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‘Cross my heart!’

The story is told about a woman who slipped on a ship and fell into the sea. Amidst the commotion, a man dived and went on to save the woman from drowning. When the “hero” was brought on board with all the people clapping, he was asked to make a speech, and the first thing he said was: “All I want to know is who pushed me?!”

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In today’s Gospel (Mk. 7, 1-8, 14-15, 21-23), Jesus tells the people about the importance of the heart. All our words and actions must be the result of what is really in our hearts. We are guilty of hypocrisy if there is no integrity in what we think, do or say. God sees the heart. We must not disregard or belittle matters of the heart, for the heart matters.

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“Cross my heart!” Notice how this expression is used to underline truthfulness and sincerity? That is because the heart is the fountain from which our thoughts, words and actions come. Thus we do not use the words “cross my head,” “cross my lips,” or “cross my eyes.” Yes, the heart is where truthfulness or lies reside.

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Nowadays, many people are not heart-driven, so to speak. People who are money-driven, purpose-driven, fame-driven are aplenty. What people want to see is results, no matter what and no matter how, easily setting aside morality and righteousness. Today, Jesus teaches us to go back to our hearts and see who we really are deep inside.

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There is so much concern for externals these days. It is a world that has hardly time to go the “extra mile” to see “more than what meets the eye.” The efforts people do just to be beautiful, presentable and acceptable! A lot of things can be fixed, remedied and retouched, and faked these days. Let us be vigilant and not be deceived. For us, the bottom line is still the heart.

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I remember Mama telling us why she chose Papa from among her many suitors. Papa was not rich or handsome, but he had a good character. He was diligent, humble and simple. He was dark-skinned. It was our maternal grandmother who told Mama: “Si Emoy agya amputi, balet amputi’y ugali. (Emoy is not fair-skinned, but his character is white).” It was the heart that won the day then. It is still the heart that will, even today.

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A caimito tree fell down on our seminary grounds during a recent typhoon. From the outside, it looked strong and sturdy, but when it fell, we soon found out why—it was full of termites inside. What are the “termites” inside us? Jesus enumerates them for us: “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.”

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“Your lips may be sweet, but where is your heart?” This line from a song of long ago sums up the emptiness of words without the heart. True prayer is “mula sa puso, hindi mula sa nguso (from the heart, not from the lips).” Someone beautifully put it: “It is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.”

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The day after tomorrow is September already. This early, Christmas carols are being aired. (Only in the Philippines!) We are people with a heart. We love Christmas, telenovelas, and kalyeseryes, balikbayan boxes, and what-have-you. We may be burdened with traffic, natural and political calamities, poverty and deprivations, but we hold on to our family, faith, and freedom, precisely because we are a people with a heart. Puso!

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Speaking of Christmas, let’s start preparing for the birthday of Christ. The best place to start is in our own hearts. Let us ask the Lord to remove these sins of the heart: Hatred, Envy, Anger, Resentment, Timidity. Let us replace these, and let us ask the Lord to give us a heart that is Humble, Earnest, Affectionate, Rejoicing, Tender.

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“Please be careful with your heart.” I borrow this line from a song composed by Jose Mari Chan to remind us that we have hearts, and that other people have hearts, too. Let us allow our hearts to have peace and have them nourished with silence, prayer and quiet.

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Tomorrow is National Heroes’ Day. Let us remember and honor our fellow Filipinos who have done great service to our country and to our people. There have been, there are, and there will be Filipinos who inspire and make us proud. What makes them stand out? Their sacrifices, and their hearts. As we look for future leaders, let us make sure that they have a sense of sacrifice, and that they have a heart.

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“Heavenly Father, I look up to Thee to enlighten what is dark in me, to strengthen what is bruised in me, to heal what is sick in me, to straighten what is crooked in me, and to revive whatever peace and love that have died in me. Amen.”

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, You know our hearts. Heal our hearts. Amen.

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TAGS: Christmas, Healing, Heart, National Heroes Day, September
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