Wednesday: 12 February, 2014 ––5th Week of Ordinary Time
The Human Heart
It is a common assumption and we often hear it stated: People are basically good.
Here is what God says through the prophet Jeremiah: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9).
In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus expanding what this means: What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man. (Mk 7:20–23).
So often we try to fix the “outside.” This is what Jesus said many of the scribes and Pharisees were doing. In our own day we are inundated with an obsession of image. “Image” is a veneer. Image is what we present to the public. Image is marketed as the thing that can give us fulfillment. Even a “good” image, if that is all it is, is vacuous.
What is the desire of our hearts? Someone has said A man is what he does when he is alone.
Lord of the Flies is a 1954 novel about a group of British boys stuck on an inhibited island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results. As the imposed structures of civilization dissipate, the boys become increasingly selfish and cruel. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt....
We see this is our own culture. As common civility goes in reverse––as disrespect and violence increase in our once-stable communities––it is because people are increasingly dismissive of God and truth.
The one thing that rescues our hearts is grace. When we find ourselves desiring the good.... when we restrain from being selfish and nasty.... we are under the effect of grace. What would this world be without the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Church? It would be hell.
How do we combat the evil of the human heart and the presence of original sin? We stay open to grace. We pray for grace. We do what St Paul told the Philippians: whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phlp 4:8).