HEAD – the Scarecrow
I could think of things I never thunk before
And then I’d sit and think some more – Scarecrow (Wizard of Oz)
My lecturer at the time, an Anglican minister suggested the head, heart, hands balance. We students were being fed information at a head level. If this information does not travel further (down the 30cm) to our hearts, then it is simply information. If our faith journey ends here we are imbalanced human beings. Paul explains this same issue in his letter to the Corinthians, “we know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs” – 1 Cor 8:1. That is we become puffed up and prideful. Many seek to deepen their faith from a healthy passion for Christ, but sometimes this can develop into a superiority complex, we have to lead or educate or steer others. Is this how we act towards our brothers and sisters? Towards those outside the Church? Such is not the point of theology or our religious books.
Sometimes we think that reading about Jesus or the lives of the saints, studying the Catechism, talking about current politico-religious issues or debating issues of contemporary philosophy is essential to a growing faith. Well it is and it isn’t. It is true that the Christian life is not one of sitting around a campfire singing ‘Jesus loves me yes I know’ we need knowledge. Christians must engage with the world. This creation matters (Rev 21:1), and as such we are to wrestle with current issues rather than seeking a detached path of self-enlightenment. Theologian Karl Barth is said to have suggested that we “read the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other”. In Hebrews, the narrator promotes this eagerness to explore the nuances of our faith
“Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.” Heb 6:1-3
Look at Jesus, who spent much of his formative years studying scripture before assuming his ministry. In Luke’s gospel we see a 12 year old Jesus discussing scripture in the Temple. After Mary finds him, the narrative sums up about 18 years of Jesus’ life in one verse ‘Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.’ Luke 2:52.
So it is essential for our journey that we are to wisen up. However if we seek knowledge exclusively and consider this the solitary path towards a deeper faith it can lead to a dry legalistic faith, much like that of the Pharisees whom Jesus is often portrayed at odds with. “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” 1Cor 8:1
HEART – the Tinman
If I… understand all mysteries and all knowledge … but have not love, I am nothing. – 1Cor 13:2
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ez 36:26
The Pharisees know about God but they failed to recognize him. They failed to let their hearts soften.
‘You shall indeed hear but never understand,
and you shall indeed see but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are heavy of hearing,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should perceive with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart,
and turn for me to heal them.’ Matt 13:15 Jesus quoting Isaiah
Above all else, God seeks our love. Love is central to the journey of any Christian. I am not talking about the kind of love that happens when a unicorn meets a butterfly for the first time, and they share caramel popcorn. Love is not just a good feeling that we feel when we worship God. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16). Christian love has eyes for others, has a heart that searches God and is directed towards ones neighbor. I cannot earn my way into heaven, I am lazy and prideful and at times I tailgate people, which is why I don’t have a fish sticker on my car, but more importantly, what defines me is that … I am loved. Because of the saving, sacrificial love that God has for us, we are able to love others. In such a way, and opposed to Satre’s “L ‘enfer, c’est les autres”, heaven, not hell, is other people. As we learn to love, as we respect the dignity of others, and refuse to treat people as objects, we become disciplined after, or rather disciples of, Christ.
If love is a flame, then knowledge is its oxygen, for the more we come to an understanding of Christ’s love, the more we are capable of loving. Love can be blind, if one follows their heart, and disregards the head, one can be led astray meandering along the journey of faith. In another area, should the heart lead without its expression in the hands (in service) then there is no avenue for this love. We begin in prayer and with a love for God, but this love should flow out to others.
“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. Luke 8:16
If love is a flame, it is meant to be seen, to draw others towards Jesus. If a flame does not serve its purpose, if it is hidden in a jar, it does not shine. Worse still a flame in a clay jar will extinguish. So it is that love, if not expressed towards others, will cease.
HANDS – the Lion
Our knowledge of God, and our love for Him lead to a life that is in service of others. Action is where our knowledge of God should lead to, service the outflowing of our love.
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
Mother Teresa quotes Jesus in Matthew 25. Some look to Catholics as ‘works’ based. They highlight the hypocricy that is one who gives only because they expect to receive. It is true, if we are just hands, and not head or heart we become begrudging givers. “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1Cor 13:3.
Instead, our actions are precicely that which arises because of our knowledge and love of God. We are to serve with a joyful attitude.
“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.”
This is why the Christian project is one of action. We have received a great gift of life, love, community, joy, peace and we are called to share this. Each time we leave Mass the calling is to “Go and share the good news, through your lives” or as Pope Francis elaborates. “Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit”
Father thank you that you are intelligible, help me to search you, to seek your face through an understanding of scripture, in conversation, in my readings, in my observations of this world.
Lord thank you that you first loved me through our Son Jesus. Thank you for the gift of a new heart. Give me times of quiet to steer my heart towards a deeper love for you and for others.
Spirit guide me through acts of service, help me to be a joyful giver, giving the gift firstly of a smile and of equality with others. Help me to be bold and courageous to seek opportunities to be His light in this world.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Find the balance. Grow in knowledge, love and action.
We are currently hosting a scripture study with around 15 young adults aged 16 – 35 (not exclusive) every Friday night. We focus on the gospel and readings for that week. Our aim is to explore scripture and deepen our faith as individuals and as a community in a fun environment. This group meets at houses around Perth. If you would like to find out more, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Once a month (2nd Friday of each month) we meet at Thomas More Chapel (Crawley) between 8:30 – 9:30 for an hour of Taize style meditation and adoration. This intention is to foster a heartfelt time with Christ in the sacrament and a time to worship God through music, meditation and prayer.
As a group we have tried to practice semi regular outreach events as the need arises. Part of the hands on action that we have been involved in has involved this year has been a pilgrimage to Israel, a dental based mission trip to Vietnam, participation in operation Christmas Child and packing aid containers with Buckets for Jesus to send to the Philippines. These prove to be fun times. We also enjoy a lot of hanging out in the process.
If any of this sounds appealing, or if you would like to start/ join something similar in your Parish please feel free to contact the crew at CYM or myself directly at email@example.com (I am notoriously bad with my mobile).