03 February 2011

Dirty Feet

Most of us, upon entering a house or a building, find a moment to wipe our shoes on a welcome mat or other convenient carpet. This is a polite gesture. We are careful not to bring the dirt, dust mud (dirty snow and blue salt-crystals) into a clean space. Do we do the same with our hearts?

In today's Gospel, when the Lord instructs his disciples to shake the dust from their feet as a witness against those who rejected them, we might consider adopting the same practice. For when we have experienced the anger or negativity of another, if we do not "shake the dust" from our feet -- and our hearts -- we will have more than dirty feet with which to contend. A careful guard of our hearts can save us from being wounded -- and from wounding others -- on account of the negativity or anger we have experienced in the words or actions of another.

Sometimes we offer ourselves to someone in an act of kindness; perhaps we anticipated a need or perceive an oversight. Love of our neighbor propels us to act generously. It can be painful when our act of charity is unwelcome. Like germs, negativity is also contagious. We can catch a cold by not washing the germs from our hands; we can become uncharacteristically negative by not washing the negativity from our hearts. We may not, of our nature, be inclined to discuss the shortcomings of our colleagues or neighbors but when we spend time with those who are so inclined we may not even notice this odious little habit growing in our heart like a silent cancer. Let us keep careful watch over our hearts (and our feet) so that we may keep them clean. Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God. And they shall see Him everywhere!

"There is no clock, however good, that does not need to be continually wound up . . . any one who really cares for his heart's devotion will wind it up to God night and morning, and examine its condition, correcting and improving it . . . . And just as the clockmaker applies a delicate oil to all the wheels and springs of a clock, so that it may work properly and be less liable to rust, so the devout soul ... will lubricate his heart with the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. These exercises will repair the waste caused by time, will kindle your heart, revive your good resolutions, and cause the graces of your mind to flourish anew."
St. Francis de Sales

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