Deeper in Virtue – we strive for goodness of heart.

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus said ‘If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will never get into heaven.’ In this statement Jesus shattered the complacent belief of the Pharisees and the Scribes in their own goodness and virtue. He declared their goodness as skin-deep. He challenged his disciples to do better.
Virtue is shallow when the motive is not pure – an unworthy motive can spoil the best deed. Virtue is shallow when it lacks personal conviction and is practised merely out of convention or conformity or routine. Virtue is inauthentic when the person is not sincere.
But then there is the genuine article. There is deep, true, authentic virtue. It’s not a skin-deep thing, but an expression of what one is inside. Above all, it’s a revelation of the heart.
Sin and virtue, badness and goodness, are essentially matters of the heart. And it is from the perspective of the heart that a Christian should assess them. Corruption of the heart is the worst kind of badness – it is to be bad at the core. Goodness of the heart is the best kind of goodness – it is to be good at the core. It is important therefore, that we must not be content merely to look at the surface of our lives – at our words and deeds. We must have the courage to search our hearts. We need to look at what is going on inside us – at our thoughts, intentions, attitudes, and desires.
From a spiritual point of view, one of the worst things we can say about anyone is that he/she has a cold heart or a hard heart. To be cold-hearted is to be unable to show kindness, understanding, sympathy. To be hard-hearted is worse again. It means that one is unable to show pity, mercy, forgiveness.
For all their piety, the Pharisees were both cold-hearted and hard-hearted. If one’s heart is cold and hard, how can one be virtuous? On the other hand, one of the best things we can say about anyone is that he/she is warm-hearted or soft-hearted. This means he/she is capable of goodness, kindness, tenderness, pity, compassion, mercy….. These are the virtues of the heart. Without a warm, compassionate heart one cannot call oneself a true human being, never mind a truly religious or virtuous person.
When it is all said and done it is the heart that matters. It’s what’s in the heart that matters. The heart is what I am deep down. It is the real me. And what is in the Heart will out. The state of the heart will effect how I live. What we have to strive for is goodness of heart. Then our good deeds will flow from what we are, naturally as good fruit from a good tree. They will be true and genuine. They will come from the heart. You can’t go deeper than that.
A Prayer for the end of the day: Grant O Lord, that each day before we enter the little death of sleep, we may undergo the little judgement of the past day, so that every wrong deed may be forgiven and every unholy thought set right. Let nothing go down into the depths of our being which has not been forgiven and sanctified. Then we shall be ready for our final birth into eternity, and look forward with love and hope to standing before you, who are both judge and saviour, hold judge and loving saviour. (Bishop Appleton)
We pray our parish be that of Love and Kindness to one and all
Dean Peter