“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.” (Ezek 36:26)
The word “heart” makes us think of our affections, feelings and passions. For those writing the Bible, however, it meant a great deal more. Together with the spirit, the heart is the center of life, the center of what it means to be a person. It is the place where decisions are often made, a place of our inner being, our spiritual life.
A heart of flesh lets itself be governed by the word of God, lets itself be led by it and thinks “thoughts of peace” toward its neighbors. A heart of stone is closed in upon itself, incapable of listening and of having mercy.
Do we need a new heart and new spirit? It’s enough just to look around us. Violence, corruption and wars spring up from hearts of stone that are closed to God’s plan for creation. If with sincerity we also look within ourselves, do we not feel that we are often motivated by selfish desires? Are our decisions truly guided by love, by wanting the good of the other?
Observing the sad state of our human race, God is moved by compassion. He, who knows us better than we do ourselves, knows we need a new heart. He promises this to the prophet Ezekiel, thinking not just of individuals, but of the whole of his people. The dream of God is to recreate his idea from the beginning, a great family of peoples, shaped by the law of mutual love. On one hand, history has shown that we are very often incapable of carrying out his project. On the other hand, it has also proven how God has never tired of putting himself on the line, even to the point of promising he would himself give us a new heart and a new spirit.
He lives up to his promise in full when he sends his Son into the world and pours out his Spirit on the day of Pentecost. A community is born, the community of the first Christians in Jerusalem, an icon of humanity characterized by being “one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32).
And I, as the one writing this brief commentary, and you too who read it or listen to it, we are all called to be part this new humanity. What’s more, we are called to build it around us, to make it present where we live and work. Just think what a tremendous mission has been put into our hands and how great the trust God gives us!
Instead of being depressed in the face of a society that often seems corrupt, instead of resigning ourselves in the face of evils that are bigger than we are and closing ourselves off in our indifference, let’s enlarge our hearts “to the measure of the heart of Jesus. How much work that means! Yet this is the only thing necessary. When this is done, all is done,” wrote Chiara Lubich.
“It means loving everyone we meet as God loves them,” she continued. “And since we live in time, we must love our neighbors one by one, without holding in our heart any remnant affection for the brother or sister met a moment before.”1
Let’s not trust in our frail strength and ability, but in God’s gift to us: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.”
If we let ourselves be governed by the invitation to love every person, if we let ourselves be guided by the voice of the Spirit in us, we become living cells of a new humanity, people who craft a new world, in the midst of the varieties of peoples and cultures.
1 Essential Writings. New City Press: New York, London, 2001, p. 81.
Fr. Fabio Ciardi, OMI
Each month the Focolare offers a Scripture passage as a guide and inspiration for daily living. Ever since the Focolare’s earliest years, founder Chiara Lubich (1920–2008) wrote her own commentaries each month. Now Fr. Fabio Ciardi, OMI, theologian and close collaborator of Lubich, is writing the commentaries, reflecting her thoughts and her spirituality of unity.
Read more on this topic:
Lubich, Chiara. “If your eye is simple,” Essential Writings. New City Press: Hyde Park, New York, London, 2001, p. 80.
Lubich, Chiara. The Pearl of the Gospel. New City Press: Hyde Park, New York, 2013.
“Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor 5:20)