God Sees the Heart
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador

In the first Book of Samuel, there is a verse there when the Lord says to Samuel (16:7): “The Lord does not see as mortals see…Mortals look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

In a soup kitchen where I volunteer from time to time, there is a humble and unassuming looking person who always prefers to wash the dishes. I pay him no mind most of the time other then the customary “Hi and hello.” A friend of mine, Terry, told me that Greg (that is his name) works in the aviation industry and his job is to fly doctors from that charity group, Doctors Without Borders, throughout the world, trying to get these doctors to places of pain and disasters. Recently, he flew with these medical staff to Nepal that was devastated with a series of earthquakes. I wouldn’t have known that from his appearance; I judged him on the way he looked without further inquiring about his heart but as the reading from the first Book of Samuel says, God told Samuel as he was choosing a King for Israel: “Do not look on appearance…the Lord does not see as mortals do. They look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” What is important is the person’s heart. Despite his humble and unassuming appearance, Greg has a heart of gold.

Every time I go to my doctor, he always wants to check my cardiac health, always checking my blood pressure and cholesterol as these are indications of the health of my heart. On the other hand, I am also concerned about the health of my spiritual heart, the health of my soul for as the Lord says to Samuel, “The Lord looks on the heart.”  And what will God find there? I also want to ask you: What will the Lord see as he look upon your hearts?

The heart is like our house. We just don’t let anybody in our house. We want to be sure that people who come to our house would not destroy it, or hurt anybody. We want to guard against vandals, thieves and robbers, for instance. Likewise, the ancient Holy Fathers have spoken of our need to put a sentry at the doors of heart to guard against as hate, jealousy, pride and all sorts of unloving feelings and thoughts might creep into our hearts. When we do see them come into our hearts, we want to make sure that we deal with them so that they do not do damage to our souls and to others.

The Holy Fathers spoke of the necessity not only of prayer but also of the discipline of actively guarding the heart. How does one guard the heart? The ancient Holy Fathers spoke of watchfulness, attentiveness, and mindfulness. That is, we try to monitor our feelings, emotions and thoughts. We pay attention especially to hurtful emotions and thoughts, and when we identify them to be present in our hearts, we pray that we can be delivered from acting them out. When an angry feeling or a bad thought presents itself to me, for instance, I would do with what the ancient Holy Fathers did, that is, cry out silently saying, “Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me a sinner”, or “Lord, Jesus, descend upon the darkness of my heart and heal me.” After acknowledging these thoughts and feelings, I would try to let them go by making an intention not to act out the feeling so as not to be hurtful.

The ancient Holy Fathers did not always succeed because as they said humans were always inundated by such hurtful feelings and thoughts that they could not keep up with the task of filtering these. The ancient Fathers said that the spiritual life itself is a lifelong engagement in spiritual warfare against our thoughts and feelings that seek to disturb our sense of peace; part of our spiritual life is we do a constant battle against thoughts and feelings that seek to hurt others.

Recently I receive an anonymous prayer request from a child from our afterschool. In it he or she wrote: “Dear heavenly Father, I wish my family was white and English.” I was saddened by it very much because he or she felt that her skin color and ethnic and cultural heritage are what ultimately determine his or her beauty and goodness.  We cannot do anything about our race or skin color or physical appearance. They are a given, we cannot change them (unless you do some major reconstruction), but all of us can do something about the state of our hearts. It may sound like a cliché, but true beauty is inner. The Lord looks at your hearts, and I ask you, what will the Lord find in your hearts?

© 2016 Noel E. Bordador

Noel Bordador is a queer Filipino priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

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