Dear class of 2019,
Whether you are about to graduate from high school, college, graduate school or medical school, you are in a state of transition — and transitions can be disorienting.
If you’ve ever moved to a new city or even to a new neighborhood in the same city, you know what it’s like to feel a bit lost in unfamiliar territory. This may seem like a simple thing to say, but getting used to new surroundings can make us feel disoriented in other ways as well. It can knock us off balance. At this stage in your life, it’s important not only to prepare for the next stage, but also to get ready to be disoriented.
We all have points of reference for life’s varied issues. They abide in us as a physical and emotional roadmap. We have a point of reference for places we frequent, for the time it takes to accomplish certain tasks, for the amount of money we will spend on this or that, for political opinions and voting decisions, for right and wrong. We have points of reference for emotional support and advice — family, friends, mentors — and when we transition to a new place, we often feel adrift and alone.
The Bible often mentions the human “heart,” referring to what makes me “me,” my deepest self, my values, my standards, my loves, my reference points. My “heart” is where my mind and my will are focused; it is the source of my thoughts, desires and deeds. My “heart” expresses itself in the way I relate to God, live my life, spend my time, treat other people and use my words.
Most important of all, my heart is always seeking God, no matter where I live, no matter the stage of life at which I find myself, no matter how disoriented I may feel today. That makes sense, because God is always seeking my heart.
Jesus tells us, “From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)
What I say — especially what I hear myself say automatically, without forethought — often springs from what is stored in my heart, my heart’s “fullness.” In fact, whatever I have chosen as nourishment for my heart becomes my point of reference for just about everything.
One of the ancient teachers of holiness, Abba Poemen, once said, “Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.” If we give our hearts to unhealthy conversations and relationships and internet entertainments — junk food — that do not have the capacity to nourish us, then what ends up stored in our hearts will leave us high and dry, disoriented and lost. It will leave us malnourished in the most serious of ways.
The good news that Jesus offers is that there is other nourishment available to us, nourishment that is God’s gift, nourishment we can store up in our hearts that will help us travel from resentment to peace, from guilt to freedom, from judgmentalism to compassion, from disorientation to peace and direction. We can get there from here, and whether or not that happens is a matter of our cooperation with God’s love and grace. But first, we must examine the nourishment we choose for our hearts.
We need the nourishment God gives us, because it is even more essential than the food we eat. As our hearts are fed with God’s nourishment, his way becomes “the fullness of our hearts,” and our points of reference gradually change from ours to his. But this transformation won’t happen unless we nourish ourselves with what can truly satisfy us.
At this stage of transition and disorientation in your life, don’t forget to cling to Jesus, to prayer, to the Bible, to Sunday Mass and the sacraments, and to friends who will support your desire to have a heart full of God’s peaceful direction.
If the primary lens through which one views the world is popular culture, this time of transition is the opportunity to get new glasses: the eyes of God, the wisdom of God, the law of God, the Gospel of Jesus, the glance of God. Filling my heart with God’s Word, deepening my heart’s capacity through prayer, I will gradually find that I feel neither lost nor alone — but at peace under God’s loving gaze.
As you graduate and move forward in life, don’t forget that you are always in God’s sight! St. John Paul II told the participants of World Youth Day 2004, “Those who approach Jesus with a heart free of prejudice can quite easily come to have faith because Jesus himself has already seen them and loved them first. … In order to see Jesus, we first need to let him look at us!
“Whether we are aware of it or not, God has created us because he loves us and so that we in turn may love him.”
This is the reason for the unquenchable thirst for God that lies deep in the heart of every human person — even in the hearts of those who do not believe in God!
My friends, as you take this next step, wherever it is taking you — remember to live from a heart’s abundance of faith and goodness and truth and love and mercy, a heart full of God himself. You can begin to live from the heart of Jesus, and he will never abandon you. Count on my prayers!
Sincerely in Christ,
Archbishop Peter Sartain
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - June 2019