Happy All Hallows Eve. That is the origin of Halloween. We reflect on holiness and heaven and our journey to our desired goal. We approach this month by reflecting on the final things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Tomorrow, we celebrate the saints in heaven and the following day our beloved dead. In light of the month of November which will end our Year of Mercy, let me share with you another reflection from the book, A Heart Like His. The title of this chapter is A Heavenly Heart:
St. Paul famously distinguished between those who “live by the flesh” and those who live “according to the spirit.” Those who live by the flesh, Paul suggested, are interested primarily in worldly things (things of the flesh), while those who live by the spirit “set their minds on things of the spirit.” The flesh and the spirit war against one another, each trying to get the upper hand in our hearts, souls, and lives.
Each of us experiences this battle. It is often easier to get excited about frivolities than about things that really matter. The spiritual life seems to require more work than planning parties or sporting events. We many sometimes get distracted at prayer thinking about a party, but we rarely get distracted during a party thinking about prayer. Jesus, on the other hand, was decidedly a man of the spirit. He saw things in a spiritual way, evaluated things from a spiritual perspective, and related things to deeper, spiritual truths.
When Jesus was walking through the fields, for example, and saw the workers harvesting, he didn’t just think about wheat and bread. He didn’t lecture his disciples on good agricultural practice. He spontaneously thought that in supernatural terms “the harvest is great but the laborers are few,” and he encouraged his followers to “pray the Lord of the harvest to send workers to his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38). He thought about the harvest at the end of the world, when God’s angels will separate the children of God from the children of the evil one, the way reapers separate wheat from chaff (Matthew 13:36-43). His thoughts tended upward, not downward. Earthly realities reminded him of heavenly realities. But this is the way Jesus always saw things, isn’t it? Everything seemed to remind him of the Father and bear the fingerprints of the Creator of all. When he saw women rejoicing over a lost coin that had been refound or shepherds diligently seeking a sheep that had strayed, he was reminded that there is more rejoicing in heaven over a repentant sinner than over many who had no need to repent. When he heard about pearl merchants who had found and purchased an especially valuable pearl, he immediately thought of how the kingdom of heaven was like that pearl: precious and worth selling everything.
Jesus was truly the opposite of a “man of the world.” He was a man of heaven, a man who saw everything supernaturally, a man for whom only eternal truths were really interesting. He could care less about gossip, who was in power, politics, or the social affairs of this time. He didn’t get excited about sports teams or economic markets or the movements of Roman troops. He cared about people and especially about their relationship with God. He cared about big questions, transcendent questions, spiritual questions.
Lord, you have chosen me to live in the world without being of the world. You don’t want me to disdain the beautiful things you have created, but you also don’t want me to set my heart on them. You teach me that the world as we know it is passing away, and that my true home is heaven. Even though I know these things, I am still in many ways a worldly person. Spiritual realities can seem very abstract to me, and worldly realities seem more tangible. It’s true that my heart often naturally tends toward lower things and is attracted by more superficial interests rather than deeper, spiritual truths.
Teach me, Lord, to think and act like you. Help me be a person of faith, who sees God’s hand in everything. Help me go beyond appearances to look into the heart of people and events, and help me to care more for people’s eternal good than simply for their momentary well-being. In short, help me to become more spiritual.