Wednesday, February 12, 2014

An Affair of the Heart

By Colleen O’Sullivan
Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.  Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person: but the things that come out from within are what defile.”  From within the people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.  All these evils come from within and they defile.” (Mark 7:14-15, 21-23)

Create in me a clean heart, a heart that seeks only to love you and serve you, O Lord..

I realize I’m dating myself, but I was brought up on the Baltimore Catechism.  One of the many questions and answers I remember is:  “Why did God make you?  God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”  As I was reading Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, I thought about how the verbs in that catechism answer – to know, to love, and to serve – all involve our hearts.

And that’s what Jesus is talking about today – the disposition of our hearts.  As in so many other instances, he is at loggerheads with the Pharisees.  Today’s reading is preceded by conflict centering on the Jewish dietary laws, which by Jesus’ time had evolved into a head-spinning set of man-made rules and regulations complete with varying degrees of impurity.  Following such a set of restrictions would distinguish a Jew from a Gentile, but Jesus knows that, in and of itself, that doesn’t bring us closer to God.  All throughout the Gospels, Jesus tries to get the Pharisees to engage their hearts when it comes to faith and to set their checklists aside.  The spiritual life is about relationship – first with God and then with our brothers and sisters.

Maybe Jesus needs to remind us, too, because sometimes we get caught up in our own type of checklists – yes, I went to Mass every Sunday (but on some of them my mind wandered and I mentally  organized my work week while I was there), went to Mass on holy days (but I was distracted thinking about how I still had to do the dishes and help with homework), abstained from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays in Lent (muttered about it as I got in the car to go to Red Lobster with friends), etc.  Not much heart involvement on some occasions.

In the past year there have been a couple of times in my parish when the congregation has been informally “polled” during the homily as to how many of us have personal relationships with Christ.  Each time I have been astonished at the small number of people raising their hands.

God created each of us in love and hopes only that we will come to know him as our Friend, that our hearts will be filled with love for him and all creation, and that we will discover deep within a desire to serve him.

Discard your checklists today.  Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us.  Ponder God’s love for you and then think about what your Valentine’s Day card would say if you were writing one to the Lord.

1 comment:

Trisha Niermeyer Potter said...

I love this reflection and that each one includes a section for piety, study, and action. What perfect timing that I read about on Melanie Rigney’s book Sisterhood of Saints and checked out this blog this month, as I am serving on a Cursillo team at present and am in the process of writing the Action talk for the Women’s Weekend we’ll be holding April 24-27. I’ll spread the word to others in our area. De Colores!