What is in our Heart?
Fourth Week of Lent 2019
By: Jeanne Connolly, Director of Charism and Mission
My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. Luke 15:31
“Righteousness is not about rules written on paper, but the love of God written on our hearts. Righteousness has nothing to do with self and everything to do with loving others … because of our love for Jesus.” Ann Weems, Stars for Righteousness, Putting the Amazing Back into Grace (1999)
Do you ever wonder who you would have been if you were gathered around Jesus and hearing him preach? I do. I wonder if I would have been a Pharisee. I hope not, but self-righteousness can so easily slip in followed soon by blindness to God’s unconditional love. Self-righteousness is described as “a feeling or display of superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are better than those of other people. Self-righteous individuals are often intolerant of the opinions and behaviors of others.” (Wikipedia)
This week, as I reflected on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, I was drawn to the elder son. It seems easier to have empathy for him, after all he stayed, he honored his obligation, he followed the rules, he was the righteous one. … or was he? What was in his heart? As I continued to reflect, I began to explore the difference between commitment and obligation. There is a fine line between the two, and that line has more to do with what is written on our hearts rather than any written or unwritten rule.
A commitment is a freely made promise that connects us to another … another person or group or community. Healthy commitments occur when we want to be part of the life of another. Commitment is a willingness to engage as fully as possible and to follow through on promises. When we are committed, we truly believe that our involvement is important and has a purpose. When we honor a commitment, we feel a sense of joy and know that God’s grace is in the connection.
An obligation is a type of commitment, but it frequently comes with a sense of resentment, self-righteousness, entitlement, and judgment. When we act out of obligation, we do so because we fear the unknown/change or fear the consequences. The elder son in is a model of resentment, entitlement, and self-righteousness. He lived separated in his heart from his father and his brother. His rules, expectations, and view of the world were all that mattered.
Commitments are powerful. They influence how we think and act. When we honor a commitment, we act from the heart. We make a choice to recognize and appreciate God’s love in our lives. We make a choice to live our values in the way of love. As we approach these final weeks of Lent, let’s take time to reflect upon what we truly are committed to in our lives now.
Generous and forgiving God, grant us the grace to make commitments that honor the many gifts that you have shared with us. Give us the courage to choose love over righteousness.
What am I truly committed to and what has become an obligation?
What grace do I need to honor my commitments without feelings of entitlement, righteousness, resentment, and judgment?