“ . . .and his heart was grieved.” Genesis 6:6; “Are your hearts harden?” Mark 8:17
Today’s readings invite us to take a good, long look into God’s heart, into the hearts of the disciples and into our own hearts. We may not be pleased with what we see!
When the Book of Genesis was being put together, the authors were dealing with two very paradoxical realities: the experience of goodness and the experience of evil, the experience of a loving God and the experience of a God who allowed wickedness. They tried to make some sense of those two very contradictory experiences. They decided that this was not an “either/or” reality, but a “both/and” existence.
On one hand, we have the God of creation, the God who looked upon the fruits of creation and declared them very good. This same God is the one who made us male and female and in the image of God. When Adam saw the first woman, he said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.” (Genesis 2:23) Both are of equal dignity.
On the other hand, along with the gift of life, God also gave us the gift of free will. The book of Genesis illustrates this with instances of bad choices made by Adam and Eve and Cain and Able. Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, forbidden by God and Cain killed his brother Able in a fit of jealously. Thus, wickedness grieved the heart of God.
In the Genesis accounts, there are always glimpses of hope. For example, God has a long conversation with Adam and Eve after they had eaten of the forbidden fruit. God does abandon them but walks with them and then makes a covenant with them. God does not strike Cain down in anger but lets him live with his sin. And no matter how wicked the world was, there was always someone who clearly a good person. “But Noah found favor with the LORD. Noah was a righteous man and blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:8 – 9) Goodness overcomes wickedness. It turns out that God’s Heart is a Compassionate Heart, no matter how many times it’s been broken!
When Jesus tried to teach his disciples about the deceitfulness and the dishonesty of the political and religious leaders of his day using the metaphor of leaven, the disciples missed the meaning of his words completely. Jesus was reminding them that they were to see the reality of their day with the heart: the heart of love, the heart of pity, the heart of compassion, the heart of justice! Instead, they had hardened their hearts to the reality of wrongdoing.
It took a while before the disciples began to understand the difference between true goodness and false goodness, between grace and sin, between justice and injustice.
So, what’s in our hearts? Do we want to see with the Heart of God, with the Heart of Jesus or do we want to overlook the evil of this world and pretend that it has nothing to do with us? Do we have the courage to stand with the God of Life and Love? With the grace of God, we will choose Life and Love!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.