Let me work on my heart
My dear Spiritual companion, today Jesus is not only saying we should love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who abuse us but we should work on our hearts before attending to other people especially in the areas of self-criticism and correction. Put differently, we should renew the virtue of self-introspection. He says in the gospel, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41-42). It is pertinent to reveal the truth that is seemingly “kept secret”: Christianity is a religion of the heart.We need to work at our heart level. The easiest mistake to make in our spiritual life is to focus on external behavior while neglecting the internal aspect of the heart. And to neglect heart work is to risk spiritual disintegration. A work on the heart is the core of the whole Christian journey and faith life.
If we fail to pay attention to ourselves and unearth our psychological and spiritual baggage and concentrate on a fault-finding mission about other people, we are likely to forget ourselves and expand our hearts with our own faults. The gospel ends with the consequence: “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Meaning our words would become a reflection of what we have inside of us. Now you can see why Ben Sirach (27:5-8) says we should never praise any man until we have heard him speak. Why? We are our words! The way we speak reflects the stuff we are made of.
For Jesus, what really counts in spiritual formation, transformation and maturity is not externals but the interior dispositions of the heart. If you are interested in offering answers to the questions of meaning, purpose, direction and strength in your life within a changing world, then you need to cultivate and practise a spirituality of the heart. This implies a set of movements in our Christian life: from saying prayers to praying; from being right to being good; from looking outward to looking inward!
About looking inward, this defines the basis of working on my heart. It is my determination for unearthing my “false self” as reflected in my shadows or getting into my dark treasury or confronting the unconscious instance of my mind which has repressed and suppressed fears, shame, hurtful feelings, sexual feelings, and selfishness, the seven capital sins in my heart. Listen to Jesus Christ, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man” (Matt. 15: 10-20). Now confronting the unconscious or our shadows is going contrary to our nature. We are usually not comfortable with it. But it is the core of spiritual growth and development. God bless you!
Have you ever identified with the struggle of St. Paul in Romans 7:14-15, 18?
What are you doing about such struggle?
Fr. John-Mary Atep