What lies in the heart of men? If we would rely on the introduction from the popular radio series the Shadow, our answer would be – “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” Given that we were created in the image and likeness of God, washed clean in the waters of Baptism, we began so hopeful, so innocent. What’s going on in the human heart? “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, Beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9) In the language of the Bible “heart” means the core of the self, the deepest center of who we are, that place from which our thoughts and actions arise. Today’s gospel is none too hopeful about what lies in the heart of men:
“From within the man, from his heart, 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 7:20-22)
This is not a lone passage from Scripture which echoes such sentiment. St. Paul notes the same problem and locates it a failure to believe in and honor God. There are consequences: “God handed them over to their undiscerning mind.” (Romans 1:28) He goes onto describe the result of people looking to themselves for a moral compass:
“They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29-31)
If we are honest, each one of us can see something of ourselves in the list even if it is limited to envy and gossiping. What are we to do? St. Paul saw the root of the problem – the solution lies there, in your heart. Awake each day look into your heart to rediscover your love for God and give Him glory in prayer. Start each day in prayer. Each evening, examine your day and with hope pray:
Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me…wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Ps 51:3-4,9)
Let these be your treasure: “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:21). And in the morn, begin again.