The heart of men

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.

Blessings and Woes

This coming Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, with several days of context behind us, we can look at more details. Luke incorporates part of the same material that Matthew had included in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7). There is a rhythm like a call and response: a condition not of the kingdom followed by a promise that the Kingdom will heal the problem. All of it is cast in the repetition of blessings and woes.

And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.

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