The first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews has a verse that the Church behind its prayer every single day: “Encourage each other daily while it is still today, so that none of you may grow hardened.” I see these words at the earliest time of day, in the quiet peace of the morning. Encouragement softens the heart to become a hearth of warmth and compassion.
A man came to the door of the rectory a few days ago, shivering from the cold, damp air. Charisse, our Office Manager, opened the door to this man and he opened the door of our hearts. As we clothed him with warm clothing, he clothed us with compassion. This poor stranger softened our hearts and he left with a skip in his steps, being transformed from stranger to neighbor for a brief moment in time. We were deeply ENcouraged, the opposite of being DIScouraged.
We have plenty to be discouraged about these days, but if we give in to this spirit of discouragement, our hearts will be hardened. When this happens, we turn in on ourselves creating a prison for our hearts. The walls of this prison of hardness get taller and thicker as we feed them with spirits that are not holy.
When we allow ourselves to encounter the poor and helpless of the world, an encounter of human compassion, those walls come crashing down in an instant!!!! And the heart becomes softer, so God can gently “knead it” in the shape He so desires.