When the values we Christians hold in our heart pertaining to love of God and neighbor are under attack, we need to rise to the challenge of restoring them. In the words of the prophet Ezekiel 36:26, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
What must we do to replace the poison air of negativity by appreciation; the corrosive power of envy with respect for self and others; the hard veneer of avarice with the virtue of generosity? If and when acquisition becomes the dominant motive that guides our life, are we willing to reform this anti-Gospel value through prayer and a spirit of self-giving service?
The sour fruits of cynical critique, mocking condescension, and joyless arrogance need to be uprooted by compassion, reverence, and awe. Then the stony heart will become as pliable as clay in the hands of the Divine Potter. No longer will gossip spread like wild fire and attack Gospel values with vicious lies that erode the reputations of good people.
A know-it-all posture that scoffs at any sign of reliance on God then gives way to a proclamation of the healing truth of God’s word.
Like seeds sown on rocky soil, Christian values can be choked off by violence posing as love or pride posing as humility. Just when we are most in need of being calm, collected, and contemplative, we may be bombarded by noise pollution, endless distractions, and chatter on the information highway that shatters any semblance of inner stillness. Soon we feel anxious, agitated, and unsure of whom to trust, be it the Lord himself or the neighbor next door.
Preoccupation with being productive and successful may lead to an escalation of egocentric ambitions and aggressive behaviors. We dub leisure a waste of time and make workaholism the be-all and end-all of our life.
Despite this calamity, hope of renewal rebounds when we remember that the Lord can use these crosses to draw us closer to himself. Restoration of core Christian values begins with repentance. The waves of compunction we feel in our heart combine sorrow for sin and gratefulness for our having been forgiven.
A good way to gauge growth in these virtues is to see our progress reflected in others’ eyes. They notice that we are no longer joyless, ungrateful people, who are a detriment to ourselves and others. Rather than creating around us a toxic atmosphere of anger and resentment, we express cordial words of thankfulness.
Exemplary psalms move from our lips, through our minds, and into our hearts:
- “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Ps 51:12).
- “My heart stands in awe of your words” (Ps 119:161).
- “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good” (Ps 107:1).
These words are especially helpful when we feel dejected, ungrateful, and afraid of what the future holds. Now is not the time to engage in more self-condemnation but to practice self-forgiveness. We bring ourselves before the Lord because he knows the turmoil we feel and recasts it in the light of his mercy.