Circumcision and the Crucifixion

When God Almighty called to that man Abram, inviting him to live in a covenant with the Lord, He asked Abram to do a very curious thing to himself, to his people, and to his descendants as a sign of that covenant: to circumcise the flesh of their foreskins. Abram, renamed Abraham, obeyed and circumcision came to be of the utmost importance to God’s people for thousands of years because it was the preeminent sign of God’s covenant with man.

The first mention of circumcision in Sacred Scripture is in Genesis 17:9:

And God said to Abraham. As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He that is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money, shall be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant . . . any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.

Abraham obeyed God immediately. Genesis 17: 22–27 describes his obedience:

When he had finished talking with Abraham, God went up from Abraham. Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all the slaves born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

The next time circumcision is mentioned is in Genesis 21:4:

Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.

In Exodus 12:43, circumcision is again mentioned:

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it; but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him . . . And when a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the strangers who sojourn among you.

Consequently, when we hear circumcision, we generally think of the cutting away of the flesh of the foreskin, as a sign in the flesh of the covenant God made with His people. But Scripture reveals to us that God had more in mind than simply the cutting of the man’s flesh. In Leviticus 26:41, circumcision of the heart is first mentioned. Here, God speaks in the first person and describes how He will punish His people who persist in disobeying and defying Him in spite of numerous chastisements. Chapter 26 is a long chapter wherein God lays out for the Israelites what punishments He will send if they persist in their sins.

After these warnings, God says:

But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery which they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity; then I will remember my covenant with Jacob. (Lev 26:40)

Later on in the history of the Israelites, when God gives Moses the Ten Commandments, God alludes to the connection between circumcision and the heart:

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I command you this day for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it; yet the Lord set his heart in love upon your fathers and chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords. (Dt 10:12–17)

Here, God makes it quite clear that at least one of His definitions of an uncircumcised heart is a stubborn heart. We see the same in the prophet Jeremiah:

If you return, O Israel, says the Lord, to Me you should return. If you remove your abominations from My presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, “As the Lord lives,” in truth, in justice, and in uprightness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory. For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your doings.” (Jer 4:1–4)

The connection between the circumcision of the flesh and the attitude of the heart is emphasized again in Ezekiel 44:9:

Therefore, thus says the Lord God: No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the people of Israel, shall enter my sanctuary.

As God has loved His people, chosen them, and softened His heart toward them by making a covenant with them, so He desires the hearts of his people to be turned toward Him, and pliable and willing to obey His commandments. A circumcised heart is the opposite of a hardened heart, to which Scripture frequently refers. For example, in 2 Chronicles 36, Scripture describes an evil young ruler, Zedekiah, in the following way:

He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord His God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel.

Furthermore, it is evident that it was not only God who used circumcision in a symbolic way to describe an attitude of humility and obedience and openness to God, but the Israelites, too, were accustomed to thinking of circumcision in a broader way than we do generally. For example, when God chooses Moses for the very difficult job of commanding the Egyptian Pharaoh to release the Israelites, Moses responds: “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips; how then shall Pharaoh listen to me?” (Ex 6: 30).

Furthermore, in Jeremiah 6:10 it is written:

Thus says the Lord of hosts . . . To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn, they take no pleasure in it.” And finally, it is amazing that Our Lord Jesus, Himself, reiterates these ideas when the Lord says, “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” (Mk 8:17–18)

And so in Scripture it is revealed and emphasized through repetition that God desires eyes and ears and lips and hearts which are neither stubborn nor resistant nor defiant toward Him but, instead, ears careful to listen, with a humility that is willing to trust, uninterested in rebellion; eyes open to His truth, willing to look with eyes of faith that admit that what the physical eye sees is not the whole story; ears patient enough to listen and humble enough to hear another voice beside one’s own and courageous enough to listen to God’s voice rather than the world’s; and above all, a heart that is vulnerable, willing to be loved and to love God without reluctance, without creating barriers of stubbornness between God and oneself.

