How is your heart?

By Br Mark O'Connor FMS, 1 October 2023
'Heart coming home' by Jan Richardson. Image:


Spring means new life and hope all around us!

For as Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ exults:

“And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.”

But such ‘new creation’ can only really happen for us, disciples of Jesus, if we allow ourselves to develop a richer and deeper inner life of the Spirit.

For as the famous UN Diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld once put it:

“The longest journey is the journey inwards.”

And so, as we pilgrims travel from the darkness of winter to a new springtime, we are called to convert from a “heart of stone” and replace it with a “heart of flesh” and mercy.

No wonder, then, that it is reported that St Francis de Sales, on meeting people in the streets of his hometown, Geneva, would ask them “How is your heart?”

That’s not a bad question for each of us to ask ourselves, as we reflect and pray, in this season of new life and hope.

Certainly, one is struck at times at how much darkness, anger and resentment exists today in the Church, even here in our Diocese of Parramatta. That’s not a recipe for peace and joy in life. Some people seem to ‘fear the light’ and prefer to wallow in negativity and darkness.

Instead, each Christian disciple must look more deeply into their own ‘diseased’ hearts. That’s why St John Chrysostom tells all of us “Find the key to your heart; you will see this key will also open the door of the Kingdom.”

Sadly, one does still come across those who act as if they believe the opposite! They are always denouncing others who are the ‘enemy’. It seems they are convinced that they alone possess the ‘truth’ and believe they are already ‘in’. Their mission apparently, is to close doors and keep the ‘others’ out. Effectively they want to throw away the key!

Paradoxically, however, the central message of our faith is that, like Jesus, we can only emerge into new life, if we are willing to face our own personal demons and die to our own egos.

Thomas Merton expresses all this movingly in The Monastic Journey: “The Christ we find in ourselves is not identified with what we vainly seek to admire and idolise in ourselves – on the contrary, he has identified himself with what we resent in ourselves, for he has taken upon himself our wretchedness and our misery, our poverty and our sins.

“We will never find peace if we listen to the voice of our fatuous self-deception that tells us the conflict has ceased to exist. We will find peace when we can listen to the ‘death dance’ in our blood, not only with equanimity but with exultation because we hear within it the echoes of the victory of the Risen Saviour.”

Yes, our God gifts us with new life. His Spirit graces us especially when we honestly face our own vulnerability and brokenness. This is the very heart of the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth!

So, during this new Spring Season of Creation 2023, let’s meditate on the words of the Brazilian bishop and mystic Hélder Câmara to:

“Accept surprises that upset your plans, shatter your dreams, give a completely different turn to your day and who knows? – to your life. Leave the Father free himself to weave the pattern of your days.”

Br Mark O’Connor FMS is the Vicar for Communications in the Diocese of Parramatta and the Editor of Catholic Outlook.

This article was originally published in the 2023 Season of Creation | Spring edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here.


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