God's word addresses all dimensions
We are called in mind, heart and hands to follow the Holy Spirit
August 31, 2003 -- Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. What is the level of your wisdom and intelligence?
2. What resides in the deepest recesses of your heart?
3. Do you desire a "new heart?"
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the great French scientist and
apologist, is famous for his statement: "The heart has its reasons
of which reason knows nothing." Here is a person who, at age16,
published articles on intricate matters of mathematics. Here is a
committed Christian who believed in the mystery of Jesus and the
importance of the human heart. For Pascal, every dimension of the
human person - the cognitive (mind), the affective (heart), the
behavioral (ethics) - has its proper significance.
Today's readings address all three dimensions of our lives. In
the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses makes reference to wisdom
and intelligence (cognitive domain). Whoever learns the statues and
decrees of the Lord and teaches others to observe is truly wise and
intelligent. Moses is referring to the commandments, the basic laws
that govern our relationship with God and one another. When we
worship God alone, honor our parents, respect life and sexuality,
we demonstrate that we are a wise and intelligent people.
But we often just don't get it. We think that we can adore both
God and money. Or, we think that we are free to take life and
disregard the truth. And sometimes we forget that God's
commandments are grounded in love, not legislation. We need to ask
continually for the grace of wisdom and knowledge, the gifts of
understanding and counsel.
The letter of James takes us to the ethical dimension of our
lives. We are not only to let God's word take root in us, we are
also to "act on this word." Failure to do so is simply
self-deception. Our task is to look after the vulnerable (orphans
and widows) and remain uncontaminated by the world. James insists
that we put the truth into action. Or, as St. Paul expresses it,
"do the truth in love."
Discipleship demands action. In following Jesus we are to bear
fruit. Whether we visit prisons, welcome the stranger, feed the
hungry, clothe the naked, we are to respond to the needs of our
neighbor. "The loving person responds" (Eric Fromm). We demonstrate
our commitment to the Kingdom by translating our Christian values
into Christian action.
In-between the cognitive (mind) and behavioral (ethics)
dimensions of our life is the affective, the matters of the heart.
Jesus is deeply concerned with the "deep recesses of the heart."
Jesus is deeply concerned that our reverence not be empty
(heartless), that we do not pay lip service to God. Rather, his
desire is that God may truly be glorified in our hearts. Jesus'
ministry centered on conversion of the heart, longing that people
be on fire with the Spirit and burning with love.
From the heart comes good things: generosity, sacrifice,
compassion, mercy, forgiveness. From the heart comes wicked
designs: theft, murder, greed, fornication, deceit. Our hearts are
mysterious even to us. We might do well to turn to Ezekiel the
prophet (36:25-27) and ponder the passage in which God promises us
a new heart, a heart of flesh and not of stone. And, as we know,
our God is a promise maker and a promise keeper.
The mind, the heart, the hands - the cognitive, the affective,
the behavioral. God's word addresses every area of our life and is
calling us to on-going conversion. This is the work of the Holy
Spirit, a work we are asked to cooperate with on a daily basis.
Indeed, "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green