A Heart of Stone – Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019
O that today you would listen to the voice of the Lord. Do not harden your hearts!
I’ve recounted elements before of the story of a colleague who possessed a cold and stiff heart. He was involved with finances and business. His administrative roles and his business involvements gave him a reputation among employees and clients of being a mean and cold man. He was right up there with the Grinch who stole Christmas. Mean, mean, mean!
Then he was diagnosed with cancer. I’m sure that some muttered, serves you right. I try to be less vindictive, so my mutterings went along the line of, Well, now you’ll probably find a heart, when you discover how many are there for you.
People did show their care and compassion, in all sorts of ways. However, even his words of thanks sounded hollow. Throughout his illness and the treatment, I never heard a word that sounded heartfelt. The cancer eventually went into remission and he came back to new responsibilities – overseeing a health care facility.
I guess that his bosses thought that he’d be able to be a helpful presence because of his experience. Believe it or not, if anything, he was even meaner and cold-hearted than he had been before the cancer. The cancer returned and his body failed to benefit from the advanced treatments. He eventually died.
The experience of dealing with this man caused many of those who knew him to wonder why he never seemed able to find and use his heart. And what made him like that? Was it something in childhood? Did he never learn to love another? What part of his life history and personality could never experience the kind of conversion whereby he’d discover and use his heart?
One could speculate forever, and, of course, it doesn’t help to judge the man. It’s between him and his God. But I wonder if my colleague’s inability to find a heart is close to what Habakkuk meant by the proud person, whose spirit is not right in them?
The Prophet is one of the twelve minor Hebrew prophets. He is unusual among the prophets in that he openly questions the working of God. We witness that attitude in today’s short excerpt. O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you Violence! And you will not save?
Saint Paul reminds us today to rekindle the gift of God that is within you. My own experience is that it is precisely this gift of God that relates to that gift of a heart that can be broken and healed and moved and strengthened, a heart that is pliable and is able to be moved. Let’s pray today for the gift of a heart that is not hardened, but, rather, a heart that is tender.