The Heart Rules
Friday: Thirteenth Week of the Year: July 1, 2016
Year II: Amos 8:4-12; Psalm 119:2-40, 131; Matthew 9:9-13
The Responsorial Psalm tells us what should preoccupy us: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 1
Amos 8: 4-12 denounces those who are more interested in profits than in prophets! Anyone preoccupied with making money will be led inevitably, if unconsciously, to “trample on the needy and try to suppress the poor people of the country.” Jesus warned: “No one can serve two masters… God and wealth. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”2
The fact is, we tend to follow the inclinations of our hearts, recognized or not. Our judgments are prejudiced by our desires. 3
So we need to stay in touch with our hearts, monitor our desires and work against the disordered attachments we have to the things of this world. Psalm 119 highlights this:
Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain. Turn my eyes from looking at vanities…. May my heart be blameless in your statutes, so that I may not be put to shame…. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my misery. 4
Amos says the worst consequence of neglecting the word of the Lord is that we will be deprived of it:
I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread… but of hearing the words of the Lord…. They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.
The worst deprivation is the absence of ministry. That is why Jesus explicitly consecrated all of us prophets and priests in Baptism: to be “ministers of the light” to one another.
In Matthew 9: 9-13 it is the religious outcasts and sinners who accept the true goal of Jesus’ mission, prompting him to observe, “Those who are [think they are] well [think they] have no need of a physician.” Those who seek healing are those who know they are sick. The point is that, paradoxically, if we lower the goal of our religion, practicing it can keep us from seeing how irreligious we are! If we are faithful — but not “faith-full” — in the external observances of our religion, this can keep us from calling our hearts into question and asking whether we really love God and one another. Love, not law, is the goal.
True Christians must always be, not ministers of the law, but “ministers of light” — of the true goal of Christ’s religion, which is is to know God by faith and love him as the God he reveals himself to be. The important thing is not to just do what the law says, but to seek to understand the mind and heart of God behind the law. 5
The only way to keep the law faithfully is to interpret it in the light of God’s love. This is the ministry of light. We do not live by laws alone, but by every word that comes from the heart of God.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Express your heart and God’s heart in every act.
1 Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; and see Psalm 119.
2 See Matthew 6: 19-24.
4 Psalm 119: 36-37, 80, 92.
5Nehemiah 8: 8-12; Deuteronomy 6: 20-25; Matthew 11:7; John 17:3.