The Fall is the moment at which our First Parents’ eyes were opened, and the reality of good and evil became apparent. It was also at this moment that the conscience of man was clouded. This clouding of conscience creates a mask, which shrouds the true reality from our sight—good may appear as evil and vice versa. Just think of the culture we live in. Countless examples come to mind of the strategic switch-ups between good and evil. This is the back side of the card. We need to turn the card over in order to see which one we are holding. Then we can fully decide what to do with it. Keep it, play it, or discard it.
The cards in a deck are shuffled and dealt out time and again, just like the numerous decisions and discernments throughout life. There is a lower probability of obtaining a heart than any one of the other three suits. This again points to the fact that the King and Queen of Hearts are only found on the “narrow” path. Again, I think Jesus mentioned something about broad paths and narrow paths (Mt. 7: 14). The narrow path is the way of the Christian. The cards are dealt and you must decide which to discard, and which to keep. What will you hold in your hand at the end of the day—eternity in heaven, or the fleeting allurements of this world?