Have You Received Your New Heart?

Ezekiel 11:19

Good News Translation

I will give them a new heart and a new mind. I will take away their stubborn heart of stone and will give them an obedient heart.

New Living Translation

And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart.

I included the New Living Translation in this scripture passage so we can see how the New Life Bible Study defines singleness of heart:” a unanimous singleness of purpose.”  The commentary goes on to say: “No longer will God’s people seek many gods; they will be content with God. Their stony, stubborn hearts of stone will be radically transplanted with tender, responsive hearts. This new life can only be the work of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s work, but we must recognize and turn from our sin. When we do, God will give us new motives, new guidelines, and new purpose.”

After reading this passage I immediately thought of the church hymn, “Here I Am Lord” by Dan Schutte that we often sung as children during mass growing up. I always get a little smile on my face when I see it listed as one of the hymns during mass these days because it brings back such great memories as a kid.

Here are the verses that came to my mind:

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them, They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak My word to them
Whom shall I send?

It’s a wonderful song but I would get so sad when I would sing it sometimes because it’s almost like a love letter from God to the His people that won’t listen to Him! The people are turning away and worshiping false idols and pagan gods and they won’t listen to the prophets. But finally, God is telling them that indeed, He will take all of this away and they will be content to worshiping just Him. He’s going to give them new motivation. A new heart.

Have you ever hit rock bottom? What does everyone say when you’re at the end of your rope, at the bottom of the pit? “Well, there’s no where else to go but up!” Right? I almost feel like this is similar – We hit the bottom, we have reached our limit and there’s nowhere else to go. We can’t get any more low than we are at this moment. And then…God turns our stubborn hearts into loving ones. We get out of this rut. We turn the page. A new heart, a new life, a new purpose!

The time between hitting that bottom and getting a new heart is probably a lot longer than we care to admit. But it can happen. The Holy Spirit is working inside us constantly to change and form us into the people that God wants us to be. And our hearts are being transformed too!

Fit In You Faith Today: What comes to mind when you hear that God will take your stubborn heart and turn it into a tender and loving one? Do you feel renewed with a greater purpose? Spend some time with this passage and perhaps with the hymn I referenced (or another one!) and study the lyrics and words. Is God trying to get you to turn away from a sin that’s hardening your heart?

Wisdom, not Pride.

Proverbs 3:7-8

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

Good News Translation:

Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the Lord and refuse to do wrong. If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains.

The book of Proverbs always has interesting insights. Especially the direct nature of the wording.

This one basically says – Don’t be a know-it-all. You aren’t all that smart.

This isn’t meant to make us feel inferior or unintelligent. I believe it’s just meant to take the ego down a notch. Don’t let yourself become inflated with thinking you are superior to others.

On the contrary, obey the Lord and turn away from evil and wrongdoing. By doing so, it acts like medicine for our broken bodies. It eases the pain in our hearts. I appreciate that this passage compares obeying God as a way to stay healthy in mind, body and soul. You can think of sin or doing not-so-great things as causing a wound in our body to be opened. Or pain in our soul taking place. What’s the cure? Good works. Good words. Good actions. Obeying the Lord and treating others as equals.

Fit in Your Faith Today: Do you talk down or act differently around people who you think are inferior to you? Do you think yourself as being a know-it-all sometimes? Try to look at others as equals, no matter what their job or their education level or social status says about them. Treat them well, obey the Lord as He commands us, and our minds and bodies and souls will be healed from the pain of mistreatment, anger, and pride.

Reach Out to Those in Need

Galatians 6: 1-3

Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself.

Here’s another translation:

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

It can be difficult to ask for help when we are so used to being independent. But sometimes we need help. We may have sunk to a new low. We may have fallen in with the wrong crowd or just gotten into bad habits such as resentment, gluttony, or even something as seemingly harmless as laziness. After all, you might think, I’m not hurting anyone but myself with my ______ (insert bad habit here).

But hurting yourself is not healthy or holy. And it’s at that point when you need to reach out to others for help.Look to the godly and holy people in your life. Seek them out to help you get out of your rut. If you yourself are being sought, be careful not to fall into your friends bad habits. It might even be someone close to you like your spouse or parent. If you are not fully aware, you could easily be sucked into their world. Don’t let that happen. Stay true to your beliefs and your godly ways.

Extend the rope. Pull them out of that place and offer to lighten their load. Offer assistance. Work together for the common good!

Fit in Your Faith Today: Who in your life could use your kindness and goodness? Who can you call upon to help YOU get out of a difficult situation you find yourself in? Depend on others and allow others to depend on you. Be open to it!

Doing His Will

Today’s Gospel Reading is from the Book of Matthew 21: 28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the Kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

I think it’s interesting that God might tell us to do something, yet we fight back and say “No, I don’t want to do this. No, I won’t do this.”  And we later find out that God was right. God knew best, just like a good Father.

