By Francis Patrick Donnelly
THE SINCERE HEART - Their heart is far from Me.
It is well to note that it is not the absence of attention; it is rather the absence of intention that makes insincerity. Christ has not complained about the lips being far from Him, but of the heart being far from Him. If prayer or Mass or any other religious exercise is begun with the earnest desire to please God, the mere wandering of the thought from the words or acts will not make them insincere. To have insincerity, the wish itself must wander; the desire of pleasing God must be given up. If the thought flies off in any direction, the words will still ring true; the acts will not be mere acting as long as the heart turns to God. Children have a ball attached to a piece of elastic rubber. They know that the ball will fly off in any direction, but that it will come back, and will not be lost while the rubber remains unbroken. No matter in what direction the fickle thoughts fly, the heart must break with God before distracted thoughts can make us insincere. The thing that should worry people in this matter is, not whether the mind was distracted, but, rather, whether the will was distracted. It is best of all to have both attention and intention; it is not insincerity to have the latter without the former.
The fault of the Pharisees was that they laid all stress upon the exterior action and neglected or made little of the sincere heart. They accused the Apostles because they had omitted some ceremonial washing of one kind or another. They hardly noted or cared to note whether it was love of God inspired the exterior acts. The Pharisees would reduce piety to machinery. Religion would be turned into a collection of phonograph disks. Some of the ancients had certain religious formulas in word or act stereotyped, and all that posterity would have to do would be to reproduce the identical formulas. Christ objected to reducing the service of God to the heartlessness of a talking-machine. The heart is far away from a phonograph voice; Christ wanted lip and heart to be near, and the most successful spring or dynamo is no substitute in religion for the sincere heart.
Christ had the sincerest of all hearts. His words rang true; they were the echo of a true Heart. His Heart had in Its spiritual sense, from the first moment It beat, one and the same pulse with His Father's will, as It had in Its material sense the same blood and beat with the Heart of His mother. The intention of Christ never deviated from the will of His Father. "In the head of the book it was written of Me, I come to do Thy Will, O God," were the words on Christ's lips when His Heart began to throb. "Thy will be done" were the words on Christ's lips when, obedient unto death to His Father's wishes, His Heart ceased to throb upon the cross.
All His life the sincerity, of Christ in word and deed impressed every one. It was, no doubt, the note of sincerity as well as the wonder of His teaching that made His hearers say that no one spoke as He did. His slightest acts were marked by the like sincerity. His tears shed at the tomb of Lazarus drew forth even from His enemies the testimony of His sincerity. "Behold how He loved him," they cried. His constant rebuke of the insincerity of the Pharisees is the clearest revelation of His own sincere Heart. No one ever stigmatized in stronger or more striking language than He the vice of insincerity. We fear almost to quote the simple, straightforward word's, the strong pictures He made use of. Vipers, sewers, soiled dishes, sepulchres of bones, and other such terms which Christ applied to the hypocrisy and insincerity of the Pharisees, would shock the squeamish ears of modern congregations. Their tremendous significance, however, is an evidence of what Christ thought of the insincere heart, and a proof of the pure, crystal sincerity of His own. Insincerity was so loathsome in His sight that His imagination went to the basest and most disgusting pictures of human physical corruption to get a language to describe the grossness of the insincere heart.
Our Lord is often pictured with His Heart revealed to our gaze, and that unveiled prominence has its lesson of sincerity, which may be made clear with the help of a simple English phrase.
The one who wears his heart on his sleeve is a man who might desire to be insincere, but could hardly be so in act. To wear the heart on the sleeve is, in the meaning of the words, to have no secrets from the world, to be transparent to all observers, to have one's thoughts and wishes known even before they find expression upon the lips. The phrase is not always complimentary in English. It is often used to describe a sudden, effusive and trustful simplicity which passes for weakness in the opinion of men. The words do not, then, express a quality which most people would care to possess, at least for all the time. But there are occasions when all would perhaps like to wear their hearts on their sleeves. In the worry of a misunderstanding, when our hearts are right but our thoughts are perplexed and explanations seem only to add further complications; in the bitterness of sorrow, when the pressure would be eased and the poison pass away if all could be told as we feel it, and, most of all, in troubles of the conscience, where shame or ignorance of the right terms make us halt and stumble as we try to tell our story; in all these cases it would be as great a gain to wear the heart on the sleeve as it would be to have the doctor be able to know our most embarrassing diseases without the confusing necessity of telling him. Then we should be glad to reveal ourselves in sincerity as well as in simplicity.
If any such occasion ever arises in our life, then we can turn to the Heart of Christ, which He graciously deigns to wear upon His breast that, with the proofs and tests of His love evident in our eyes, we may be attracted to Him who has no secrets from us and is pleased when we have no secrets from Him. Misunderstanding, sorrow, troubles of conscience will find relief in recourse to the Heart of Christ. He has demanded of us the humility of acknowledging our sins to His priests, but His Heart beating before our eyes in the full attractiveness of His humble, sacrificing love will draw us to put our confidence in Him, and with the strength of that sincere revelation have courage to go on to the further revelation which His merciful justice has laid upon us as a duty. The Heart of Christ is not far from us. He has brought It as near to us as He could. He stands before us with It fully exposed. That revelation invites our revelation. There is nothing between His Heart and ours; there should be nothing between our hearts and His. His sincere Heart should be the forceful incentive to make our hearts sincere to Him and to His ministers.
Finally, Christ gives us the supremest revelation of a sincere heart. "This people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me." The distance between the lip and the heart is the measure of sincerity. The nearer those two points are the greater will be the sincerity. Christ brought the two points together; He identified them. "Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." What was the end? Not His death merely. Even beyond that He gave testimony of His love; beyond that His Heart spoke. Under the pressure of the centurion's spear His Heart took lips, lips eloquent of the greatest love man ever had. There is the divine model of sincerity, of the heartvoice. Lips and heart are there one and identical. The Heart of Christ is the sincere Heart, speaking truthfully through red, rent lips of the true love within.