One further passage which is of paramount importance is Deuteronomy 30:1–6 in which God speaks to His people:

And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey His voice in all that I command you this day, with all your heart and with all your soul; then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes, and have compassion upon you, and He will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will fetch you; and the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, that you may possess it; and He will make you more prosperous and numerous then your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

This passage shows that obedience reveals a circumcised heart. It follows that without obedience to God’s commands there is no potential for the love of God. Jesus simply reiterates this idea: “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.” Thus the circumcision of the heart is the readiness to obey God which is the prerequisite for being able to love God. It is noteworthy that when Jesus chooses to sum up once and for all, the entire law and prophets, He chooses to draw from this very passage the same passage which ties circumcision of the heart to the total love of God.

And also noteworthy is the fact that God Himself will be the one to circumcise our hearts. Just as it was the responsibility of each Hebrew father to circumcise his sons and all the males of his household, God the Father of every Christian child, will take the responsibility of seeing to it that His children’s hearts are circumcised! This idea needs to be drawn out theologically. It will be done here in the simplest way. The catechism teaches that circumcision prefigures baptism. In the Old Covenant, circumcision was the rite of initiation which brought a person into covenant with God. Likewise, baptism is the rite of initiation wherein a person becomes a child of God. But in neither case does the story end there. Because man has free will, he constantly has to keep himself in covenant with God through obedience to God. That is why in the Old Covenant, God continually called the people to circumcise their hearts even though their flesh was already circumcised. But because of Christ’s redeeming work, when we are baptized, we are freed of original sin and so we begin in a much better place with hearts which have been circumcised by the Father. Perhaps the removal of original sin in baptism is the circumcision God promises to His people in Deuteronomy 30. And yet, as mentioned, we have free will, so we must continually choose the circumcision of the heart. Just as the Jews, though already circumcised , were asked to examine their hearts and keep them circumcised, so we too, though circumcised of heart at baptism, must keep vigilance over our hearts and continually present ourselves to Him who is capable and willing, to Him who is skilled with the scalpel.

Jesus took up the same call as His Father. He cried to any who had ears to listen: “Rend your hearts, not your garments!” And St. Paul reiterates this central theme:

For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a real Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God. (Rom 2:28–29)

And now, keeping the circumcision of the heart in mind, let us contemplate the crucifixion of Our Lord. According to the Gospels, the soldiers were ordered to be finished with the crucifixion, and to make sure that the two thieves and Christ were dead. So the soldiers broke the thieves’ legs to bring death quickly, but when they came to Jesus, they saw that He appeared to have died already. As they were inspecting Him, one soldier pierced His blessed side with a lance. And then Scripture tells us that blood and water gushed forth from His side. This is a bit surprising, for we would expect blood to come from a wound, but not water. So, let us pause and deeply consider this passage because one simple way to show God that we love Him is to be curious about His Word. In other words, when we love someone, we want to know all about them asking every question we can think of in order to get to know and understand the person we are falling in love with or becoming friends with.

And so to read God’s Word without any wonderment about why He chose to do a certain thing is to reveal the shallowness of our love. To question Our Lord about what He had in mind when His Spirit inspired the passage is to reveal our genuine interest in and love for Him and His ways. Keeping in mind that all of our queries and pondering must be in submission to the Church’s teaching, let us ponder why God, from all eternity, made it part of His will that His Son’s side would be pierced as He hung dead on the cross, and specifically, why both water and blood flowed from His wound?

Part of the answer is that Jesus Christ is the new Adam. Just as Adam was placed in a deep sleep while one rib was removed from his side, and from that rib God molded Eve, Adam’s bride, so Christ, in the deep sleep of death, had His side opened by the lance and from His Life, the Church, His Bride, was molded. The Church has long taught that the blood and water which flowed from His side symbolize the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Adam cried out upon first seeing Eve, “At last, this one is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh!” Since Christ’s Bride, the Church, is born from His side, born of His flesh and blood, and will, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, share in His own flesh and blood, so Christ can truthfully cry out: “At last, this one is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!” And so, the opening of His side is a beautiful fulfillment and symbol rich with meaning.

