My Dear Parishioners,

This week our Sacred Liturgy warns about a disease of the heart. No, our Sacred Liturgy does not warn about a physical disease of the heart. Our Sacred Liturgy this week warns of a spiritual disease of the heart: the disease of hardness of heart.

The Prophet Ezekiel is called by God to prophesize to, and against, a people hard of face and obstinate of heart. This “people” are not the Egyptians or some other pagan people. The people are the Jewish Nation now in Exile in Babylon. Ezekiel called on the Jewish Exiles to admit something: that their hardness of heart has led to the Babylonian Exile. Ezekiel would then call the people to repentance which would then bring the people back to God.

Jesus Himself is amazed of the lack of faith of the people of Nazareth. They too suffered from a hardness of heart. Many others suffered from a hardness of heart in His own time including the Pharisees, the Herodians, and the Romans.

Hardness of Heart can come from the disappointments and hardships and tragedies of life. These events of life are often beyond our control and can lead us to doubt God and His Love for us. The Devil, sadly, encourages these moments of doubt in order to harden hearts.

Most often though, hardness of heart develops from sin. The most likely causes are the sins pride, unchaste and impure behavior, a refusal to show forgiveness and mercy, and a refusal to prioritize the practice of our Catholic Faith. The Devil, again, provides many temptations to keep one in a state of sin and to harden hearts even more.

Hardness of Heart prevents a person from receiving the Healing Touch of Jesus in the Sacraments and in the Devotional life of the Church.

Those who refuse to come to Mass on Sundays often suffer from a Hardness of Heart. They have closed their hearts to the opportunity to receive Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Yes, many of those who are not coming to Mass often want to play the “blame game.” If honest, however, most will have to admit that they stop coming of their own free will and with no good reason at all. They have allowed their hearts to grow cold by not prioritizing the practice of their Catholic Faith.

Most happily, Jesus provides remedies for all sins, including Hardness of Heart. Most powerfully, He gives us the Sacrament of Confession so that we can receive a beautiful outpouring of His Love, Mercy, and Forgiveness. He gives us the most Chaste Heart of our Patron, St. Joseph, to inspire us to chastity. He gives us the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary to soften and strengthen our hearts with the gifts of Heaven.

Jesus also gives us the virtues to help us overcome the disappointments and hardships of life.             St. John Paul II encouraged us to develop the virtue of piety to overcome hardness of the heart: Our reflection on the gifts of the Holy Spirit leads us today to speak of another important gift, piety.

With it, the Spirit heals our hearts of every form of hardness, and opens them to tenderness towards God and our brothers and sisters.

Tenderness, as a truly filial attitude towards God, is expressed in prayer. The experience of one’s own existential poverty, of the void which earthly things leave in the soul, gives rise to the need to have recourse to God in order to obtain grace, help and pardon. The gift of piety directs and nourishes such need, enriching it with sentiments of profound confidence in God; trusted as a good and generous Father. In this sense St Paul wrote: “God sent his Son,… that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son,…” (Gal 4: 4-7; cf. Rom 8: 15).

Tenderness, an authentically fraternal openness towards one’s neighbor, is manifested in meekness. With the gift of piety the Spirit infuses into the believer a new capacity for love of the brethren, making his heart participate in some manner in the very meekness of the Heart of Christ. The “pious” Christian always sees others as children of the same Father, called to be part of the family of God which is the Church. He feels urged to treat them with the kindness and friendliness which are proper to a frank and fraternal relationship.

The gift of piety further extinguishes in the heart those fires of tension and division which are bitterness, anger and impatience, and nourishes feelings of understanding, tolerance, and pardon. Such a gift is, therefore, at the root of that new human community which is based on the civilization of love.

Let us ask the Holy Spirit for a renewed outpouring of this gift, entrusting our prayer to the intercession of Mary, sublime model of fervent prayer and maternal tenderness. May she, whom the Church salutes in the Litany of Loreto as the “Singular vessel of devotion”, teach us to adore God “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4: 23) and to open ourselves with meek and receptive hearts to all who are her children, and therefore our brothers and sisters. Let us ask her in the words of the “Salve Regina”, “…O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!” (St. John Paul II, Angelus Address, May 28, 1989).

These remedies will keep hearts strong and warm and open to the Love of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Angels and Saints. These remedies, moreover, make hearts an image of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: Oh Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine! Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

St. Joseph, Patron of the Church, pray for us!

Fr. Michael J Pawelko, Pastor