Readings: Jeremiah 7:23-28, Ps. 95:1-2,6-9, Luke 11:14-23

“This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.” (Jeremiah 7:28)

A hardened heart is a metaphor for someone who bluntly refuses to convert (change, repent or adjust) despite repeatedly hearing God’s Word. This person knows God but does not believe God should dictate the course of their lives. Hardness of heart may take the form of immediate forgetfulness of God’s word; the message enters one ear and passes out from the other like that seed that fell on the sand. This was the situation of the people of Israel in the days of Jeremiah. A hardened heart can also represent one who the devil possesses. We see an example of this in today’s Gospel passage. How do I know if my heart is hardened if I cannot fully convert?

1. Telling of Lies: It is the devil’s nature to deceive, distort and misrepresent the truth. One way to detect the hardness of the heart is the refusal (or inability) to tell the truth. Every lie we tell elevates the devil and makes us lose self-integrity when the truth is exposed. Some people are so used to telling lies that they lie even before realising they have lied. Sadly, we claim to be children of God (followers of Christ – the Way, the Truth and the Life), yet we bear false witness. “Say the truth and shame the devil.” Lies can destroy.

2. Lack of Self-Discipline: In today’s reading, God says: “But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backwards and not forward.” Do you desire to move forward? Follow St. Paul’s advice: “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable… I pommel my body and subdue it.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)

3. Demanding for Signs to Believe: When we chase after signs and wonders (as if we want God to prove himself continuously), our hearts have become hardened. Jesus’ audience saw him cast out a demon from a mute man, yet they wanted a sign from heaven. Was the healing of the mute man, not an adequate sign? The problem with having a hardened heart is not the absence of signs and wonders but our refusal to notice the abundance of signs and wonders around us. If Jesus had worked a sign from heaven, they still would have requested another.

4. Fearing the Devil More Than God: Hardness of the heart may take the form of strongly believing in the existence of the devil while dismissing the power of God. Those who accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub believed in Beelzebub’s power. Some Christians are quick to ascribe misfortunes to the devil’s power but find it very hard to believe that God is capable of protecting them or granting their prayers. Recently, I saw an article that proposed that our political officeholders should no longer swear by the Bible (or the Quran) but with the instruments of African Traditional Religion. It is obvious that those who swear by the Bible do not believe there is any power in it; they still go on to steal, kill and destroy with political power. Our musicians do not fear insulting God with terrible music videos just to trend.

Jesus acknowledged the power of the devil (the strong man) but explained that He is stronger: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his palace, his goods are in peace; but when one stronger than he assails him and overcomes him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted, and divides his spoil.” (Luke 11:21-22). Do you sincerely believe that Jesus is stronger than the devil? If yes, why do you have sleepless nights when threatened by witches and wizards? If not, it means you have a hardened heart.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, break my stony heart that my faith may increase, that I may become self-disciplined and practice your Word. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Thursday of the 3rd week of Lent. Bible Study: Jeremiah 7:23-28, Ps. 95:1-2,6-9, Luke 11:14-23).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu