Divine conception of the heart Mark 7: 1–8, 14–15, 21–23
In 2000, three weeks after my father’s death, I left the shores of Trinidad for beautiful Grenada. I would be there for the next twenty-one months, involved in conducting retreats mainly for the youths and young adults.
I must admit, those were challenging days, for I was always on retreat myself, inspiring me constantly to self-examination, living my Chrisianity consciously. I could not pretend around these young people, (youths see through you quite easily). I had to live a Christianity that reflected a kind of love, care, concern for those around me that was not a ‘put on’ but flowed from a heart that was genuine. Not giving way to pride, anger, to insincerity that flows naturally from the heart.
“For it is from within men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge.”
I was forced to move away from the traditional approaches to retreats, to what they could identify with yet bring about the desired results, Helping them to see how relevant the Church was to their life’s journey and how a change of heart—habits, attitudes, etc—would aid them in becoming better human beings, the kinds of adults, men and women that they themselves were longing to see in their homes and churches.
In a quest to connect with where they were, I gravitated to a genre of music they had all loved. It was the phase of conscious music, reggae style. I grew to appreciate Morgan Heritage, a reggae band that originated out of Brooklyn New York.
‘Don’t Haffi Dread’ (1999)
You don’t haffi dread to be rasta (don’t ha fi dread)
This is not a dreadlocks thing
Divine conception of the heart, well…..
This reggae tune was a hit in Grenada and other islands. The youth had loved the music and by the first encounter, these retreats became a hit. The excitement could be heard from a distance as they chanted the lyrics. But, with a closer examination of the lyrics, the chants will mellow and then eventually sang with a new spirit as deeper meaning was derived. The challenge however, was for them to make the transition from the melody to the living out of it.
These young people left those spaces with the understanding that their faith, was not about appearances, or fulfilling an obligation, but about an ongoing transformation of their lives.
We grappled with personal brokenness, and experiences in the families and society that influenced certain kinds of behaviours, while recognising how these deeply rooted habits could be transformed and healed by the love of God.
The hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees were no longer being influenced by what they were doing, there was no openness to the grace of scriptures or the call to conversion. They simply engaged in rituals! We in many ways are like them,
“The people honour me only with lip service; but their hearts are far from me.”
In our homes, we lack genuine presence, one to the other as demonstrated with the use of phones around the dinner tables. There’s no longer sincerity of heart in relationships; families are torn apart as we mouth our obligations but demonstrate something else by how we treat each other.
At church, we easily profess a Creed that seems to be beautiful words, while our hearts are filled with anger, unforgiveness and malice towards others.
We sing lustily the beautiful hymns, as did the youths, “You doh haffi dread to be rasta” but what impact is it having on us? The heart, referred to as being “devious”, is always seen as the space from which good or evil intentions originate. The worship of the heart connotes the idea that the whole person is involved in this sacred act, one that signals to God my awareness of His omnipotence, His love, His mercy—a worship that impels me to obedience of the commandments that reflects my deep love of God.
It is a worship that is not simply about my bowing down in adoration, but makes me aware of the poor, the weak and the marginalised and influences how I treat with them.
I pray that we will become more and more persons, who are influenced by the Spirit of God, and pay attention to the heart. What goes in and what comes out of it.
The Gospel Meditations for September are by Fr Raymond Francis Assistant Parish priest at Sangre Grande/Toco/Matelot and Corial.