Fr. Pat Griffin CM speaks with a group of discerners in the context of a year dedicated to consecrated life.
“An Undivided Heart”
Two years ago, when I was with the Daughters in Paris, I was searching for a unifying theme to capture some presentations which I wanted to do around the Daughters as “totally given to God for the service of the poor.” It was the question of what it means to be a consecrated woman.
For the previous years—and since—I had been thinking a lot about my own heart. You can imagine why. As I worked for the Daughters, I reflected a lot on their seal and the heart contained therein. As I prepared presentations for them and tried to establish myself deeper in our call to consecrated life, I found that the heart was repeatedly raised up. Look, for example, at this early passage from the II document Vita Consecrata (1996) of Pope John Paul II:
The Consecrated Life, deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. By the profession of the evangelical counsels, the characteristic features of Jesus — the chaste, poor and obedient one — are made constantly “visible” in the midst of the world, and the eyes of the faithful are directed towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven. In every age there have been men and women who, obedient to the Father’s call and to the prompting of the Spirit, have chosen this special way of following Christ, in order to devote themselves to him with an “undivided” heart (cf. 1 Cor 7:34). (VC 1)
That last phrase used to describe the consecrated life, “an undivided heart,” captured my imagination. As I thought and prayed over it, it seemed to bring together many of the other elements with which I wanted to explore during that year (and this coming year). I resolved to use this phrase as a centering point then (and now).
I want to invite myself and others to do a heart check during this year when we focus upon consecrated life. How is your heart? How would you describe it? Is it “meek and humble” like that of Jesus? Is it pensive and pierced with a sword like that of Mary? Does it sorrow and respond to the hurts of those who are poor and vulnerable like that of Vincent and Louise? Is it on fire with the charity of Jesus crucified? Is it given entirely and in community to the service of Christ in our brothers and sisters in need? Is it directed without compromise and division to the accomplishment of the Gospel? Is it undivided?
In the approaching months, we will be asked to reflect upon the meaning of the consecrated life. I encourage you to ponder the character and characteristics of an undivided heart. This kind of heart, totally dedicated to the Lord, is sought by all who embrace a vowed commitment.
The Gospel today has a great line. It is in keeping with the Gospels of the past two days when Jesus speaks the “woes” against “the Pharisees”, and then takes on the “Scholars of the Law.” Can we hear it as directed at ourselves:
“Woe to you, scholars of the law!
You have taken away the key of knowledge.
You yourselves did not enter
and you stopped those trying to enter.”
The consecrated person is to be neither of these things. Not one who fails to seek the way of knowledge, nor one who hinders others in their pursuit—quite the opposite. In this year, our prayer is to be deepened in who we are and in how we need to be an aid to those who seek to follow the Lord more closely. We do so with a simplicity of life and intent. We do not say one thing and mean another; we are entirely given to the Lord. Our commitment is fixed and constant.
In its final section, the document Vita Consecrata picks up the image of an “undivided heart” once again, and responds to the Gospel which we hear:
Those who have been given the priceless gift of following the Lord Jesus more closely consider it obvious that he can and must be loved with an undivided heart, that one can devote to him one’s whole life, and not merely certain actions or occasional moments or activities. (VC 104)
With this reminder, I recall the words of Psalm 86 (which is one of my favored psalms) as a closing word and an opening invitation to our reflection:
Teach me, LORD, your way
that I may walk in your truth,
single-hearted and revering your name.
I will praise you with all my heart,
glorify your name forever, Lord my God. (Ps 86:11-12)