|Memorial of St. Dominic
Psalm 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19
The Psalmist asks, "Create a clean heart in me, O God." Surely anyone who would ask this today would have to be kidding. The movies made for teen-aged boys, the television sit-coms supposedly for the family, the magazines at the grocery check-out counter and the tabloids at the convenience store all shout that a clean heart is the very last thing a normal person would want. What do people think they are -- 1940's Boy Scouts? The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and our local newspapers tell us that the normal person must have more wealth and possessions. And around the world the new millennium has started off with escalated hatred and violence. And can those of us who reject the empty lusts, the materialism and the murders of our time say that we are innocent of sloth, or envy, or pride?
Upon first reflecting on today's words of the psalmist and of Jeremiah, I was confused by the apparent contradiction. Jeremiah says that the people of the new covenant will not have to teach how to know the Lord. The Psalmist says he will teach God's ways.
In trying to reconcile these opposites, I found a key word repeated in the Psalm: create. I also found a natural (supernatural?) development of that key in today's reading from the Gospel of Matthew: "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father."
As we know, to create is to make something where there was nothing before. I see Jeremiah's dismissal of the need to teach as a statement that it is God who has created in us a conscience independent of the good or bad teachings of other human beings. Correct teaching by others will come about only if God has created something receptive in our hearts.
The Gospel reading clarifies the point. Flesh-and-blood teachers
by themselves cannot teach the ways of peace and justice. The myriad
of transgressions our media scream about cannot be understood and rejected
so long as we consider them things to be educated about and no more. The
flagrant adulteries and promiscuity, drug abuse, accountants and C.E.O.s'
dishonesty and greed, global terrorism -- or whatever mediocrities pollute
our hearts -- need not be the dominant characteristics of our time.
Like Simon, son of Jonah, we can be blessed. The truth of the Lord
will be revealed in us by the heavenly Father, will be created in
us, where it has not been before.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook