Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Serra Club Mass & Church of the Incarnation
Cell phones. PDA’s. Laptops. iPods. Cameras. All devices. And though sometimes wickedly used, they are not wicked in themselves. So, what are the Babylonian captives confessing when they confess that “each one of us went off after the devices of his own wicked heart…”?
When asked how to explain the consequences of mortal sin, Fr. Dominic Holtz, OP, will answer: “You are wicked and become an enemy of God.” Never one to mince words, Fr. Dominic is expressing succinctly what the Babylonian captives are lamenting lavishly. In their stubborn disobedience, they became enemies of God—the God who led them out of slavery in Egypt; the God Who gave them Moses and the promise of a land flowing in milk and honey; the God of their ancestors, He Who made them and fathers them still. They confess: “From the time the Lord led our ancestors out the land of Egypt until the present day, we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God, and only too ready to disregard his voice.” They would not listen…and so they suffer the consequences, becoming enemies of God, each running after “the devices of his own wicked heart.”
Where do our disobedient devices take us? These devices of the wicked heart, where do they leave us? The Babylonian captives confess to serving other gods and doing evil in the sight of the Lord. Am I left serving alien gods and doing evil when I run after the plans, the schemes of my wicked heart? A heart turned from the Lord will not be fed by the Lord. And a heart not fed by the Lord starts to quickly die of starvation and thirst, it will grasp at any spiritual morsel offered by any passing spirit. Having feasted on the Lamb of Heaven, a heart turned from the Lord will be satisified with the cotton candies of New Age “spirituality,” or the junk snacks of secular philosophies, or the Happy Meals the little gods of ego and vice feed it.
We are made for heaven and called to a wonderous life!
Jesus curses Chorazin, Bathsaida, and Capernaum b/c these villages hear his Word but do not listen. Witness his mighty deeds but do not believe. They cannot see His justice, hear His mercy. Therefore, Jesus says, “[They] will go down to the netherworld.” They will live forever as they have chosen to live now: outside the love of God. And so, Psalm 95 warns us, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
You know as well as I do what plugs our ears and covers our eyes. A need for self-sufficiency. A desire for independence from others. The temptations of hatred, venegance, violence, despair. The seductive call of alien gods—those deities who live and thrive in the love of money, power, prestige, and celebrity. But do we see and hear all of the dangers of this postmodern age? The sinkhole of boredom. The erotic pull of extreme experience. The numbing mantras of moral indifference. All those puny gods that whisper to us: You can be gods w/o God. You have no end, no purpose but the ones you yourself invent, the ones you yourself set up on the altars of ambition and pride. You can be whatever you long to be; do whatever you long to do. Nothing is given, nothing is taken away. You are random bits of genetic material, sequenced for survival and development. Purpose is power and power is wielded by those who will seize the moment and declare themselves gods. Who rules your heart then? Who sits at the center of your being then? Unruly imagination? Destructive passion? Weak compromise? Death?
This disobedience shames those who have eaten the Lamb of Heaven and sends them chasing after the devices of their wicked hearts. Therefore, whoever listens to the witness of the apostles, listens to Christ. Whoever listens to Christ, listens to his Father. Whoever rejects the apostolic witness, rejects Christ. Whoever rejects Christ, rejects His Father. You are hearing His Word today, harden not your hearts.