The first son in Jesus’ parable says that he will not do as the father says. But he ends up changing his mind and doing it anyway. The second son does the complete opposite by lying and saying he will do his father’s bidding, yet doesn’t.

It’s this example that Jesus gives to show the people at the time that the sinners were following Christ, yet the chief priests and elders wouldn’t listen. They might have known in their hearts that Jesus came to show them love and share the good news, but they didn’t believe in him. They wanted to do things their own way.

The lesson is that we might think or be used to doing things a certain way. Is it the best way? Ask yourself if it’s Christ-like? Take the example of drinking alcohol on the weekends. Not a big deal, right? If it’s something you’ve done for a very long time then you probably don’t want to stop. But what if you notice you behave differently when you drink and you don’t like the person you become when you drink too much? Do your friends tell you that they don’t like the way you act? Or maybe they don’t care to notice? Are you proud of your behavior after a night at the bar?

Could your friends, or even God, be trying to tell you to stop? Listen to the voice that might be asking you to change your ways. You might be reluctant to change. But what God is offering is always the better option. It’s always the best choice.

It might not even be something as serious as drinking. Maybe it’s the way you treat others at your job. Are you judgmental and criticizing of others? Or maybe you just have a bad attitude because you’re not a morning person. Is there something you can do to change that label? It could be the way you always speed in traffic because you’re always running late. Do you think you should slow down so you don’t harm others with your careless driving? These are just small ways you can obey God and show Him that you are open to changing your usual ways.

Fit in your Faith Today: Think of one of your worst habits and take steps to stop it and do what is Godly.

 

Spirit, Soul, and Body

The Second Reading for the Third Sunday of Advent is from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.

The last two verses are particularly interesting. It reads:

“May the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.”

According to a Bible Study Guide on these two lines:

“The spirit, soul, and body refer not so much to the distinct parts of a person as to the entire being of a person. This expressions is Paul’s way of saying that God must be involved in EVERY aspect of life. It is wrong to think that we can separate the spiritual life from everything else, obeying God only in some ethereal sense or living for him only one day each week. Christ must control ALL of us, not just a “religious” part.

Thoughts on this reflection:

How often do we think “As long as I go to church, I’m good in God’s eyes.”  Or maybe we say “I pray everyday, I’m religious enough.”

Why do we cut God out from our lives and only let him in when it’s time to pray or go to Church? The key to keeping God close to our hearts is to know Him. We should study Him more than once a day. We should talk to Him more than once a week. He’s the reason we are alive. We, our spirits, souls and bodies, are living proof of His creation. We need to care for what we are given.

How do we do that?

Our SpiritsThis is defined as the “invisible, nonmaterial part of humans.”

How does someone take care of their spirit if they can’t even see it or feel it? Perhaps it’s just a feeling, an emotion. It’s the part of us that maybe only people looking at us can see or feel. Maybe it’s just one action or one smile or one act of caring and kindness that someone else looks at in us and thinks, “This person has a truly good spirit in them.” We feed our spirit good things by saying good things, nothing self-deprecating. We try to treat others as we want to be treated. When strangers see you performing good acts of kindness, you are showing them who God is. They will remember that and always remember what a good-heart and kind spirit you have.

Our Souls This is defined as the “inner life of a human being, the seat of emotions, and the center of human personality.”

Have you ever just looked at someone and thought you could see into their soul? Or maybe someone looked at you and you felt immediately a little uncomfortable, because you thought they could see a part of you that you wished they hadn’t seen? It’s our soul. Our “inner life” as it’s called. What does your soul look like? Are you happy with it or could it use a makeover? Are you doing harm to your soul by sinning and making poor decisions? Remember what St. Paul said, our souls should remain blameless until Christ comes again.  A priest once spoke about sin in this way: “Every time we sin, we disfigure our soul.”  We can take care of our souls by confessing our sins. Picture your soul becoming disfigured every time you knowingly and willingly choose to sin. That is an upsetting visual and sometimes it’s enough to get us to cease with sinning and start praying.

Our BodiesThis is our physical body, our “physical essence.” We take care of our bodies by honoring God with it. This means we don’t intentionally harm ourselves. We don’t purposely engage in behavior that puts our body in danger of getting hurt. Simply put, our body is a temple. We need to treat it as such. For many this means being physically fit, eating nutritious and healthy foods, getting plenty of rest and not putting our bodies in harms way. But honoring God with our bodies can be difficult for some. Addictions to food, drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, and abuse can cause a lot of damage to our bodies (souls and spirits too!). The good news is we can reverse this process. We can surrender to God and give it all to Him if we have an addiction. He can set our path straight if we have taken a wrong turn. It’s never too late!

Fit in Your Faith Today: Honor God by doing one thing today that shows you are keeping your Body, Spirit and Soul blameless.