Lent V Tuesday

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Lent V Tuesday – Proverbs 15: 7-19 

7 The lips of the wise are bound by discretion: but the hearts of the foolish are not safe. 8 The sacrifices of the ungodly are an abomination to the Lord; but the prayers of them that walk honestly are acceptable with him. 9 The ways of an ungodly man are an abomination to the Lord; but he loves those that follow after righteousness. 10 The instruction of the simple is known by them that pass by; but they that hate reproofs die disgracefully.  11 Hell and destruction are manifest to the Lord; how shall not also be the hearts of men? 12 An uninstructed person will not love those that reprove him; neither will he associate with the wise. 13 When the heart rejoices the countenance is cheerful; but when it is in sorrow, the countenance is sad. 14 An upright heart seeks discretion; but the mouth of the uninstructed will experience evils. 15 The eyes of the wicked are always looking for evil things; but the good are always quiet. 16 Better is a small portion with the fear of the Lord, than great treasures without the fear of the Lord. 17 Better is an entertainment of herbs with friendliness and kindness, than a feast of calves, with enmity. 18 A passionate man stirs up strife; but he that is slow to anger appeases even a rising one. A man slow to anger will extinguish quarrels; but an ungodly man rather stirs them up. 19 The ways of sluggards are strewn with thorns; but those of the diligent are made smooth. 

 “Hell and destruction are manifest to the Lord; how shall not also be the hearts of men?”  God is everywhere, and He knows everything at every moment, from the heights of heaven to the depths of hell, and to the depths of the mind and thoughts of every rational creature:  angels, demons, and men.  He knows my thoughts immeasurably better than I know them myself. 

St. John Chrysostom says the following: 

“Hell and destruction are manifest to the Lord,” to whom everything is apparent.  “How shall not also be the hearts of men?” People in olden times, you see, were right in this respect in particular, placing the eye of providence over their thoughts and deeds done in secret, placing a judge and examiner. 

It should console us that God has placed His providence over our innermost thoughts and hidden deeds.   Ultimately He is in control and not we ourselves.   As we become more attentive to the inner life, the unexpected wildness and depravity of our thoughts will frequently shock us and perhaps even tempt us to despair over our amendment.  Our vanity, the incomprehensible blindness of our fallen nature, has up to a certain point hidden from our awareness the mind’s capacity for evil.  But now we are striving to pray more, to lead a more attentive life, to pay attention to ourselves, and at a time when God in His providence knows best, His grace brings before the mind’s eye how bad we really are, right down to our innermost being, to the core of who we are, to the heart.  We begin to understand by experience the verse in Genesis that explains why God is going to drown all but eight of  the human race in the Flood, because they have become hopeless of amendment:  “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).” 

We, however, do not live before the Flood.  We live after the coming of Christ, Who descended into the nethermost depths of hell on that first Great and Holy Saturday, destroying the power of the devil, death, and hell over man’s nature.   As He then destroyed hell’s power over man’s nature in general, He now destroys that power over each of us in particular when, by the grace of Holy Baptism, He descends into the hell of our hearts and destroys the power that evil thoughts exercise over the soul, transforming the heart from a little hell into a little Paradise, where by the continual remembrance and repetition of His holy name, the name of Jesus, we can enjoy a foretaste of the sweetness of the age to come.  What a marvelous exchange:  Purity instead of filth, light instead of darkness, peace instead of turmoil, life instead of death.   And all by His grace and free gift, if only we would pay attention to ourselves, acknowledge in humility how bad we really are, and allow Him to activate the grace of Baptism that already lives in our hearts, that grace which, if we have remained in the Church, has never been lost. 

To face ourselves in this way, really to see ourselves, requires the cardinal virtue of Courage, completed and perfected by the theological virtue of Hope.  Dante had Vergil show him all of hell, right to the bottom.   We do not need Vergil; Christ Himself takes us by the hand and shows us every sin, every passion, every perversion lying in the hell of our hearts, right to the bottom.  If only we shall have been courageous to cast aside our vanity, defensiveness, and fear, and have allowed Him to be our guide, protector, judge, teacher, and physician in this journey through the hell of our hearts in this life, we will, in the next life,  have invincible hope of His mercy at the judgment.   

O Thou Who alone knowest the secrets of the heart, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen. 

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