But I believe there is something else here. We might wonder: why did water, too, flow from His side? A wound to the side of a person produces blood, but not water. But because water also flowed from His side, we know that not only was His side opened, but the soldier’s lance also reached Jesus’s heart because the human heart has a watery sac around it. There is a sac called the pericardium around every human heart. The pericardium contains water and forms a wall around the human heart. It is impossible to reach the human heart without piercing the pericardium. So when the soldier pierced Christ’s side, the pericardium was pierced and water flowed from it, and His Sacred Heart was pierced and poured forth blood. And so in essence, it seems that Jesus’s heart was circumcised, because both the outer wall, the pericardium, was cut away, and the wall of the heart itself, the epicardium, was also circumcised! God had pleaded with His people for thousands of years to circumcise the foreskin of their hearts. Is it not very likely that the literal, physical piercing of Jesus’s heart is meant to call our attention to the important idea of the circumcision of the heart which God had emphasized to His people for thousands of years? If so, God teaches us here what a circumcised heart is. God reveals through the physical circumcision of His Son’s heart that the disposition of Jesus’s heart is what God has always desired in His people.

The Son recognizes His Father’s desire for a circumcised heart and honors His Father’s wish. The Son wants to remind His Father’s children us in the most poignant and dramatic way, that His Father covets our hearts. But He demands a heart of a certain type: one without barriers, guile, stubbornness between Himself and us; one which trusts our Beloved enough to obey. That is what He has always desired and the New Covenant does not abolish this desire. God’s desires did not evaporate with the onset of the New Covenant. Instead, the New Covenant simply makes it more possible to fulfill God’s desire. And so we see another layer of the gift of the Son to the Father the Son’s gift is first to acknowledge His Father’s desire, but even more beautiful, His sacrifice of His Life issues in the New Covenant, better enabling all God’s children to have circumcised hearts the desire of the Father’s heart. As Jesus brings about the New Covenant, He wants us to be aware that what He has always wanted is a cutting away of our old flesh with all of its stubbornness and rebellion, with its stiff neck and refusal to trust, with its self-deceit and guile. It is beautifully evident that Our Lord never asks us to undergo what He Himself is unwilling to endure.

This beautiful symbol is an inexhaustible mine for reflection, but at least two points seem very important: first, Jesus wants us to see how He lays bare His heart to His Father. It is painfully clear that He offers no resistance to His Father’s commands. His heart is completely vulnerable and pliable. His heart is completely abandoned to the Will of His Father. There is no bitterness or lack of forgiveness. And as Deuteronomy 10: 6, along with other scriptures, has taught us, this sort of circumcision allows a human heart and soul to love the Lord with abandonment. This is what it is to put oneself in a position capable of loving. It is to be vulnerable and laid bare without the protection of a wall of defense. The bareness of the heart offers a straight path for the Lord. As Christ put it most succinctly: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” Is not “pure of heart” a concise definition of the circumcised of heart? And the promise that the pure of heart shall see God applies to the circumcised of heart who, not blinded by distrust or guile, are able to “see” God in every circumstance.

Secondly, by circumcising the very heart of God, God reveals to us that He has removed all obstacles between Himself and us, between His Sacred Heart and ours. By the circumcision of His heart He desires to show us that He has stripped Himself of every possible barrier to His heart, to His love, to communion with Him. This symbol is much like that of the veil in the temple which hung between the people and the Holy of Holies, which was miraculously torn asunder at Christ’s death. God emphasizes with these two events the fact that He has made Himself completely accessible to His children. Our circumcised hearts are thus capable of an intimate communion with His circumcised heart.

