If there is one thing this particular Lent should be doing it is to check the condition of our heart. We have enough stress tests available in daily life and in our response to the global crisis.
In all the mystical traditions the heart is understood as the portal between this world and the next so that they can merge and become one. But the door of the heart needs to be open and opened wide if this is to happen. The consequences of a heart shut against others wreak havoc interiorly and eventually in the outer. Yesterday I was reading a geo-political assessment of the Ukraine crisis and understood how excessively intellectualising a situation of human suffering bangs the door of the heart locks it. Abstraction makes us heartless and heartlessness worsens any situation. No doubt diplomats and strategists in some countries dismiss the bombing of kindergartens and hospitals to concentrate only on the long-term strategic goals of China, the US and the EU. More children and refugees will die as a direct result.
It has warmed the hearts of many to see how countries who earlier shut their hearts and borders to Syrian refugees, like Poland and Hungary, are opening their arms to the Ukrainians fleeing death and destruction. One hopes it is a sign of permanent conversion. Nevertheless, the capacity to develop and defend a heart of stone is powerfully engrained in the human psyche. The human spirit cries for release from this imprisonment. To wish for it is itself to turn towards God:
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)
There are moments of weakness in a stony heart when our guard drops and we glimpse what we are doing to ourselves and others by maintaining a pig-headed position. But they are rare occurrences and the ego’s reserves quickly pour in to fill the breach. Recognising the resistance to change our point of view in ourselves, and makes it easier to see what happens in the mind of the geo-political strategists whose hearts have closed and left their minds at the mercy of their egos. The ruthlessness of the tyrant and his resistance to argument is a horrible magnification of our own reluctance to give way in domestic or local conflicts.
Four hundred years ago the philosopher Francis Bacon said, "Once a human intellect has adopted an opinion (either as something it likes or as something generally accepted), it draws everything else in to confirm and support it."
We cannot change a person’s mind without touching their heart.
You can’t go to a party saying, ‘I will fall in love with someone’. Falling in love is another way of opening the heart and it always surprises us. We are disturbed but happy to be surprised like this. But, how do we surprise the tyrant whose heart has turned to stone?



Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022