God’s word for us today involves the cognitive, affective and behavioral domains.
Cognition deals with the mind and our search for wisdom. St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) appeared to the culture of his time to be a fool, one lacking in wisdom and understanding. Yet, we know from his life that Francis committed himself to the doing of God’s will and in that obedience gave evidence of his true wisdom.
In Mark’s Gospel for today we hear a great deal about the affective domain, the area of our life symbolized by the heart. Jesus is clear and direct. No matter how smart we might be (or think we are), what ultimately matters is the condition of our heart, for from it comes good and evil. That is why words falling from our lips without being connected to the heart fail in authenticity. Hypocrite is the word Jesus uses to describe those who worship and pray and yet do not have their heart in it.
Amos Niven Wilder comments: “The human heart would suffocate if it were restricted to logic.” Indeed, the truth that logic offers is of great significance, but the heart has its own “wisdom,” its own “intelligence.” The word compassion comes close to describing this grace, or the word empathy. It is suffocating to be around people of genius who lack affectivity.
Perhaps the Jewish rabbi Abraham Herschel was correct when he commented that our religious buildings are empty because we no longer know how to move the heart. “The problem is not how to fill the buildings, but how to inspire the heart.” And probably nothing inspires the heart so much as caring for others.
If the head deals with the cognitive dimension of our lives and hearts with the affective, it is our hands and feet that provide evidence of the behavioral domain.
The truth is that the mind comprehends and the love of the heart seeks expression in reaching out to those in need, the affected ones. This means that we must be doers of the word, translating God’s decrees into concrete action. This means that our hearing must be followed by obedience, the doing of God’s will.
An integral spiritual life gives due regard to the mind, heart and hands; a holistic discipleship is one in which truth, love and action are seen in relationship.
Questions for reflection
1. Which of the three domains is strongest (weakest) in your life?
2. What is the relationship between truth and love?
3. Are we here in the United States a wise and intelligent nation?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.