Monday, February 15, 2021

The Heart

"God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). 

One of my Dad's favorite television shows was a British comedy known as "Keeping Up Appearances." The show centered on the antics of Hyacinth, a character who clumsily tries to do everything possible to appear to be civilized, cultured, and a person of high status. This usually resulted in Hyacinth falling incredibly short of putting on a show and revealing her true status of low rank instead. 

Spend any time on any social media platform and it is easy to see that many of us do all that we can to "keep up" with the Kardashians, Joneses, and/or whatever society deems to be in fashion. 

In a Gospel from last week, Jesus told the Pharisees that His disciples disregard traditional practices of washing and considering certain foods unclean because God cares more about our hearts than He does our outward practices and appearances (Mark 71:13).

How often do we hold onto practices to keep up appearances? While there is something to be said about the effectiveness of "fake it until you make it", it would be well worth our time to consider why we do certain things and uproot those behaviors that don't align with our true purposes.  

As people and institutions, how often do we do things without knowing why? How often do we cling to traditions only to betray our hearts? 

Busyness is worn as a badge of honor. But, are we busy doing things that would bring us and others new life and closer to God? 

The accumulation of material wealth is sold and bought to us on what is practically a continuous basis. But, nothing that we own will last and we can't take any of it with us. Where our treasure is, according to Jesus, is where our hearts are (Matthew 6:19-21). 

In Catholic schools, how often do we cling to the traditions of stringent admissions policies, punitive discipline, and traditional grading, despite the call of our Church to a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable:
This Sacred Council of the Church earnestly entreats pastors and all the faithful to spare no sacrifice in helping Catholic schools fulfill their function in a continually more perfect way, and especially in caring for the needs of those who are poor in the goods of this world or who are deprived of the assistance and affection of a family or who are strangers to the gift of Faith. (Second Vatican Council, 1965, #9)

and the latest research and more Gospel-centered approaches to character formation and learning? We often say that Catholic schools are like "families" yet still hold onto a business and factory-line model of education. 

Do our budgets reflect our beliefs? Can we say that our pursuit of the latest technology and athletic accomplishments are done in the service of the Spirit? 

Jesus warns against this keeping up with appearances. He encourages us to guard against disregarding "God's commandment to cling to human tradition" (Mark 7:8). 

Instead, we must look to our hearts. We must look to our beliefs about Jesus and teaching and learning and formation and live from them. These beliefs are what must inspire the actions within our Catholic schools and our lives. 

Sr. Helen Prejean famously said, "I watch what I do to see what I really believe.

And when we allow ourselves to see what our actions truly unveil about what we believe, may we have the courage - which comes from the Latin cor meaning heart - to more closely align ourselves and our schools with God's best plan for both.

For that, aligning our hearts and beliefs and therefore our actions to God's heart, is the heart of the matter.