The Tortuous Heart and the Fruitful Vine

The word “heart” appears around 900 times in the Bible, which begs the question, “What is the heart?”. Jeremiah 17:9-10 (one of my favorite verses) says, “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy, who can understand it? I the Lord will explore the mind and test the heart, giving to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their deeds”. Given the current influence of the secular world, when posed with this question, the passing Jack and Jill on the street would at best point to human anatomy and at worst reference a line from a Rom-com playing at a multiplex near you!

The Catechism (CCC 2563) describes the heart as, “… the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; … the heart is the place to which I withdraw; The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant”.

The Tortured Individual Heart

There is much to meditate upon in these passages. The CCC definition states that the heart is “beyond the grasp of reason” (the mind). Further, it states that the “the heart is the place of decision”. Jeremiah makes this distinction more profound and participative; the Lord explores the mind and tests the heart. Clearly, a materialistic explanation that attributes our tortured state to the mechanistic/materialistic workings of human anatomy isn’t going to satisfy. There exists beyond such explanation, the “I”, the individual soul that God created. Thus, God alone possesses the ability to know that “I”, the individual.

We live in an imperfect, fallen world, with imperfect knowledge, influenced by our past stumbling through life, individual, familial and collective; with very little that’s actually “seeable” in the foreseeable future (ask your local weatherman). An interesting thought experiment here is to consider how, in the face of that, we go about making any decisions at all (even getting out of bed). Here I put forward the “easier” case. Making decisions amongst choices that are all seemingly and/or truly good. Between care for an aging parent and a promotion; between elder care and a spouse’s needs; between attention for a well child and a child that needs more attention; the list goes on. This subset of decisions amongst the good involves painful sacrifice, leaves our heart tortured, pained by guilt/inability and impossibility of doing justice to all, sometimes leaving scars after the decision that last a lifetime.

Bearing Fruit

I am convinced that if we did not have knowledge of, hope in, and an active participation of the Creator in our lives, this decision-making process is literally impossible (yes, even getting out of bed). Therefore, the Creator provided us with that inner sanctum, our heart, “… the place of encounter, because as an image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant”.

It is up to us to return to that center frequently and encounter our Lord in prayer, allowing him to actively explore our minds and test our hearts, to will our good. It is then that we can rest our tortured hearts and be confident that any decision performed in a heart surrendered to the Lord, will bear fruit. Ergo, St. Paul confidently proclaims in Romans 8:28, “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose”. Amen.

[Readings: Jer 17:5-10; Lk 16:19-31]

G K Zachary

I am G. K. Zachary and I write, with my family, about our Catholic faith at We believe that the Lord is continually refining us, through the simple events of our daily lives, our trials and tribulations, our fleeting moments of happiness and long-suffering sorrows. It is in those moments that we learn just how present He is in our lives, guiding us, comforting us, softening our hardened hearts. Thus, we feel compelled to write about what God teaches us, through these ordinary life experiences, in the humble hope it might lead you, through your faith, into that extraordinary eternal life in Him. May your life bear fruit for the glory of His name. Amen. I can be reached at [email protected]

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