A frozen heart is a heart incapable of feeling, incapable of compassion. A chill heart is well on the way to becoming frozen by picking and choosing when and where to feel compassion. A totally frozen heart is - dead. We may think that we have warm, living, loving hearts, but, since none of us are perfect or perfectly holy or perfectly compassionate yet on this earth, all of us have some splinters of ice in our hearts that we may not even be aware of yet.
There's talk these days of the End of the World coming soon, the Days of the Apocalypse. Speakers urge us to turn away from sin and embrace the Gospel. A frozen heart, a chill heart, a heart with splinters of ice are all sinful hearts. Yet so often when we think of sin we think of the fires of hell, not of iciness. Bishop Barron gives us a different way of thinking as he speaks of the world of Jesus' time, which is also a picture of our world today:
"In our pride, our rebellion, our cruelty, and above all in our fear, we human beings had changed ourselves into a dysfunctional family. Designed to soar into the fullness of God, we had turned ourselves tragically inward, locking ourselves into the cramped and icy space of sin." (Bishop Barron's Daily Gospel Reflection for August 7.)
We pray to turn away from icy sin to embrace the Gospel, and the Heart of the Gospel is the fiery Heart of God, a God Who is ongoing generosity, Who creates out of generosity, and then saves us from sin out of generosity by sending us God's own Heart in the Person of His Son. Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, takes on human flesh, lives, and dies on the cross for us. The Heart of God is pierced for our offenses; the Heart of God is the pure Fire of Love! Barron continues:
"When it appeared as though the human race were doomed to self-destruction, God sent not simply a prophet, a representative, or a plenipotentiary, but his own Self, his own heart. And this divine Son, incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, entered into the darkness and the tempest of human disorder. He went to the poor, the hungry, the self-righteous, those drunk on power and those with no power—to everyone languishing in the iciness of the far country—and he called them home."
Only the pure fire of the generous and compassionate Heart of God can melt our frozen hearts! Our hearts are frozen in the cramped, icy spaces of sin, imprisoned in glaciers of pride, rebellion, cruelty, and fear.
We humans are prideful because we don't want to admit that we have been created by God and belong to God's family.
We humans are rebellious because we deny that we need God, and we lie to ourselves saying that we only need ourselves and that all our strength, intelligence, and gifts come from us and our own hard work on ourselves.
We humans are cruel because we use and abuse each other, physically, sexually, and economically. We cruelly abuse each other through our indifference to each others' suffering. We are cruel because we act as if only our religious or ethnic or social group, only those with our color of skin, only those who have economically succeeded, only those without illness or disabilities, are "right with God."
We humans are held captive to fear, because we fear others and their needs will take away from what WE need, and so others become our enemies, to be cast out or never allowed to enter our communities. We humans fear people who are different from us in any way. We humans fear ourselves most of all because we don't want to know the person we can become. We don't want to become all we can become through the Power of God. We refuse to allow the Fiery Spark of God present in our souls to purify us and change our frozen hearts into new, transformed Hearts set on fire with love.
The iciness of sin turns each of us tragically inward, into emotional isolation, into spiritual separation from everyone and everything, so that we humans become a dysfunctional family. Communities and nations separate themselves from each other. Humans act as if the power they have over nature is power to use and abuse animals, insects, plants, soil, air, and water.
But the fire of Grace, God's Life within us, does the exact opposite to us and for us. For when, in daily prayer, we consciously ask God to unite our hearts to God's Heart, we begin to love through and with God's Fiery Heart of Love. And we slowly discover that, when we are united to God, we are also united with everyone and everything. For while we live in God, God also dwells in all that God has made! Fr. Richard Rohr explains
"Indian-born teacher Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) puts it in similar terms: 'Life’s real and highest goal . . . [is] to discover this spark of the divine that is in our hearts. . . . When we realize this goal, we discover simultaneously that the divinity within ourselves is one and the same in all—all individuals, all creatures, all of life."' ( Eknath Easwaran, Original Goodness: A Commentary on the Beatitudes (Nilgiri Press: 1989, 1996), 9.)
To be a mystic is to be a person of prayer, a person who opens up to God, who allows God to change and transform him or her, who asks to love with a heart on fire with compassion. But we all have those little splinters of ice in our hearts, don't we? And our hearts rebel at the idea that God is both beyond everything created, an infinite God, and also a God Who dwells in everyone and everything that God has created. We rebel against the Truth that everyone and everything is part of the family of God. This is where sin enters in.
We rebel against the Truth that Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Jews are part of God's Family. We rebel against the Truth that Trumpers and people wearing Black Lives Matter tee shirts are part of God's Family. We rebel against the Truth that people who kneel during the Pledge of Allegiance and people who wave Confederate flags are part of God's Family. We rebel against the Truth that people without jobs and people who own stocks are part of God's Family. We rebel against the Truth that straights and people with gay or lesbian orientations are part of God's Family. Our lives would be so much easier without them. Yet - sin is us says that if all these people didn't exist, there would no longer be targets for our fear and hatred.
Fr. Rohr shows us those icy splinters of sin in our hearts:
"We like our distinctions! We don’t want to hear that we have the same soul as our enemies, not our personal ones and certainly not our cultural or global ones! We want to hate them, don’t we? And far too often our religion seemingly gives us permission to do so. But mystics don’t hate anyone. They simply can’t. They pray, as Jesus does on the cross, 'Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing' (Luke 23:34). The mystic knows the other person doesn’t know. It’s not malice as much as ignorance and unawareness. And, of course, it’s a burden to know; it’s a responsibility to know, because once we know that God has inhabited all that God has created, then all of our distinctions are silly. They are just ways to create self-importance and superiority for ourselves and put down someone else. We’ve played this game since grade school!" (Fr. Richard Rohr's Meditation for August 7)
As we daily face the tumult, the darkness, of various political and even religious forces seeking to pull our families, our nation, apart, to divide us and turn us against each other, may we pray to discern how and where to seek for Truth, how and where to show Holy Compassion. May we daily pray for these spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Holy Trinity, have mercy on us! Holy Spirit, melt our frozen hearts, warm our chill hearts. Unite us to the Divine Heart of Pure, Fiery Compassion so that we discover our unity with everyone and everything You have made. May we weep with all those who weep, and rejoice with all those who rejoice across this planet. May we seek Divine Truth in every situation so that we can make wise decisions. May we pray with Jesus the Christ for You, Father, to forgive those who wound us, especially when it is hard for us to understand them or see Your Presence in them. May we daily, in prayer, turn from the iciness and isolation of sin and embrace the unifying Fire of Your Holy Word, Jesus the Christ, Who is calling all of us, without exception, to come Home to You. Amen.