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A divided heart

By 5 August, 2018January 3rd, 2023No Comments
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By F. Luis Casasus, General Superior of idente missionaries
Commentary on the XVIII Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 5 2018,  Madrid.
(Book of Exodus 16:2-4.12-15; Ephesians 4:17.20-24; Saint John 6:24-35.)

Human beings are not essentially good nor essentially bad. In simple terms, one part of you is made in the image of God and reaches out for the good and holy and the other part is inclined toward selfishness and pride. Our problem, as Saint Paul says today, is our divided heart. This is why he is using the inspired expression Deceitful Desires. How
can a desire be a lie, a distortion of truth? Yes, some desires are deceptive, a desire that is lying to you by promising fulfillment but not delivering. This is a very powerful form of lying, because it manipulates our mind, making us think that what is actually harmful is what is best for us.
The critical point is that we continuously produce all kind of desires…and some of them really make us blind to the light; we cannot see truth, we cannot see good, we cannot see beauty. We all laughed a lot with the characters of cartoon movies, where the “deceitful  desires” of the villain (a coyote, a pirate or a bad wolf) have painful and humorous end, but real life is different and constantly calls for being renewed in the spirit of your minds, and
put on the new self (Second Reading). Saint Peter also insists: Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance (1 Pe 1:14). Refusing to change is a true corruption, which carries the idea of rotting, wasting, rusting… Such lives are ruined and useless, with no value to themselves or others. In contrast, those who are docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, are enabled to serve others as useful servants of Christ.
Thoughts become desires and desires become thoughts. Remember the words of Plato, the famous Greek philosopher: Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge. This explains why our Founder describes ascetical quietude as a sieve, that we have to use continuously to screen out useless, negative or deceitful desires. And this enables us to understand that our deceitful desires produce both an emotional and a mental anesthesia.
Sometimes, we experience multiple, simultaneous and varied desires; for instance, adolescents want to stand out and be noticed for their individuality while still having a sense of belonging. Most of you know The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the famous novel of Robert Louis Stevenson. The protagonist was Dr. Jekyll, a distinguished,
brilliant and benevolent man of science. Deep inside, however, there was another personality, quite different from the outward personality of Dr. Jekyll. It was evil, cruel, sensual, devoted to everything evil. Dr. Jekyll devised a potion which could summon the inner personality to the surface. His second personality he named Mr. Hyde. One day, however, he discovered that he had changed to Mr. Hyde without using the potion. The evil had become dominant and had begun to control his life. Whether it is a sin or not, one thing is sure: a divided heart is an unhappy heart. Jesus said that a house divided against its self cannot stand. That heart is weak, unhappy and in blue mood. St. Augustine summarized this feeling in his famous phrase: My soul is restless until it rests in Him. Our heart is divided when we experience some of these deceitful desires, usually associated to our instincts or habits, and occurring when we feel empty or failed: – I will feel better if I view pornography (“just a few minutes”), or if I am recognized. – I will be fulfilled if I just go shopping or traveling somewhere or to rest with my family (and this will be good for them as well). My brothers can take care of themselves. – I do really need to look younger or infallible. I have to get the last word because I majored in engineering and philosophy and I have much apostolic experience. – I should be at the head of a magnificent, more visible apostolic mission. Perhaps, in the last case, it would be important to remember the words of St. Francis Xavier: Some people, so as not to have to give up their own will when carrying out what obedience requires, want to do other, more important things without observing that if we lack the virtue for small things we shall have even less for the great.
For religious people, this deception occurs much easily and is far more serious. Why? Because one of the desires that comes into play is nothing less than fulfilling the will of God and this generous and heroic intention will be in permanent conflict with all kind of deceitful desires, one of them very similar to the natural and logic eagerness of the Israelites in the First Reading: To have sufficient means, time, energy and help. How can we walk if we are hungry? How can I be an apostle if I have not collaborators, or too many duties? It is better to wait until the works in the parish will be completed or my thesis will be written or a new brother will be coming. For my part, I do not see the urgency. This leads to procrastination, discouragement or easy self-acceptance. Let me illustrate it with a tale…from hell. Lucifer called out three young devils who were on internship and about to be sent in mission on earth. Their master asked them to prepare their plan and to present it to him. The first said: Well; my plan will be simple, but efficient. I will tell them that God does not exist. The master replied: Well, you cannot deceive people that way, because they all believe that God exists. Then came the turn of the second. He pretended too that his plan was efficient and simple. But, instead of talking about God, he said that he will tell people that “hell does not exist”. The master answered that it was a weak strategy because everybody on earth knows well that if they sin they will go to hell. In the end came the third. He was very determined and serious about succeeding in his assignment. He said: Well; I will tell them that they do not need to hurry up about their conversion. The master appreciated his strategy a lot, because, he said, that way they will keep living in the illusion that they still have time.
