Live from the inside out

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

Years ago, as I was listening to a homily, the priest used a phrase I have never forgotten: "Live from the inside out." Is not that phrase a good summary of what God is teaching us through His Word in today's Eucharistic Sacrifice? Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus tells us, "This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are from me; … Nothing that enters one from without can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defiles …" Jesus then lists 13 examples. And in the second reading, Saint James urges us: "Be doers of the word and not hearers only." What the Lord is telling us is that our external actions should flow from our internal attitudes. Yes, live from the inside out.

Let us examine three areas of our faith-lives in order to see whether there is harmony between what we say and do externally, on the outside, and what we think and choose internally, on the inside. The first area for our examination is our religious practice, which means, living out our faith. Of course, we need to express externally what we believe. But living out our faith is more than the externals only. What we do externally should flow from what we think and choose internally. So, living out our faith in practice must flow from the heart, the center of our being. Biblically the heart represents the inner depths of the person, the seat of decision where a person either responds to God or resists Him. The heart is the source of emotions such as love, grief, anxiety and joy, but in contrast to modern usage, it is also the source of thought, will and conscience …" (Mary Heeley, The Gospel of Mark, p. 141).

So, what kind of heart do we possess? A heart that listens to God's Word and acts on it, a heart that desires closeness with the Lord and with His people, a heart from which goodness, not evil, flows? Basically, we seek to possess a heart that is centered on the Lord Jesus not perfectly, because we are not perfect, but perseveringly, as we continually reach out to Jesus so that He may transform our hearts to more like His. Do we ask the Lord Jesus every day: "Dear Jesus, make my heart more like Yours"?

The more our heart is centered on Jesus, the more our heart is transformed by Him, the more our external actions flow from the inside out and reveal a harmony: daily prayers, both as individuals and as a family, at least the weekly celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice devoutly and faithfully, regular reception of the Sacrament of Penance, and care and concern for others, beginning with the family and extending to those in most need. Our external religious practice is then in harmony with our internal religious attitude. We then live from the inside out.

A second area for our examination is marriage and family life. It is not enough to feel love for our spouse or our parents or children; we must express this love in action. Authentic love, love rooted in Christ, is far more than a feeling. It is a decision, or commitment to be for the other. And such a decision and commitment must be externally expressed: like trying to communicate with one another attentively, sensitively, honestly or helping one another in simple yet supportive ways, or bearing with one another's faults. This kind of authentic love is rooted in a heart that is being daily transformed by Christ. Yes, live from the inside out!

The third area for our examination is the moral life, which, of course, involves our relationship with God, with our family, with the people around us, with our society and with our inner selves. The moral life is essentially living in the right relationship with God, with others and with ourselves. What this "right relationship" entails comes not from our own thinking or from the culture or our society, but from what God reveals in His Word, which is taught authentically by the Teaching Office of the Church, beginning with the Holy Father and the bishops in union with him. Ultimately, the ability to live in right relationship with God, with others, and with ourselves, comes from God's transforming grace or power and is rooted in a heart where the Lord Jesus is treasured. To live the moral life authentically is to live from the inside out.

Living from the inside out is the best form of witness, and therefore the best way to evangelize. When there is a harmony between our external actions and our internal attitudes, then we ring authentically and point beyond ourselves to Jesus Christ, the One Who keeps transforming our hearts, so that we will try perseveringly, day in and day out, to "Live from the inside out."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015