The psalm in the daily liturgy scriptures is often overlooked in homilies and personal reflection, but it, and especially the repeated response, often provides a great mantra for a day. From today’s psalm:
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts”
The human heart has deep significance. While we often think of the soul as the God-centre of the human person, the scriptures repeatedly emphasise the human heart as the intimate dwelling place of God within.
We know that the regular beat of the heart organ is a divine gift and if this heart stops beating the body dies. We know too that the language of the heart is emotion and feelings, and the one who does not feel emotion, while still physically alive, is not really living at all.
When we take even a few moments to be still and silent, the life of our heart floods our consciousness. That’s the risk with taking time to be still and silent – all the stuff we would rather not feel comes to mind: our hurts from the past, our anxiety about the future, the people we don’t like much. But if we stay a moment with these unwelcome feelings seeking signs of hope, we become aware of the many graces we have received and strong feelings of gratitude emerge leading us through the cross to resurrection.
A healthy person will make appropriate time and place to allow their feelings to surface, noticing too when their hearts have become hardened. A healthy person will pay attention to their feelings, and will bring these feelings to prayer, enabling hearts that have become hardened by life’s bruises and battles to become renewed hearts of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26. “I will take from you your hearts of stone, and give you hearts of flesh”)
Our feelings tell us a lot about how we are in any moment, but in the same way that a verbal communication can be misunderstood, so too the language of the heart (our feelings) need to be understood. Feelings are not a trigger that demand an immediate response, but a language that needs to be heard and pondered and interpreted.
There is a beautiful section in the Catechism beginning the section on prayer focussing on the importance of the human heart:
“Where does prayer come from? Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole person who prays. But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times). According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain. CCC 2562
“The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live… the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden centre, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relationship: it is the place of covenant.” CCC 2563
- Take a moment to being still and silent, and notice the feelings that emerge. Don’t make a judgement about whether these feelings are good or bad, just appreciate that you have feelings (joy, hope, anxiety, fear, etc) because you are alive. Regardless of how you feel, the positive is that if you feel, then you are living and and if you are reading your feelings accurately you are healthy.
- Allow God to speak directly to you today, repeating to yourself whenever you think of it: “I will take from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26