I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh – Ezekiel 36:26
One of the many great challenges we are faced with today are dealing with individuals, both in the Church and outside of the Church, whose will’s are set on a certain course. Now, this does not necessarily pose any threats whatsoever, so as long as that will is in conformity to the will of God, but the real threat lies in when the will is conformed to one’s own selfish desires. A soul, whose will is not conformed to the will of God’s will end up being cast down into hell, but a soul whose will is conformed to God’s will end up being saved. I want to spend some time discussing this briefly.
I have been humbled over the last year by understanding this faculty of the soul better. I learned two things in particular. The first, I see in myself the danger of my own will not being conformed to that of God’s, and in some ways this has made me realize that I constantly need this holy distrust of myself, so that I may never rest too assuredly in what I believe to understand. For once we rest on some sort of stable ground, we risk becoming complacent, and complacency is a place where the devil can work his illusions. Even for myself, I once foolishly believed that a certain type of renewal, that I was particular drawn to, was perhaps the one and only way for the Church to be renewed. I quickly learned, to my benefit, that I was completely off the mark. I was completely off because I assumed that all members of the body of Christ were like ME. Therefore, I believed that a renewal that spoke to me, would also speak to others. I learned the hard way that I am not the center of the universe, and that I was perhaps a bit to complacent in my understanding of the world, and other souls. I was resting soundly on my own will, rather than God’s. The second lesson I learned was that if my soul is susceptible to this danger, then every other soul is susceptible to it as well. I want to spend time talking on this second point further as I feel there are some important lessons to learn here.
I believe that as a faculty, the will can in some ways becoming diseased. The disease comes in the form of replacing the object of the will with something other then God. This disease, untreated, can lead to what is referred to as a having a heart of stone. The will, thus not desiring God but something else entirely, overtime becomes hardened and restive to positive movements of grace. At times, if this condition is untreated, the will can be said to be incurable aside from extraordinary grace.
Aside from understanding the diseases of the will, it is also important to have an appreciation of the power of the will. This cannot be understated enough. I do not think there is a practical way to describe its power, but I think one can appreciate that better through experiencing it first hand. For example, have you ever tried to admonish, or correct an individual you know was doing something wrong? Did you enjoy that conversation and that experience? Most times, the outcome of such conversation end up being pretty nasty and distressing. In some rare cases, perhaps it went a lot better than you thought. We can also look at our own life experience and see how we reacted to those admonishments in the past. Were you viscous or calm? Have you ever helped anyone overcome a defect in a will? Did it take many years? I once had to deal with an individual who had an unusual tendency of eating to the point of nearly having their stomachs burst. I questioned this behavior, and unsurprisingly, got a little shouted at. This is not something anyone likes to deal with. However, since I cared deeply for this person, I kept going because I perceived that what this individual was doing was harmful to themselves, both physically and spiritually. This behavior was eventually tempered but it took a long time! They were appreciative of this after the fact, and the healing processed ultimately revealed to them their own delusion.
Now, I would classify the above example as a weaker disease of the will, and I believe this can be more easily treated (generally). There are some more serious diseases of will, which perhaps can only be cured through extraordinary grace. There are some Catholics, as an example, who have taken into their hearts the idea that there is no hell, and the dangers of sin are not as serious as one thinks. A lot of times, this view has been nurtured very deeply in the will for a long time, and as a result, has lead many hearts to become completely hardened. Appreciate this reality: each of us has our entire life experience dictating the way we are today. The reason some may not believe in hell is because their own parents nurtured the idea to them as a child, or perhaps was taking in willingly by a foolish soul later on in life. Either way, when you look at an individual, realize that this is not just something that was introduced on a whim or that can be removed with ease. Some of these diseases of the will have become almost an identify of the soul, and to remove this disease from the will is equivalent to killing the person (figuratively). Now we are talking only about one soul, and I hope you appreciate the great undertaking required just to change one person. Now multiply that by 7 billion. Do not be foolish to think that you can change the world with ease. Until you realize the amount of time and effort it takes just to positively influence ONE soul, you appreciate how little we can do without grace. Do not get flustered or impatient when someone just doesn’t get it. Be patient, and spend sometime understanding that this individual has had decades of experience to shape who they are. To come and say that everything needs to be changed because they are wrong, will do little to change the situation. This does not mean that we avoid speaking the truth, not at all. In some ways, we have to be mindful of how and where we spend out energy. If you see that an individual is hardened beyond cure, all that is left to do is pray for them. Move along to those souls who are interested in dialogue.
So, why are we so restive to change and what is the cure? It almost seems to me that as a heart becomes more like stone, pride increases and humility decreases proportionally. That’s it. When we question the life of an individual and they lash out, that is essentially the pride of the individual protecting one’s will from being changed. Pride does not want to change or acknowledge that there is something wrong with the object of the will. It is our own pride that allows our wills to be hardened like stone, and it is pride that prevents one from being open to the healing power of grace. What is the solution then? The solution is humility. So as long as there is a sliver of humility, a crack in the heart of stone, change can be made.
Blessed Mother, pray for us that we may receive the graces to be humble!