But I would like to invite you to reflect with me on our deceitful desires, always bearing in mind that the Holy Spirit has to show us what is in us because we do not know ourselves as He does. And then, we have to share it in our spiritual community, with our spiritual director or rector. It is sad how we fail to see what is glaringly deficient within our own selves. All of us have blind spots in certain areas of our lives, some parts of us that truly would rather not see nor admit. As the Psalmist said, our heart is deceitful and desperately sick; who can understand it? Spiritual fasting is a very sound advice of Jesus, both useful in our thoughts and our desires. But perhaps it is more evident in the case of our wishes. There is an Indian story which clearly reflects this:
Some mothers are very spiritual. They wish their children to be godly. The young Gopi Chand had taken up a spiritual way under the advice of his mother. Then he came to his mother and she said: Look here, I will give you a piece of advice to live by. What should you eat? Eat the very best dishes; very delicious dishes. Then Gopi Chand asked his mother: Well, dear mother, how can we, when we are begging alms? Somebody will give us dry bread; sometimes we won’t even get anything to eat. How can you say that we should always have very delicious dishes? Then his mother told him: Look here, do not eat unless you feel very hungry. Do you see? Very hungry. When you are very hungry, even the grams [In India, a kind of chick peas] that you eat will taste delicious. So this is the piece of advice given by the mother of Gopi Chand to her son. This deep hunger and thirst is what the Samaritan woman, the Israelites in the desert and Jesus’ contemporaries felt: What can we do to accomplish the works of God? Most of people will not ask exactly this question but, intuitively, sooner or later, we come to understand today’s recommendation of Christ: Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life. Jesus gives us today a clear response to our permanent quest for peace and meaning: I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. He is not saying that coming to Him we will not sin, He gets to the root: We will not have these desires making war on our soul, so as to be able to follow one of His most incredible advice, given to the sons of Zebedee: Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. When I was a young postdoc, I met a wonderful person, a German Full Professor at the Technical University of Munich, who told me: I have been working all these years, basically for myself. It is true that I had many students and I made some contributions, but from next year, as an Emeritus Professor, I only plan to dedicate my expertise to help blind people with artificial vision. And he did. Professor Müller…what a scientist and what a person!
Our Founder taught us that one of the most beautiful things we receive from the Holy Spirit is Aspiration. This Aspiration consists of many moments of spiritual harmony, where I experience that my desires coincide with the desires of the divine persons. Then it is impossible to find a different meaning to our life and one has the impression that this spiritual path, even in the midst of serious difficulties, is only one-way. This is clearly a gift, and we can safely say that it is the opposite to our deceitful desires. And He teaches us that we do not need three sources, or many commandments, or a magic potion; we just need to share everything with Him and with the members of our spiritual community (unless you decide to walk alone, which goes frontally against the Gospel). The key to a united heart is recognition of the lordship of Christ. It is a holy fear, it is recognizing who He is and allowing Him to be the shepherd in our lives: I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. As a personal conclusion, in practical terms, I feel that – if we cultivate our love for the Eucharist, – if we do not depend on measurable success of our apostolate, and – if we are grateful (in an explicit way) to God and to our neighbors, our heart will be open to receive the gift of Aspiration and will be protected against every deceptive urge or desire. Tips to make the most of the Holy Mass
1. The Lord be with you. These words are used at Mass at certain important moments, when prayer, a reading or an action is about to happen. It is a greeting that helps us to focus on our beginning something. It helps us to think about the presence of Christ. If we are not fully disposed, we cannot hear the Word of God. This greeting expresses a desire that God become ever more present both in the assembly and in each individual member so that the fruits of the celebration effectively reach us, to move toward conversion, and to deepen our relationship with Him.
By greeting these words, the priest expresses his desire that the dynamic activity of God’s spirit be given to the people of God, enabling them to do the work of transforming the world that God has entrusted to them. The beginning of any conversion process is always the initiative of God, not of man.