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Father Muench Says...

Challenge for all: you gotta have heart!

Sept. 9, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I would like to share with you some of the ideas I used for my homily on a past Sunday. 

I picked up on Jesus’ quoting Isaiah the Old Testament prophet.  Isaiah uses the image of a heart noting the importance of having a strong and alive heart. The quote is this, “This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” 

Today, this become a challenge for all of us, Catholics. We are challenged to worship our God and live our lives with a committed heart, not just giving God lip service.

The image of a dedicated heart is used often even in ordinary conversation.  It is such a wonderful image.  I have a friend who was a major league baseball scout.  His joy was to travel the country, looking over talented college and high school baseball players, considering if they would be good prospects for the major leagues.  So, I inquired what he was looking for.  He told me he looked for two things – one was a strong arm – a good throwing arm.  The other was “heart.”  I asked about what he meant by this “heart.”  As I remember, he said “heart” means the determination, the desire, the commitment to become a good, even better player, to be a real committed member of a team.  Too often talented players, who have no heart are a liability to the whole team and to themselves.  They don’t have that quality to become a terrific baseball player.

“Heart” – the image is truly meaningful to us.  It describes well that quality we all need to live a good Christian life.  The question for us will be have you the “heart” to make our world a better place, your parish a wonderful community with the help and guidance of your faith in God.  What will Jesus say about you and me? We hope it’s not what he said to the Pharisees – “This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

In conversation, we often use this image of “heart.”  Someone who is truly committed we say “he has a strong heart” or “he is warm hearted.”  About someone who is not committed we say “he has no heart” or “he has a cold heart.”

When we talk of sorrow – we say – “her heart is broken” or “she has a heavy heart.” So, the Lord’s question for each of us is “Where is your heart?”

How do we judge?  I noticed in the second reading of that same liturgy – a reading from the Letter of St. James.  That brief letter is so wonderful.  You should read it soon.  The reading that day urges us to “humbly, welcome the word that has been planted in you.”  Humility is the spirit that helps us to form our “heart.” 

I want to interject – I just heard a golf commentator on television speak of a confident golfer as being “light-hearted.”

I have been reading a book by David Brooks.  He writes about the formation of character and describes ten important people who have had a profound influence yet, lived life in a very humble way. One of those he chose to write about is Dorothy Day. 

This writer help us understand humility – let me share with you one sentence.  “You become more disciplined, considerate and loving (and I would add more Christian) through thousand small acts of self-control, sharing, service, friendship and joy.

Most of us may have only one or maybe two opportunities to do something huge, something marvelous making a difference in this world, truly accomplishing something big. 

However, all of us will truly have a thousand small acts – even this very day – to do something good, to help someone, to make someone happier, to make a difference in this world. 

The Lord calls upon us to have the “heart,” to be truly concerned and courageous to remember to do all that we can. All those small acts truly make a difference in our lives and in our part of this world.

As the new school year begins and our religious education programs begin I consider the message of developing a committed “heart” can be very important for our young people.

This would mean teachers that have committed hearts, dedicated to bring the love and the challenges of Our Lord to our young people.

If “hearts” mean so much to a young baseball player it certainly will make a difference for a young Christian.

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