Friday, June 3, 2011

Quieting the Heart

A meditation for the Friday after the Ascension from DYNAMIS!:
Quieting the Heart: Saint John 14:1-11, especially vs. 1: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Have faith in God and faith in Me.” [NAB]  The American Communist, Whittaker Chambers, after a lifelong commitment to the Party, eventually rejected that ideology.  He tells of a German man, like himself, who became ‘an implacable anti-Communist’ in a single unexpected moment during the heyday of Communism.  Chambers describes the man’s conversion: “ night in Moscow, he heard screams.  That’s all.  Simply, one night he heard screams.”  Thus, Chambers asks, “Why does the Communist ever hear them?  Because,” he asserts, “in the end there persists in every man, however he may deny it, a scrap of soul.”

Thankfully, your ‘scrap of soul’ and mine can be troubled.  Events have the power to awaken, unsettle and distress the heart and soul, and force us to change.  What sort of circumstances have this ability?  Guilt, loss of meaning, and death come readily to mind.  When such realities stir within, three statements from the Lord also press in to give peace: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (Jn. 14:1 NKJ).

Guilt is disturbing.  No one lives directly with guilt when the depth of conscience is touched.  Blame of others, confession, denial, and self-punishment are various tactics used to rid ourselves of guilt.  To enjoy sins we rationalize, and if we persist, we may even sear the conscience and deaden that holy fire that burns and troubles the heart (see Pr. 6:28; 1 Ti. 4:2).  Yet a ‘scrap of soul’ remains, and there persists hope for repentance.  True life abides, like a green root of a dead tree, and, with nurture, life sends up living shoots.

Observe the Lord Jesus undercutting Peter’s pride and self-confidence: “Will you lay down your life for My sake?  Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times” (Jn. 13:38 NKJ).  Jesus spoke this to a disciple who had left everything to follow Him, a man who loved Him deeply, a man whose physical life He had saved from drowning by an outstretched hand.  The Lord troubled Saint Peter and the other disciples, yet He reassured them.  Despite guilt, there is a way to God: “I Am the way...” He says, and, what is more, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6).  Listen to the Lord’s message: “Stop the raging in your heart; believe in Me, for I Am the Way back to the Father.”

Loss of meaning erodes men’s inner world.  Whittaker Chambers explains how so many were caught up by Communism.  “The world outside Communism, the world in crisis, lacks a vision and a faith.”  He describes the present world!  Beloved, the world’s mad rush to pleasure, self-realization, and substance abuse are frenetic efforts to stave off the loss of meaning that seeps in from every side.  Against emptiness, like a rock, stands the Holy Faith.  Listen to Saint John of Kronstadt: “The Holy Trinity sees and hears me; this is the most life-giving assurance for my heart, penetrating it with peace and joy.”  Jesus Christ, is “...the Truth” (vs. 6).  Have faith in Him Who is the Truth for over and over He proves true.  He stops the raging in the heart.

The specter of death can corrode equanimity.  Life’s gifts - cherished relationships, genuine achievements, and goals yet to be completed - can be shaken in one moment by death.   The Lord Jesus warned the Disciples of His Passion: “ of you will betray Me” (Jn. 13:21).  “...I shall be with you a little while longer” (Jn. 13:33).  “Where I Am going you cannot follow Me now...” (Jn. 13:36) - disturbing words.  As Saint John Chrysostom observed, the Disciples “...would expect to have to undergo some great reverse, sufficient to bend even souls of adamant.”  Yes, and the Lord Jesus died and His own were scattered; yet Christ is among us!

“I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten....”

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