Clearing Our Hearts for God
Reading (Hebrews 10:19-25) Gospel (St. Mark 4:21-25)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, tells us that a lamp is brought in to be placed on a lampstand so that everything that is hidden will be made visible and everything that is secret will come to light. Jesus is the Light, and He comes to dwell within our hearts so that everything which is not of Him will be made clear to us, so that we will be able to see anything which is not pleasing to God. The question, of course, that we really need to ask is “Do we really want to see it?” because for too many of us, we like the things that are not of God. We are rather attached to all of those things and we really do not want to give them up. And so when the Lord allows His light to shine upon them, we look the other way. We are very quick to put a bushel basket over the lamp because we choose these other things instead of the Lord, but what we really need to do is allow the light to shine and allow what is hidden to be revealed. If there is something in the way then we need to get it out of there.
It is a simple task on one level, that is, we need to bring it to Confession. We need to expose any hidden sins in the light of Confession. No matter how shameful or how embarrassing they might be, it does not matter because we are bringing it to the Lord and He will remove it. If we do not deal with it, knowing fully well that it is there, and we refuse to bring it to the light, then what we are doing is to say, “We will wait for the Day of Judgment and we will stand before the Lord with these sins still on our souls and we will have to answer to them.” But if we bring them to Our Lord and we confess them, they will be removed, and we will not have to answer to them on the Day of Judgment. That is part of what remains hidden within us.
The other part has to do with the attachments that are not of God, the things that are not of God. We need to get rid of those as well so that the heart is completely open, so that the light can shine everywhere. We know, for instance, that if we bring a lamp into a room and turn it on and there is furniture in the room that it is going to cast shadows, that there are still going to be dark places in the room even though we have the light on. What the Lord wants is for the light to shine everywhere in our hearts so that there is nothing casting a shadow, but rather, all that remains in the heart is God; in which case, even the things we were attached to, they will be ours, but in a way that is complete freedom rather than a slavery to them which we have if we are attached. It becomes a selfless way rather than a selfish way.
The Lord wants our hearts to be filled with light. And Saint Paul tells us that we have confidence in this, that we should approach the Lord “with a sincere heart and absolute trust with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.” That is what we have. We do not need to be afraid to come to the Lord, but rather we need to be confident because we have this great High Priest, as he tells us, Who is interceding for us before the throne of God, Who has entered into the Holy of Holies through the veil of His own flesh to purify us from the works of the flesh, to remove all sin. The blood of Christ can purify us of everything if we are willing to allow that to happen. But because He will not force it on us, He allows the light to shine upon it but then He gives us the choice of what we are going to do. It is up to us. We are the ones who have to say “yes” so that we can choose the Lord, so that we can have that pure conscience, so that we can have a clean heart if we choose it. It can be free of sin and it can also be free of all attachments and it can be united to Jesus Christ.
That is what God is offering to us, and that is what we can have confidence and trust in. If we think about the confidence and trust that we place in all the material things and even the people that we are attached to, things and persons in whom we really ought not to have such confidence, how much more should we have confidence in Christ and in God, Who sent Him into this world to free us from all of these attachments, to free us from everything which is not of God? We can have absolute confidence, Saint Paul says. If we have trust in any human being, it is only a relative trust; it is partial. But in Christ we can have absolute confidence because of Who He is. We need to throw aside all the encumbrances that are attached to our hearts and weighing us down. We need to allow the light of Jesus Christ, indeed the Light Who is Jesus Christ, to shine brilliantly within our hearts, and to get rid of everything which is not of Him so that that light will radiate from within us because there will be nothing blocking it, nothing casting a shadow. All that will remain is Christ. And then we will truly be free of everything. We will have a clear and clean conscience. We will have hearts that are completely washed clean and a brilliant light shining within us. That is what the Lord is offering. That is what He is already doing inside of each one of us. We simply need to choose to take the lamp out from under the bed or to remove the bushel basket that we have put over it and allow the light to shine so that our hearts will truly be pure and clean of everything which is not Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.