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The Problem of A Stubborn and Unrepentant Heart

February 24, 2014 13 Comments
"Goat houdini" by Belinda Hankins Miller from U.S.A. - The hard part. Licensed under  CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Goat houdini” by Belinda Hankins Miller from U.S.A. – The hard part. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus once rebuked the people of his time for their stubborn and unrepentant hearts:

This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.” Luke 11:29-32

Stubbornness – It is a notable issue that sometimes sets up in both individuals and cultures as a whole: the heart becomes obstinate, stubborn, incorrigible, and unrepentant. Increasingly, the heart becomes hardened and unlikely to change, despite overwhelming evidence that the course one is on is both destructive and a source of great pain.

Perhaps a couple of examples from our culture will help to illustrate what the Lord is teaching.

The Problem of Promiscuity – The past fifty years have featured an explosion of promiscuity. I do not claim that there was no sexual sin prior to 1960, but it is a far wider problem today both in quantity and degree. And the terrible consequences of promiscuity are demonstrable: STDs, AIDS, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and the devastation of marriage and family. Divorce rates have soared. Co-habitation and other alternative arrangements have proliferated.

Children are the ones who suffer from not being raised in two-parent families under the formative influence of a father and mother, male and female. Predictably enough, the rates of juvenile delinquency have gone up [1] as test scores [2] and graduation rates [3] have plummeted. Promiscuity has also led to increased poverty (the chief cause of poverty in this country is single motherhood) [4]. Children living in fatherless homes are five times more likely to live in poverty, nine times more likely to drop out of school, 37% more likely to abuse drugs, twice as likely to be incarcerated, 2.5 times more likely to become teen parents, 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders, and 32 times more likely to run away [4].

Well, you get the point. Promiscuity causes diseases, divorce, and the devastation of the family, which in turn harms children through abortion, poverty, and irregular family situations. Statistically, the results are clear—staggering.

Yet despite this, there seems little willingness in our culture to learn or even to reflect on the relationship of promiscuity to great harm. One might expect a rational person or culture to observe these sorts of results and say, “Gee, this is pretty bad. Maybe we should change the way we behave.” But not only is such a reconsideration not evident among most, but a kind of doubling down of bad behavior is occurring. There are increasing demands that the Church and other “moral police” be silenced and cease their “intolerant” attitudes. There are also demands that the government supply condoms, promote contraception, fund abortion, provide welfare that financially rewards single motherhood, and promote “value-neutral” sex education in schools. Even AIDS research, though fine in and of itself, is often demanded absent any appreciation that celibate behavior is an important aspect of prevention.

At some point we have to realize that promiscuity is destroying us. The breakdown of the family is a civilization-killer. But still we seem, as a culture, to be unable or unwilling to change the way we think and behave.

And thus we see illustrated what the Lord condemns: a stubborn and unrepentant heart.

Another example is our greed. On some level, we know by experience that our affluence troubles us sorely. The more we have, the more stressed out we become. The more affluent we become, the more Americans go on psychiatric and psychotropic drugs [5]. We are busy and stressed trying to maintain our extravagant lifestyles. We have never lived so long and in such good health, yet we have never been so anxious about our health. We have never had so much wealth before, yet we have never been so anxious about “the economy” and “the stock market.” Money worries us constantly. We buy things we can’t afford, and our credit cards worry us. We buy something and then are not satisfied, because a newer model has been issued and we feel “poor” (we are NOT poor) and diminished for not having the latest and greatest. More, fancier, bigger, deluxe options, but along with it, stress, dissatisfaction, and anxiety.

Despite knowing all this (and we DO know it), we still want more. Despite the evidence, we still upgrade, enlarge, and accessorize. At some point, you’d think we would say, “Enough! All this stuff is driving me crazy!  I think I will simplify my life and ask the Lord to make me satisfied with the essentials, or at least with less.” But we don’t. We stubbornly adhere to the greed (that insatiable desire for more) that we know torments us. In effect, our hearts have become stubborn and unrepentant both as individuals and as a culture. It seems we refuse to change in this regard.

And thus again we see illustrated what the Lord condemns: a stubborn and unrepentant heart.

We do well to ask the Lord to soften our hardened hearts. The Lord said to Moses on several occasions that we are a stiff-necked people (Eg Ex 32:9; 33:3; Deut 31:27; inter al). And through Isaiah He says that our neck is iron and our forehead is bronze (Is 48:4). To Ezekiel He said that we are stubborn and obstinate, not to mention hard of heart (Ez 2:4; 3:7).

