On softening the heart’s hardness

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One of the central themes that is found in the Bible is the heart. But what is exactly the heart?

Aside from the biological aspect which presents it as that muscular organ in humans and other animals, which pumps blood through the blood vessels of the circulatory system, the Biblical perspective on the heart offers a far richer and thought enriching reality. In fact, for the Bible, the heart is believed to be the focus of human personality. It brings about the things we would normally refer to the mind. Thus, the Bible instructs us that grief (John 14:1); desires (Matthew 5:28); joy (Ephesians 5:19); understanding (Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 13:15); thoughts as well as reasoning (Genesis 6:5; Hebrews 4:12; Mark 2:8); and, most of all, faith and belief (Hebrews 3:12; Romans 10:10; Mark 11:23) all result from the heart. Furthermore, Jesus teaches us that the heart is a storage wherein good and evil live side by side. So much so that what comes out of our mouth – whether good or bad – initiates in our heart (Luke6:43-45).

This sanctuary of our entire personality, practically of who we really are, can be corrupted. In Jeremiah 17:9 we find: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” Detraction and slander are the signs of a corrupted heart. Psalm 5 says: “For there is no truth in their mouth; their heart is destruction, their throat is an open sepulchre, they flatter with their tongue” (Psalm 5:9). On its turn Psalm 28 presents those who apparently speak peace but are evil intentioned in their hearts as imposters. “Take me not off with the wicked, with those who are workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbours, while mischief is in their hearts” (Psalm 28:3). In the Book of Proverbs perversity of heart causes conflict. “A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, scrapes with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord” (Proverbs 6:12-14).

According to John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible: “The heart is deceitful about all things [inasmuch as] it deceives him [man] with respect to sin; it proposes it to him under the notion of pleasure; it promises him a great deal in it, but does not yield a real pleasure to him; it is all fancy and imagination; a mere illusion and a dream; and what it gives is very short lived; it is but for a season, and ends in bitterness and death: or it proposes it under the notion of profit; it promises him riches, by such and such sinful ways it suggests; but, when he has got them, he is the loser by them; these deceitful riches choke the word, cause him to err from the faith, pierce him through with many sorrows, and endanger the loss of his soul: it promises honour and preferment in the world, but promotes him to shame; it promises him liberty, but brings him into bondage; it promises him impunity, peace, and security, when sudden destruction comes: it deceives him in point of knowledge; it persuades him that he is a very knowing person, when he is blind and ignorant, and knows nothing as he ought to know; and only deceives himself”.

Is there a way out from a corrupted heart? Is there a journey that we need to follow in order to rid ourselves from the confusion we have led ourselves into due to our hardening of our hearts? Listening to God’s Word is vital indeed. Psalm 95 rightly exhorts us: “O that today you would hearken to his voice! Harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95:7-8). Second, resorting to the sacrament of Confession. Pope Francis says on this great Sacrament: “In Confession, Jesus welcomes us with all our sinfulness, to give us a new heart, capable of loving as he loves.” Third, engaging in spiritual direction. As the Holy Father said, since “in spiritual direction, I must examine what is happening in my heart, where the Spirit is moving” with the aid of a spiritual director I can recognize and say YES to God and NO to my egoistic self.

Lord, soften my own heart to accomplish your holy will for me faithfully, joyfully and generously. Amen.

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