"If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
All of us have prayed and read this verse from Hebrews many times. We might remember a time in our lives when we realized that our heart had become hardened, perhaps towards a friend who distressingly had hurt our feelings, towards community or church. Then, a remark from a loved one touched us.
Or seeing great beauty in nature moved us. Maybe it was at a recent Christmas concert that we realized that our heart had become hardened, and a beautiful voice moved us to tears. Then, like the leper in today’s gospel, we turned to Jesus and said: "If you wish, you can make me clean." If you wish, you can restore my heart, our hearts, to be like yours: full of compassion for all.
In a world filled with too much unnecessary pain and suffering–too much hardness of heart, we turn to the One on the cross. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote: "Unhappy is he who carries the cross of Jesus but who is not with Jesus."
During this New Year, we can pray that we and all Christians, all of goodwill, have a compassionate heart. This heart, like Jesus’, and beating in union with his, will move us to action for all in distress. In Haiti, Houston, Birmingham, Chicago, wherever we are, we will be happy and know happiness as we carry the cross of Jesus and are WITH him and all of our sisters and brothers.
Fr. Bob Bovenzi, C.P. is stationed in Houston, Texas.