It’s OK. He still loves us. But we need some serious help. And Lent is a good time to appreciate that. We need this help as individuals and as a culture. We tend to be stubborn and unrepentant. We tend to justify our behavior and have a cultivated blindness that refuses to see what is plainly before us.

Two Christians were speaking. One said, “In my church there are many miracles!” The other asks, “So you consider it a miracle if God does someone’s will?” “Yes!” replied the first. “Hmm…,” said the second, “In my church it is considered a miracle if someone does the will of God.”

Pray for a miracle.

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  1. Bishop Cote’s Lenten Message 2014 | St. John | March 1, 2014
  1. Jennifer says:

    Resoundingly true, Monsignor. I’m selling my McMansion and moving to a more modest house. I want less, not more.

  2. Mary says:

    Thank you, Monsignor!

  3. Robbie J says:

    Amen, Msgr. Pope. Amen. God bless you.

  4. Craig says:

    Thank you. The video hit home, even knowing our goal is Heaven.

  5. mike robertson says:

    Thank you Msgr for the beautiful article. I am in my 50’s and a tragic fact about the sad situation today compared with my childhood days is how much of an anti-God attitude about sexuality is found in Christianity. God’s teaching are clear in both testaments and 2000 years of teaching through His church that the only acceptable use of His gift of sex is within marriage (which is ony one man to one woman). But from inside the church we hear complaints that, in effect, God is wrong because a loved one or acquaintance of ours does what God calls wrong. Or the “but everbody does it” excuse is used. St Paul said not to cut off ourselves from sinners in the world because such as these, we once were. But as for so-called “brothers” who live immoral lives, we are not even to eat with them.

  6. Jeffrey Job says:

    Thanks for the conscience stirring. I have been seeing the more, newer, better attitude in my own life. As is so often the case, I see my neighbor’s sin and then, like Nathan pointing to King David,my conscience turns to me and says “YOU are the man!” Most recently I see my hood with all the cars parked on the street because the garages are packed with stuff but then see even as I write this three Apple devices ten feet apart! Oh, make that four! I am indeed like my neighbor. Excuse me but I have to go remove a plank.

  7. Linards says:

    Thanks! I read this blog already one year and Your reflections invigorate and help me. God bless you!

  8. Mary says:

    I am encouraged that God so want a relationship with us and that he is so merciful! He also wants us to live free so we can worship Him and be unbound by sins please don’t think I don’t struggle but we need to “seek ye first the Kingdom of God ” Other wise how can we be convicted and pray for real repentance real humility and when we go threw those moments learning to trust God and to seek Him we learn to have an attitude of gratitude seeking Him all throughout the day like a child wanting to crawl in his Papa’s lap and when we fall down asking Him to help us get back up and to learn obedience it is hard but with Gods help all things are possible..hey why settle for mediocrity! Let’s all want to be great saints for the glory of God and channels of His love!

  9. Peter Wolczuk says:

    Thank you for your calmness, emotional detachment yet so bravely facing what needs to be faced. The part on greed greatly clarified my understanding of “love of money” as the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6:10
    It now appears that our fear of comparison to others leads us to compete by such things as, “keeping up with the Joneses” and even trying to surpass them until; our love for our brothers and sisters shifts to a love of things, such as (but not limited to) a love of money.
    Money’s OK in the right context but not in competing with it and other things.
    Compare instead of compete? Maybe but compare to seek inspiration, as a two-way means, and with mutual respect.

  10. chris awo says:

    if the last 50 years have been so bad how come all the Popes of the last 50 years are being canonized?
    whats going on? Smells fishy to me. Unpleasantly fishy.

  11. proteios1 says:

    agreed. Its not the fact we are still sinning, its the fact we want it to be called ‘not sinning’. Culturally we seem to want to be patted on the back for sinning rather than offering a shoulder to cry on. Its so bad that the world is actually demanding all those who disagree and say sin is bad to ‘shut up or conform’. As Bishop Sheen had said, the Catholic Church stands as a stark reminder of holiness. And there is nothing more a sinful world despises more.

  12. Candida Eittreim says:

    i went from having rooms filled with furniture and things. While undergoing conversion, the lord put it in my heart to rid myself of it all, including all negative friends. i now live simply in Abba’s Cottage. No TV, one sofa, one bed and a battered old dinette set. i am happier than i have ever been. For in ridding myself of those chains, i found oceans of undiscovered room with which i can fill with the love for others. Prayer is now a joy and life with Christ is forever.

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