Saturday, August 23, 2014
Hearts of Flesh and the Personal Dimension of Salvation
We are not saved by a system. We are not saved by a program. We are not saved by a gimmick.
We are saved by a person. And by His death, which was the most personal gift He could give.
This is why heart must speak to heart (as I wrote, quoting Bl. John Henry Newman, earlier today - whose motto was cor ad cor loquitur: heart speaks to heart). Anything in the Church that falls shy of loyalty, love, fidelity and integrity between people; anything that falls shy of the true mutual giving and sacrifice of love; anything that falls shy of an actual realistic relationship; anything that falls shy of heart speaking to heart and heart listening to heart is a sham and is a hollow mockery of what saves us.
The impersonal is the life (and the lie) of the heart of stone. The personal is the mark of the circumcised heart, the heart of flesh (see Ez. 36:26).
This is why, when a bishop or a cardinal argues that they are not responsible for reprehensible actions that they've enabled and covered up, even if such a stance is a swing at a legitimate legal defense, it betrays Jesus Christ and His Spirit that operates within us. And it destroys the hopes and fans the flaming anger of victims. It shows at best disregard and at worst contempt for the hearts of others. This should be self-evident, but for many people today, it isn't.
And you can see this playing out all around you, if you look.
She was a wealthy adolescent. She was smart and creative, but, like many children of wealth, she was neglected. She had everything she wanted materially, but in a very fundamental way her parents didn't care for her, at least not enough to parent her. They were planning to ship her off to a long-term stay at a boarding facility - against her will.
She looked right at me one day. "My parents would be happier if I were entirely out of their life," she said.
"Ohhh," I said, "it's not that bad."
But it was. And it took me a while to see the awful truth, a truth that had so surrounded her that it had threatened to drown her all her life. She had to keep up the doggie paddle or she'd simply sink, and Mom and Dad would be too busy at the country club to throw her a line.
Imagine being a child or a teen and living with that knowledge. You'd try to hide the pain by taking drugs, or running away, or withdrawing from life, or acting out. She tried all of these things, and of course none of them helped. Neither did the therapy or the rehab stints that absentee Mom and Dad kept sending her to.
What would have helped was the one thing she didn't have. Heart speaking to heart. Love.
It's a price wealthy parents are not always willing to pay. Why would you, when you can buy yourself out of it?
He thought that even though they weren't lovers, they were at least friends. It had been a long term long-distance email relationship, and they had shared much with one another (at least early on), and he had done his best to help her and be there for her when she needed him, but recently, despite their original intensity, he was noticing that time and again she refused to reciprocate. She enjoyed his attention, but when the chips were down, she would vanish. It got to a point where she wouldn't even show him common courtesies and she began to treat him like a kind of benign acquaintance, rather than as a friend. She moved on and she liked to pretend they had never been close; that seemed to assuage her, but it haunted him. She was nice, but in a condescending way, and complacently distant - even after heart had spoken to heart.
"It looks like she's dumped you," I observed.
"But I was always there for her. I opened my heart to her. And she did to me. How can she be so glib and smug about this - as if that had never happened?"
They were married, and their lives together were make-believe. Something highly artificial abounded in their relationship. The age difference was a factor, and when she refused to acknowledge that he was old and sick, but insisted that he keep up the eternal forced and relentless pace that she had long demanded of him, they were both harder to be around than ever. It was exhausting and sad. They kept up appearances, but neither for each other, nor for their friends and family could heart simply speak to heart. They both saw to it that it was never that easy, never that real, never that loving.
And instead of a mutual peace, there was an incessant treadmill.
If it is true that in the Church today we are answering questions that no one is asking (as I wrote earlier, quoting a friend of mine), then it's simply because heart is not speaking to heart. Or because heart is not listening to heart.
If one heart speaks, the other must listen. That's the key to friendship, and that's the key to prayer (I mean not only talking to God, but listening to Him). And if we listened to our neighbors, both in and out of the pews, we would hear that same longing, that same silent lament, that same sad mourning for a moon that never changes, a moon of glowing silver that draws us to a glorious glen, hidden in a bower, aglow with fireflies and filled with a magical breeze: for this longing is found in the hearts of more than just poets. And we might hear the questions they are asking, and we might begin to answer them.