This is a refrain repeated several times in the recitation of Psalm 95: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”
Today, our Church desires to have us focus on the condition of our heart regarding God’s plan of love and joy for all His children, to see how faithful, loyal and dedicated to it we truly are. From self-appointed luminaries down to common folks, too, many people fail to see the devastating connection between hardness of the heart as cause and the waves of evils assaulting us as consequences that spoil life for so many. Nowhere is this more evident than in the family, which is a masterpiece of God’s plan, designed for mitigating sources of sadness, for providing support in trials, and for experiencing genuine love and joy. The intent of our Church is the one of freeing all of us from the horrific consequences of selfishness, indifference and hubris, and to return marriage and family life to the original purpose meant by our Creator God.
Today, then, we resolve to hear God’s voice on this crucial matter; and we vow to avoid hardening our hearts lest we make poor choices out of selfishness, indifference and conceit. The first time that Jesus (Mark 10:2-16) pointed out the sobering fact that Moses allowed divorce on account of the hardness of people’s hearts, his original audience was deeply stung. They must have recalled Psalm 95 and all the other times in which Yahweh God had made the connection between the hardness of the heart and the devastation that it had brought upon the people of Israel—on the guilty and the innocent alike.
Alas, nowadays, Jesus’ words seem to have lost a lot of their impact on many, as some misguided leaders and phony intelligentsia have convinced numerous people of the soundness of progressive choices dictated by sheer selfishness, indifference and blatant or concealed arrogance. They are quick to label any of us still clinging to traditional family values as intolerant, obtuse, negative, obsolete, old-fashioned, if we insist on making our choices with a considerate, humble, loving, heart anchored in the principles of the Gospel. Hence, the mettle of our resolve is tested whenever what the Gospel proposes is in clear opposition to what the world suggests as progressive and broadminded.
Naturally or, rather, supernaturally, the Church keeps urging us to silence the voice of self-interest, personal gain, hardness of heart and to make all of our choices according to the original design of our Creator God, with respect, consideration, loving protection of all, especially the weakest members of the family: the pre-born, the sick, the aged, the dying.
At this time we renew our promise to heed God’s voice and accept our Church’s invitation to make the right choices with seriousness of intent according to God’s plan. But how do we soften our heart? How do we make the next costly choices with a docile and enlightened heart? How do we keep making the right choices in our marriage, in the commitment to our children, to other members of our family and extended family, all the way to, at least, the part of God’s global family close to where we live?
What is proposed is something totally foreign to our human nature affected negatively by the consequences of original sin: perfection through suffering: (God) should make (Jesus) the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews 2:10
God the Father asked His Son Jesus to have a sensitive, soft, compassionate heart as he took flesh and became one like us. God asked His Son to make His choices for our salvation not based on personal gain but on consideration, sensitivity, and compassion for our predicament. Those choices brought Jesus an incredible amount of pain, suffering and a most horrific death on the cross.
Similarly, softness of the heart is achieved by our willingness to make sacrifices, to forfeit personal gain, to endure a lot of discomfort and pain for the sake of those whom God has placed in our life: our spouse, our children, all our loved ones. Softness of the heart is achieved also by embracing the powerlessness and the insignificance symbolized by a child.
This is the third Sunday in a row that Jesus expects us to turn our mindset upside down. Nothing less than that can guarantee a heart filled with love, consideration, thoughtfulness, compassion, dedication, fidelity and generous self-giving.
Very few, in the history of the Church, accepted the Kingdom of God as viscerally as St. Francis of Assisi. Welcoming the spirit of powerlessness and insignificance made St. Francis’ heart simple, humble, tender, incredibly warm and, thus, filled with genuine joy at all times. Powerless and insignificance opened St. Francis’ eyes to the closeness and presence of God all around him from the details of insignificant, tiny creatures to the majesty of nature whenever it is displaying its magnificence.
Today, God’s Word has enticed us to try unusual ways to fill our lives and the lives of many others with love and joy. It has also taught us how to make our hearts soft, docile, warm, compassionate and humble.
At Holy Mass, when we approach the Table of the Sacrament, may we strive to keep our hearts as Jesus wants them to be. May the reception of our Lord in Holy Communion ready us to make sacrifices for the sake of our family, confirm our resolve to adhere always to God’s design and to keep our hearts faithful, loyal and attentive to God’s voice anytime He speaks to us.