September 19, 2019

Does Christ Truly Live In Our Hearts?

I’d like to begin by reading a meditation or parable about two different bodies of water in the Holy Land; it’s called “There are Two Seas” (S-E-A-S).

“There are two seas in Palestine. One is fresh, and fish are in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees spread their branches over it, and stretch out their thirsty roots to dip of its healing water. Along its shores children play.

The River Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills. So it laughs in the sunshine. And men build their houses near it, and birds their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is there.

The River Jordan flows south into another sea. Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs above its waters and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink. What makes this mighty difference in these two seas? Not the River Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie; nor the country round about.

This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop of water that flows into it another drop flows out. The giving and receiving go on in equal measure. The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps. The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives nothing. It is named the Dead.

There are two seas in Palestine. There are two kinds of people in the world. Which kind are we?” (a parable by Bruce Barton, quoted in The Pilgrim’s New Guide to the Holy Land, by Stephen Doyle, pp. 136 – 137).

Water is a symbol of life—but life, like everything else, can be wasted. Rather than hoarding it, we must be generous in sharing our life with others and particularly with God. The living water Jesus speaks of refers to His life within us—and we must allow His presence to be active and dynamic.

Our relationship with Jesus must be an ongoing process. First of all, we have to face the truth about ourselves, particularly our sinfulness and our need for Jesus. In the Gospels, this is what the Samaritan woman did. She had an immoral lifestyle, and was shunned by the other women of the town; that’s why she came to the well at the hottest time of the day—she knew she wouldn’t encounter anyone and have to endure any reproving stares. When Jesus challenged her, she answered honestly, and when she discovered He knew all about her sins, she didn’t make denials or excuses, but openly discussed her faith. Because of what Jesus told her, she believed, and—according to legend—became Christ’s devoted follower. We too must be honest about our sins. Our need for God’s mercy shouldn’t make us turn away from Him in shame; rather, we should turn toward Him in trust.

Secondly, if Christ is to reign in our hearts, we must try to overcome our prejudices and our tendency to judge others. This is what Jesus urged the apostles to do. It was bad enough, they thought, that He was talking to a woman, but the fact that she was a Samaritan made the situation almost scandalous in their eyes. Jesus, however, in speaking of a field ready for harvesting, was telling them that all people are precious to God, and that we, as His followers, must accept them and share the Good News of salvation. Therefore, we have no right to look down upon anyone; we must genuinely desire the well-being of everyone we meet, including those who are quite different from us.

Thirdly, we must experience for ourselves what others tell us about Jesus. The Samaritan woman described Jesus to the townspeople; they went to Him to investigate, and on the basis of what they learned, they believed. As they told the woman, they had come to believe for themselves, and no longer depended on her testimony. So it must be with us. We have received our Christian and Catholic faith from our parents, our teachers, and other important people in our lives—but if it is to be truly alive, this faith must become personal. We have the responsibility for our own relationship with Jesus, and only if we take this responsibility seriously—through prayer, good deeds, and a genuine commitment—will Christ truly live in our hearts.

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Written by
Fr Joseph Esper

REVEREND JOSEPH M. ESPER is a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Anchorville, Michigan. He received his Master of Divinity degree from St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. Through the years, Father Joe has lectured at Marian conferences, appeared on EWTN, spoken on Catholic radio, and written more than a dozen articles for This Rock, The Priest, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and other publications. He is also the author of numerous books, including Saintly Solutions, More Saintly Solutions, After the Darkness, Lessons from the Lives of the Saints, and Why Is God Punishing Me? In addition to Amazon, many of his most recent books are available through Queenship Publishing.

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Written by Fr Joseph Esper
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