Give us hearts of flesh, O God, that we may serve you.
This morning I was drawn to a passage in the book of Ezekiel that has captivated me for many years:
A new heart I will give you,
And a new spirit I will put within you;
And I will take out of your body the heart of stone
And give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
I was again reminded that it is God, the Divine Mystery, who fashions the heart and has the power to heal and transform it from stone into flesh. As I look at myself and my world today, I sense in a new and deeper way how much we all need soft hearts of flesh to live well in our current circumstances.
A family friend offered this simple yet very demanding suggestion to help navigate today’s waters:
Listen and Care.
I believe that a heart of flesh fully listens to the other and cares. I want to ponder that a bit and ask for the grace to carry that out day by day. Listening and caring may offer a way to live in the fullness of life under any circumstance. A soft heart of flesh keeps us human and capable of seeing the humanity in all others.
To go a bit deeper, here is a reflection to consider:
“Transformation through immersion and consciousness depends on our capacity to be penetrated by the Mystery of Christ. Our being, our substance, must be porous in order for the Mystery to enter, to penetrate. That is the crux of the matter. It is not enough simply to be immersed in…life. We must let ourselves be plowed so that the furrows of our person become deeper and deeper, so that our earth becomes softer and softer. This is something our being craves, but this plowing is kenosis (emptying, the death which must precede new life, rebirth) and kenosis is not easy. In the measure that our being becomes porous and open, grace can penetrate us. Depth is possible. Transformation is possible. Thus, an ever-deepening penetration by the Mystery can fill us with spiritual being.” Jean-Marie Howe, “Cistercian Monastic Life/Vows” A Vision
I see these words speaking to how the Divine Mystery transforms our hard hearts of stone into soft hearts of flesh. We are plowed by life’s events, by deep pain, and invited to surrender our prideful ways and allow God to make us porous so grace can penetrate us and make us soft. Painful, but oh so beautiful in the end.
I am reminded of times in my life when I have experienced what I call a deep cut – when I have been deeply hurt and wounded. Though painful to walk through, they ended up being times of great awareness and spiritual growth. My tears softened me and Divine grace entered into my being, changing me. Each time, I have been left with a sense of how little I am and how much I deeply need my Maker. Best of all, I receive the grace of a deeper knowing of how much God loves me.
When I’m softened from the hardness of anger, resentment, and fear, I am truly free to love well – God’s way. I receive the grace of a heart of flesh. A recovery friend of mine often poses the question, “How free do you want to be? Are you willing to go to any length for that freedom?” Those questions are powerful motivators for me to allow myself to be plowed by the Divine.
Today’s morning prayer time was followed by Sunday mass. The Old Testament reading from 1 Kings related the story of Solomon asking the Lord for an understanding heart so that he would know what was right. The Lord granted this request and gave him a heart so wise and understanding. Hard hearts keep us stuck but a soft heart is able to receive God’s wisdom and understanding. May we follow Solomon’s example and ask God to fashion in us a wise and understanding heart.
I encourage you to take a few moments now. Breathe deeply for a few breaths. Reread the Scripture and reflection passages here. Sit with them. Let them penetrate you. As you finish, ask for the grace to live with a heart of flesh that cares.