Homily on the 22nd Sunday: Their heart is far from me- Mark 7:6
Some years ago, one day this man called me and he wanted to sit down and talk to me about his relationship with his wife. He and his wife had been married for almost 21 years now. For 15 years or so, they were happily married. Now their relationship has turned around and has gone down the hill. He said “We no longer have anything in common; do not eat meals together, don’t sit down and talk, don’t discuss family matters. We have become totally strangers to each other. I don’t know what is going on any longer. But I know one thing for sure. We are husband and wife living in the same house- but we are miles away in our relationship”. He is lamenting ‘my wife, her heart is far away from me’!
Another time, this young lady came to me and she was sharing her heart ache about her relationship with her parents and siblings. ‘We are three children at home. But from the time I was a little girl to this very day, I feel like I am an unwanted child in my family. Nobody asks me anything; they never listen to my opinion. Even though, I am the oldest and live in the same house I am a total stranger to my parents and my siblings’. She is lamenting about her family- their hearts are far away from me!
Another time, this 85 year old lady was telling me about her pain when I visited her home. She lost her husband 10 years after their marriage. She never married again to raise her two children. Now her son is totally estranged from the family. Her daughter lives five miles away from the mother. But she never has time for her mother. She is a heartbroken mother because her children’s hearts are far away from their mother who is longing to have a love relationship with them. These are not few random incidents. Today we can see everywhere that parents are lamenting over the children, children are lamenting over the parents and spouses and siblings are lamenting over each other. ‘Their hearts are far away from me’.
When we read the bible, from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation, we see God is lamenting over His children. ‘My children, their hearts are far away from me’. It’s a frightening fact that this tragedy can happen to both religious and non-religious people. Most people of Jesus’s time, who were actively practicing their religion and eagerly awaiting the promised Messiah, were not able to recognize Him when He came. The Pharisees very devoted to the prayers, rules, and rituals of their religion; but over the years, these outer observances had become so important in themselves that their real meaning had been lost. The Pharisees performed all the prescribed sacrifices, said all the right prayers, fasted regularly, and talked a lot about God, but none of it had touched their hearts. As a result, they had no relationship with God; they were not living the way He wanted them to live.
I would like to invite your attention to Judas Iscariot. He is a perfect example of how not to be; a reminder of a spiritual disaster that could happen to any one of us. He heard all the good sermons Jesus gave. He watched all the miracles that Jesus perfumed. Bible scholars say that during the last supper seating, Judas is sitting to the left of Jesus, in the place designated for the most honored guest. At the last supper Jesus dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas first. Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. And Judas went away to betray Jesus. Judas was sitting at the same table with Jesus in the most important place- But he had nothing in common with Jesus. His heart was far away from Jesus.
It can happen to any priest. I can stand at the holiest of holies and celebrate Mass every day. But my heart could be far away from Jesus. You can be physically here in the church but the whole time you could be away. You can come to the church Sunday after Sunday. But still never understand the beauty and significance of the Eucharist in your life. Unfortunately, many Catholics including priests and religious live and die without the Eucharist changing their lives. That is why the church is always inviting the faithful to have active participation in the sacred liturgy. What do you mean by full and active participation in the liturgy? It means a shift from Spectator (observer, watcher, and outsider) to Participant. So active participation at the holy mass means two things: first- it means the interior participation of all the powers of the soul in the mystery of Christ’s Sacrificial Love. That means your mind and heart is awake, alert and engaged. Secondly – Participation involves exterior action, saying things and doing things. It means, being there every Sunday, being there on time, being well located avoiding all the distractions.
The purpose of our life is transformation: plants and animals transform elements of the earth into themselves; through them, these elements become leaves and branches, or skin, tissue and bone. A spiritual life that was not likewise a constant process of transformation would not be a life at all. Spirituality is not something that one has, like a nice garden at the back of the house, a place to go for a break from the nastiness of life. Instead it is the process of our whole life taking place. And so it can never remain static and still. If we do not transform, then it is a waste and needed to cut it off.
Somebody recently said; I love that person, because he is person with a good heart- at the right place. God does a good heart at the right place too. Solomon had the wisest and most understanding heart ever (1 Kgs 3:12), but “when Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of his father David had been” (1 Kgs 11:4). Solomon’s name means “peace” and he had an exceptionally peaceful reign until he turned his heart away from the Lord. Then wars and civil war emerged from his heart.
When the Lord changed our hearts at our Baptism (see Ez 36:26), He gave us new names and made us new creations (see Gal 6:15). From this new heart comes forth “love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness, and chastity” (Gal 5:22-23) instead of “acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit” (Mk 7:21-22). Therefore, let us be faithful to our baptismal promises, keep our hearts in Jesus, and be our new and true selves.
God has placed two hearts: Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary as an example for our spiritual journey. We can look up to those two beautiful hearts and learn from them. Jesus said “Learn from me for I am “gentle and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). Ask Mary, with her immaculate heart, to keep you heart pure and holy. Bible says “blessed are the pure in heart that they will see God”. Like St. John the evangelist, during the commemoration of this last supper, let’s make a strong resolve that for the rest of our life we will always remain very close to the heart of Jesus.