I’m not a great fan of supermarket shopping. I do it because I like to eat. But my aim with each visit is to get in and to get out as quickly as possible. If I took a little longer I know I could make better, cheaper and certainly, healthier food choices. I was reminded of this yesterday when I stopped to get groceries and noticed a number of shoppers taking time to carefully studying the product labels before dropping items in their baskets.
I must admit that I felt a bit reprimanded by their wise attention to detail. You’d think it would go without saying that I should be careful about what I put into my body, but I’m more likely to eat and drink what tastes good. The idea of not clogging my arteries and burdening my heart does have an appeal, at least in my healthier moments, but I’m not yet disciplined enough to make such wise choices about food and drink yet.
Psalm 95 from today’s Mass reminded me of the supermarket visit: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts”.
There’s strong encouragement in our society for people to eat and drink wisely, to exercise, and to be on guard against subtle chemical toxins that damage the body and the mind. However the complex totality of the human person cannot be summed up by the labels physical and mental. Healthy and happy people know that even when the doctor and psychiatrist diagnose us to be be fully healthy, there is still something lacking. We also know that many people who have lost much of their physical prowess and mental acumen, seem to have discovered a new level of living that brings a peace and joy that is clearly beyond human achievement.
Spiritual writers over thousands of years have called this deeper or most real of places, the soul. In the Jewish and Christian scriptures the term “heart” is used most often. Even today is is a compliment to say that someone has “heart” or “soul”. The great spiritual teachers remind us that just as we have to be discerning about the food and drink we consume and take some exercise, so too the wise person will take even more care with the most sacred life of the human soul or heart. Too easily the vibrant and fragile life of the heart is hardened by the toxic environments of commercialism, capitalism, negativity and violence that arise from our fears and threaten to suffocate the life-giving grace of divine life in the human heart.
It is too easy to lurch from one demand to the next in busy lives, without taking the time to read the signs reflected in our own experience. It is the wise person who learns by reading the signs provided by their personal experience of life’s joys and sufferings. In this journey the judgements we make about what gives us life and what brings us sorry become the “labels” that help us to decide what choices we will make in each moment of every day.
And so with heart-felt passion we pray that when God speaks to us today, our hearts will be sensitive to His voice and grow more subtle in the caress of His love.
The utterances of the heart – unlike those of the discriminating intellect – always relate to the whole. The heart-strings sing like an Aeolian harp only to the gentle breath of a premonitory mood, which does not drown the song but listens. What the heart hears are the great things that span our whole lives, the experiences which we do nothing to arrange but which we ourselves suffer. – C.G. Jung, The Symbolic Life
Thank you, John. We need to be reminded that we encounter God in the knowing of the heart.
Head knowledge is fed by the five senses. I think the heart also has senses that are like little doors, opening us to the awareness of God within us – senses like beauty, love, kindness, forgiveness, discernment, prayer, peace. In a day that is busy with “head” information, it is good to take sacred pauses. A minute here, a minute there to rest in one of the “heart senses” brings me back to what is real in my life.