Monday, March 12 (O.S., February 27), 2018: Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent; Venerable Procopius, Confessor of Decapolis († c. 750); New Hieromartyr Priest Peter, Martyr Michael († 1938); Venerable Titus the Presbyter of the Kiev Caves († after 1196); Venerable Thalelæus the Hermit of Syria († 460); Martyr Gelasius; Holy Hierarch Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem; Venerable Titus the Soldier, of the Kiev Caves (14th C); Venerable Stephen.
Unlike like God, my will is internally divided. Unlike God, I am in conflict with myself. St Paul is addressing the situation in which I find myself on a daily, even hourly, basis when–looking at his own divided heart–he writes “the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”
He goes on to say that the reason he, and I, are in this predicament is because of sin. Not, it’s important to remember, merely our personal sin but Sin as a cosmological force working to destroy us “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:19-20),
This internal division doesn’t exist in God. There is no pause in God between thought and action. As God says in Isaiah “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.”
Sin exploits the deliberative character of human action. There is in us a pause between perception and understanding and between understanding and action. These reflect our natural, that is to say, our created limitations.
I am not God. Neither my vision nor understanding is complete. I necessarily pause, reflect, and re-evaluate my perception and understanding of myself and the world around me.
Sin exploits this feature of human life. From the Garden to me, there is a direct line of Sin interrupting, distraction and misdirecting the process that leads from thought to action and back again.
This internal division of the human heart has consequences not only for me but for my relationships with others. We are divided because I am divided. The internal violence that drags me from thought to thought and from action to action, spills over into my relationships with each other. And so Jesus warns me
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:21-22).
Murder is the poisonous fruit of a heart at war with itself before it is at war with others.
And so in Genesis God warns us who think of ourselves as good people “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” I need this warning because my heart is divided; my heart contains within it the conditions needed for murder.
But in Christ, the divisions of our hearts are slowly being healed by the grace of the sacraments and our own ascetical efforts. Solomon’s words today are God’s promise and a warning to each of us: “He who is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die.”
We don’t have to live with a divided heart. We don’t have to be at war with each other because we don’t have to be at war with ourselves. In Christ, we can find forgiveness and wholeness of being. Communion with Christ brings communion with each other because it heals the divisions of the human heart.