There is a story about a master who one day put the following question to some of his disciples: “What is the thing that one should avoid most in life?”
“An evil eye,” said the first.
“A treacherous friend,” said the second.
“A bad neighbor,” said the third.
“A bad heart,” said the fourth.
The master liked the last answer best, because it included all the others. Then he said, “And what is the most desirable thing to strive for in life?”
“A good eye,” said the first.
“A good friend,” said the second.
“A good neighbor,” said the third.
“A good heart,” said the fourth.
The master liked the last answer best, because it included all the others.
We must strive for cleanness of heart. Total purity of heart is unattainable here on earth. It is a struggle that will always go on. A pure heart is not the same as an empty heart. A heart that is full of love is a pure and healthy heart.
“Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”
“From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.” (Mark 7: 21-23)
The letter of St. James reminds us another way to have a healthy heart is by being doers of the word and not hearers only. It is important to exercise our heart and there is no better way than by caring for others, especially those who live on the margins of society. In St. James time that would be orphans and widows. Who are those people in our time and when was the last time we did something for them?
Someone just pointed out to me that Pope Francis has decided that Sept. 1 will be marked as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. The day, the pope said, will give individuals and communities an opportunity to implore God’s help in protecting creation and an opportunity to ask God’s forgiveness “for sins committed against the world in which we live.”
The annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Francis said, will be a time for individuals and communities to “reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”