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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Truth, the Heart and the Sacred

"Lord, you love truth in the heart. In the secret of my heart, teach me wisdom." David prayed these words after he repented of committing adultery with Uriah's wife and then killing him. Through his sin, he discovered that his heart lacked wisdom and without the truth, he was given over to grave evil. He knew that he was worthy of punishment. He knew he had caused such damage that he could never undo or heal what he had caused. Yet what shattered him was that he was cut off from the sacred, unable to offer acceptable worship to God, without standing before the Lord—whose love was more precious to him than life. Yet God takes no delight in the misery of a sinner and yearned for his son to come to his senses. That beautiful prayer "teach me wisdom" reveals a man who has chosen to rise up from the pigpen and to set his chin for the Father's house.

The Church and the world need this wisdom today. Wisdom is a vision of the whole and a taste for the sacred. Without wisdom, the heart only sees broken fragments of the truth that excite a storm of passion but never provide ground firm enough for a man's existence. Without wisdom, without truth the heart lacks an orientation point, a banner around which it might rally its forces. So the heart drifts from the sacred to the profane into chaos. Standing on the truth, there is stability. The specific gravity of such ground is holiness—the only ground on which God deals with man face to face. Without it, life goes into a free fall. This is exactly what David experienced—and this deadly confusion is what we are also experiencing in the world and in the Church today.

Conversations in the Church that call into question fidelity and chastity can only lead to murder and the suffering of the most vulnerable. This was St. Paul VI's basic insight in Humanae Vitae, a document that might have protected human life if only the faithful were helped to receive it. He said that the practice of contraception is opposed to the conjugal act and would contribute to a contraceptive mentality among the faithful. He reasoned that contraception violated the chastity proper to matrimony and robbed of chastity, a dark mentality would open to greater evils among believers. He prophesied an increase in divorce and abortion.

This prophetic word is fulfilled in our hearing, and yet few leaders have the wisdom of heart to call us to conversion. The rejection of Saint Paul VI's teaching contributes even now to a culture of death and this culture robs us of the courage we need for life. It is a mistake to believe that this rejection is first and foremost the reality of married couples. Those of us who teach must look in the mirror. There has been an abuse of the authority we have from Christ to teach the truth. Ecclesial leaders are entrusted with authority to teach and pass on the deposit of faith, and failure to do so is a grave abuse that causes scandal... and these are indeed scandalous times, times in which the lives of the most vulnerable are at stake. Those whose duty it is to teach have squandered the riches of Christ and chosen a pigpen.

Recognizing the pigpen that into which too many leaders have led us is not for the sake of wallowing in self-pity. It is precisely in a time of terrible scandal that we must beg Christ to teach us wisdom. It is precisely when his apostles betrayed, denied and abandoned Him that He revealed in the most poignant and powerful way the wisdom of God. So, today, when ecclesial leaders have followed the ways of their fathers, we must draw close to the Cross with the Christ's Mother and Beloved disciple.

To stand under the shadow of the Cross in this way means not being naive about wolves who prey on the faithful. We must draw close to the Good Shepherd so that He can deal with the wolves. We must decry those who rip at the womb of the Church because of their own heartless lack of wisdom and cry for help. To draw near to Christ crucified, we must reject every form of falsehood. We must have the courage to constantly speak the truth with love until our grammar includes Spirit-filled embodied actions of tongues, lips and hands.

No one can declare the truth of our faith with enough boldness, but boldness comes through a return to personal prayer, to fasting and to works of mercy. We must again take up the Bible and read. We must again grab hold of those Rosary beads with the determination of the saints. We must again find the hardness of earth with our knees. We must again embrace the Cross, practice self-denial and die to ourselves. We must begin again to confess our sins, to do penance, to make restitution, to offer sacrifice and to adore the Lord for His Eucharistic presence is filled with power.

In these ways, Christ will open the eyes of my heart to the goodness of the Father until I see enough to help others open their eyes too. If only by yanking out the plank that blinds me do I help my brother see, then it is well past time that I yank it out. This means renunciation and self-denial: turning off the media, the entertainment, the gossip, the detraction. This means turning the heart to solitude, to silence, to the Lord who waits for us in the dessert. If such radical conversion of life requires trodding the narrow path of determination, humility and patient endurance, it also opens passage out of the pigpen of anxiety and resentment, a road to hope, a future filled with blessing, a journey to the Father's house. When suffering comes, and it will, this faithfulness to the wisdom of the saints makes space for the Lord to do something beautiful, to renew His whole mystery, and in the secret of our hearts, He will teach us wisdom.

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