Saturating our hearts in joy and prayer
By Jeanne Hunt
Had enough? What I mean is that all of us are being bombarded by rants, propaganda, crazy media news… Need I say more? The world around us is full of fear and anger.
Scripture tells us to be “in the world but not of it.” (“I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”) (John 17:14–16). It is getting harder and harder to practice this advice. There is this subtle darkness that is in the air, and it is truly harmful to our hearts.
Jesus talks to us about keeping a pure heart in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the clean of heart” (Matthew 5:8). In the Psalm, we pray, “A clean heart create for me, God” (Psalm 51:12). A clean heart is getting more challenging for the average disciple. If it is not the media, it is gossip on Facebook, road rage on the way home from work, or even panic from a weather report.
One response to this spiritual dilemma is to insulate our hearts. Most of us don’t live in monasteries, so our way of insulating our hearts must reflect our lifestyles. I have been working at it since the election, and it seems to work. The words from the hymn “How Can I Keep from Singing” can become our mantra: “No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that rock I’m clinging.” Rock-clinging requires insulating our lives from the storm that whirls around us. Keeping a focus on Jesus as the rock in our lives and the values of His kingdom is the way to cling.
It is time to be purposeful about what we listen to and what we believe. Gone are the days when we could presume that what we hear is true. Too often, the message is slanted to create a version of the truth that helps promote a cause. We must turn to reliable sources that we can trust, especially when it comes to the daily news. My father always said, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.” I am starting to suspect that he was right!
Aside from living on the defensive, let us begin to act on the offensive. St. Paul reminds us: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). That means we avoid friends who are constantly ranting, gossiping, or complaining and seek the fellowship of positive people.
We should think of home as our sanctuary. It is the place away from the banter of the world. Let it be sacred there. Pure, clean hearts thrive in peaceful places where silence is just around the corner. While we are at it, let’s avoid telemarketers and unsolicited phone marketers. We should ask ourselves what kind of personal places, people, and situations create darkness for us and then stay away from them for the sake of clean hearts.
Finally, we must saturate our hearts in prayer. Prayer can turn a stony heart into a heart of flesh. St. Teresa teaches us the key to a pure heart, “Let nothing disturb you…all things are passing away: God never changes…. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.” Learning to seek the company of God through the sacraments and daily prayer time will bolster our strength to fight the anxiety and anger that diminish the pure of heart.
So, my fellow believers, join me in following St. Teresa’s advice: insulate yourself from the things that sully your beautiful heart. Turn off the news, unplug your cell phone, seek kind and gentle friends. It’s a jungle out there!