Scripture: 1st Reading: Ex1,8-14,22; Resp. Psalm: Ps124,1-8; Gosp. Accl.: Mt5,10; Gospel: Mt10,34-11,1
The heart of man! The heart of man can think of and carry out noble deeds. We know so many of these deeds of love, solidarity, fellow feeling, compassion and so on. The heart thinks good in so far as it is in very strict and close communion with the Maker. The goodness of the awesome God rubs off, the light that emanates from the throne of grace purifies and scatters every shadow of sin.
Unfortunately and sadly so, the heart of man can be very evil. The heart can dream of the most despicable of all sins, construct terrible deeds of wickedness, carry out heart rending acts of the vilest possible proportions. The heart of man can be so wicked and plan so terrible an evil that will make satan, the originator of the crime, green with envy at how despicable and debased man could be. The heart is where everything starts from: plans to do good and plans to do evil and commit grave sins.
Israel's sojourn in Egypt had been successful thus far. Successions of generations of Pharaohs accepted them. They multiplied and became a nation within a nation, with their distinct customs and practises, with a consciousness of their covenant with God. But that was never going to last forever. And that was because of the heart of man!
A Pharaoh came into power who felt HR was not going to be bothered about history. He planned evil in his heart and drew others into his web of wickedness. According to him, the Egyptian must deal wickedly with the Israelites who were living in their midst. They have multiplied and spread enough. They must not multiply again.
They were already a multitude of people and if war should break out, since they lived among the Egyptians, they could constitute themselves into enemies from within and conspire against the Egyptians and be on the side of their adversaries. If this should happen, the Israelites would escape from Egypt and Egypt would lose the benefit of the free labour they were going to subject them to.
That was the beginning of Israel's slavery in Egypt. Israel was afflicted with heavy burdens. They built store cities for Pharaoh. But according to the word of God, "the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the sons of Israel." When they discovered that Israel was prospering and multiplying despite their afflictions, Pharaoh commanded that all the males born to the Jews be cast into the Nile to die.
The heart of man: full of noble and savage deeds! Our Lord warned His disciples today that they must not think that He had come to bring peace. This was because His word was like a sword, a sign of contradiction. As a result of their word, men would plan evil deeds in their hearts against the bearers of His word. They would hate them on account of His message. But whoever receives the messengers of the good news and opens his heart to the message shall receive his reward.
The word of God today warns us to beware what we plan within our hearts. It warms us not to forget that while our hearts coul lead us to deep union with God, conversely, they could lead us far away from God into satan's grasp. Let us therefore be on guard what goes into our hearts!
Let us pray: God our Father, you created us for your glory. Take possessions of our hearts and souls. Heal our hearts of all sins and evils. Purify our intentions. Make us live for you alone. Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.