Saturday, February 13, 2010

a heart held high

I have recently discovered this great song by Bebo Norman, the chorus of which goes: "So walk down this mountain / With your heart held high". At first I thought the line was about a head held high. That imagery is more familiar to me: a head held high means being alert, unashamed, confident. So I had to ask myself: What the heck does a heart held high signify? The image to me is of someone actually holding his heart above his head. It seems like a pretty stupid idea to expose this vulnerable piece of flesh to all the elements. What if it starts raining or snowing? What if wild animals attack? What if the wind snatches it out of your grasp or you simply trip and drop it?

I think the following excerpt from the prophet Ezekial offers the key to answering these questions: "I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees" (Ez 36:25-27). He desires our hearts, not burnt offerings; mercy and love, rather than sacrifice. But if our hearts are hardened and stony, they can't seem like much of a gift.

In order for our stony hearts to become natural, they must be made tender. And how can a heart become softer and more tender except by being exposed? The decision to hold one heart's high may seem reckless. However, the point is not to seek out the "slings and arrows of outrageous fotune" for their own sake, but to offer our hearts to Christ in and through and despite the suffering that He allows. And it is so comforting to remember, as the Bebo song continues, that we are always "following the footsteps of our Maker". He has gone before us, He is with us, and He cannot but be pleased with our offering.

And perhaps when our hearts have been removed in this way from our bodies, they will finally be able to be moved with pity for others as was Christ's.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son."

At daily Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours recently, I've been listening rather carefully to the antiphons. Maybe it's that I've been so distracted that one Scripture verse is all I can take in at a time. Maybe I've just been appreciating the beauty of God's word in a new way and I like snippets that are short enough to repeat to myself and come back to throughout the day.

I especially love the Gospel acclamation, how in standing up and preparing to hear the words of Christ, we are given a little verse to whet the appetite and focus the heart. I guess it's more poignant for me this time of year in that we have only a few days left before Ash Wednesday in which to sing the "Alleluia". I love saying Alleluia.

Anyway, today's Gospel acclamation is: "Open our hearts,O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son." And the Gospel it precedes(Mark 7: 31-37) is the story of Jesus restoring hearing to a deaf man, a physical opening of the ears that allowed this man both to listen and to speak without impediment. I think the Gospel acclamation helps us bear in mind what is really key to this passage: that is, that it is Jesus who must do the work. Yes, the deaf man had to be brought to Jesus, and we do have to bring him our hearts and ask him to open them. We have to approach Him, but we can no more heal ourselves by ourselves than we can fly to the moon without the guidance of others.

And so we come entreating Him that our deaf ears be opened to the beauty of His words, that our speech impediments be removed and our voices restored.

It's been a few months since I started this blog and my resolution to post regularly and share the haphazard results of my meditations on God's word didn't last more than a couple weeks. I didn't quit listening to God's word, but I haven't been internalizing it to the extent that I know I should. So I'm asking the Father to open my ears and my lips to hear the words of His Son and repeat them in my own small way.