Today we are offered two very different visions of right living before God. One is to blindly follow the letter of the law; the other is to follow its heart. It is tempting in daily life to hold others to the letter of the law and ourselves to the spirit of the law. A quick glance at the first reading might lead us to think that God demands blind obedience. But there is no room for wisdom, intelligence, and discernment in blind obedience, and this passage treasures them. Deuteronomy warns against changing the law. Wisdom, intelligence, and discernment are gifts of the Holy Spirit. They do not change the law, but rather they seek its heart.
God’s gift is the law; our duty to the gift is to follow in wisdom and discernment. As Jesus points out to the Pharisees, these gifts dwell in the human heart—strangely enough, right alongside evil thoughts and intentions. In the second reading James tells us that when God’s gifts take root in our hearts, our actions on behalf of others bear witness to this truth.
Each Sunday, the Holy Spirit stirs and transforms our hearts. The texts of the Sunday celebration are shot through with God’s “heart” language: love, mercy, peace, forgiveness. Let us tune our ears today to hear this heart language in the liturgy. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to teach us heart language in our daily lives.