The journey of the heart

Many years ago when I was an associate pastor, there was a young man named Nick who spoke boldly in front of hundreds of his fellow youth about his Christian faith. He was filled joy, passion and courage as he shared his faith and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He spoke with genuine concern for his peers, convincing them to turn their hearts to God who loves them unconditionally.

I remember him saying, “The longest journey in life is the journey of the heart,” referring to his personal conversion.  These were words that got stuck into my mind and heart. I have often wondered how a young man like him got this wisdom.

It’s true–the longest journey is the journey of the heart. I see this more now that I am involved in the field of teaching. Many times the movement from the mind to the heart is not easy for students. It’s not easy even for many professors and leaders because it requires a great deal of inwardness, honesty, vulnerability, humility, selflessness and ultimately, conversion.

Parker J. Palmer attests to this human condition in his book, “The Courage To Teach”: “Many of us became teachers for reasons of the heart, animated by a passion for some subject and for helping people learn. But many of us lose heart as the years of teaching go by. How can we take heart in teaching once more so that we can, as good teachers always do, give heart to our students?”

Palmer is convinced that it is the journey of the heart that would bring salvation not only to each person, but also to the society. He alludes to the wisdom of Vaclav Havel, a poet and man of practical affairs and a leader in the Velvet Revolution that liberated Czechoslovakia from Soviet rule: “The…experience I’m talking about has given me one certainty:…the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and in human responsibility. Without a global revolution in…human consciousness, nothing will change for the better, and the catastrophe toward which this world is headed…will be unavoidable.”

Indeed, not too many people are listening to and are discerning the movement of their hearts. They are mesmerized by the technical world than the inward world; they are easily influenced by the constant barrage of comments in the social media without thorough critical reflection.  If they only look deeply within their hearts—what God is telling them to do to bring freedom, justice, and well-being to others, to their countries and to their lives…

In the Christian world, Easter season is journey of mystagogy—the period in which the meaning of the Sacraments is explained to those who have newly received them.  May this season be also a journey of mystagogy for all us, when we take the journey of mind to heart to receive the truth of our faith and of ourselves, destined to be partners of God in bringing life and light into this world!

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1999-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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