Outward and Inward Hearts

On today’s feast of Christ the King, Fr. Jack Ledwon, my pastor, reminded me in this morning’s homily that Jesus is really the King of Hearts, a king like no other. The only space that Jesus looks to own is the space of our hearts.

It gave me pause when he asked “How much of your heart are you willing to let him rule?”

The truth of much of our lives is that of our quiet desperation to belabor an old adage. Often we go unreflective, not taking much time to pray and just moving from one thing to another…perhaps even one sin to another at times. And we do very little reflection about who we are and how we are living, hoping that matters just sort themselves out.

Recently, I wrote about how we ministers in parish life spend most of out time maintaining. We maintain the programs and existing ministries that we’ve established. We maintain the important sacramental life of the church–those outward symbols of our faith. I argued recently that we need to spend less time looking at these inward matters and spend more time encouraging parishioners to look outward…to spend more time outside of the pews as a community serving the needs of others, especially the poor. How do we convert others to our side? By letting them see who we are and they will KNOW we are Christians by our love.

But how will we know that we are Christians? How will we deepen our experience? How do we take our OUTWARD experience and move INWARD reflecting on what we’re doing and asking ourselves what is going on in our hearts? How much of our hearts do we allow to be touched by our experiences and how have we had our hearts changed by Christ?

How much time do we spend thinking about how our hearts might be and are already being changed by God?

The truth is that our hearts can stretch much farther than we think they can. But in order for that to happen, we have to be willing to look inwardly at the deepest part of ourselves and be unafraid to see where God is touching our hearts and where we shut God out, when we are unwilling to let God or others in.

And that means we must take time to reflect and our parishes need to take some time to encourage that.

I can already hear the groaning from some. Don’t we all have some resistance to looking deeply within our own hearts? Don’t we all complain about not having enough time for all the various activities in our lives already? When will we squeeze in our prayer time?

Perhaps where God is speaking to us most in our busy world is in this uncomfortable space where we know and understand that we need and want to reflect, but that it also isn’t a priority for most of us. And maybe it should be. What if we prioritized that prayer-relationship with God just for the period of Advent?

If God is with us and more importantly within us, then we don’t have that far to go to reach just a bit more often to God in our hearts. In this season where we often believe that we wait for God at Christmas may we realize that God also waits for us.

Let us rush towards God with our whole hearts this Advent and spend more time with God in our hearts.

That might just be enough to change our hearts forever.

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