And now, in order to come full circle, if you will, one must ask the question: Why, in the first place, did God choose circumcision to be the sign of His covenant with man? What an apparently odd sign. For God had at His disposal the entire universe from which to choose a sign. Most of my adult life, I have wondered why God chose circumcision what did it signify? My wondering led me to study the idea of the circumcision of the heart, but I was still at a loss for the answer to the basic question: why that very, very strange sign? A somewhat obvious answer has to do with the fact that it is that part of the human body from which life springs. So how does that play out? Circumcision of the heart clarifies things a bit because we consider how for spiritual life to blossom, there must be a lot of pruning cutting away symbolized by the cutting away of the flesh. Furthermore, perhaps God wants to point to the fact that just as all human life finds its beginning in the seed from that part of the man’s body, so all spiritual life at that point, would flow from the covenant whose sign was the circumcision of the same body part. Just as one simply cannot have life apart from that part of the human body, so man cannot have spiritual life apart from this covenant signed by circumcision.

These are good partial answers and there is much that can be drawn out from these ideas. But I felt strongly that there was more. Many years passed, and one day I stumbled upon a fact that stunned me. I had always assumed that circumcision was a new idea to which God called Abraham; that circumcision was isolated to the Israelites who obeyed God’s command to Abraham and his descendants. But while reading Ancient Israel by Fr. Roland de Vaux,1 director of the renowned École Biblique in Jerusalem from 1945 until 1965, and a distinguished specialist in Biblical scripts . . . I learned quite the opposite. He writes:

In Egypt, bas-reliefs bear witness to the custom [of circumcising the flesh] from the third millennium B.C. Herodotus speaks of it , and yet some of the mummies are uncircumcised. . . . Jr 9:24–25 mentions the Egyptians, along with Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and the Arabs as being circumcised in the flesh but uncircumcised in heart. . . . Josephus says that the Edomites were compelled to accept circumcision by John Hyrcanus. But, if we are to believe Herodotus, all the Phoenicians and Syrians of Palestine were circumcised; Aristophanes asserts the same of the Phoenicians. According to the pre-Islamic poets, the ancient Arabs were circumcised, and the Pseudo-Bardesanus says that the Romans tried to forbid this practice in Arabia. (46–47)

But the following is the really enlightening part:

Originally, and as a general rule, circumcision seems to have been an initiation-rite before marriage. . . . This is certainly true of many African tribes which practice it today, and very probably true of ancient Egypt, where it was performed at the age of puberty. . . . We may add that the Hebrew word for bridegroom . . . is derived from the root batan which means, in Arabic, to circumcise. (47)

Here was something! The Hebrew word for bridegroom is related to circumcision! And so Abraham, living in the culture he did, wherein circumcision was a pre-marital rite, when God described His desire that Abraham and his family have themselves circumcised as a sign of this covenant with God, would immediately recognize that his covenant with God had spousal elements. Abraham needed to be ready for marriage for this covenant with God was not a business contract or cultural commitment: it was, above all, spousal in nature! Essentially, God wants to espouse Himself to His people. There is much evidence for this desire in Scripture the entire books of Song of Songs and Hosea and also in the tradition of the saints who use love language to describe the bridegroom of their souls. And the New Testament, too, is full of allusions to the spousal quality of a believer’s relationship with God. And, finally, Christ is called the bridegroom. My intention here is not to defend the idea that God regards the Jewish or Christian soul as espoused to Him, but to give evidence that circumcision was chosen by God to point to this desire to espouse Himself to each soul who is willing.

One Scripture passage from Hosea is so beautiful that it would be wrong to leave it unquoted here:

And in that day, says the Lord, you will call me, “My husband”. . . . And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord. (Hos 2:19–20)

Obviously, God is ready for this espousal but His people, too, must be ready for such a relationship. By circumcising his flesh, Abraham declared himself ready for a relationship with God which would be similar to marriage: everlasting and intimate, whose foundation was love, and trust, and fidelity. Just as a good marriage is founded on love and has for its purpose life-giving fruitfulness and unity, so each human soul might aspire to such a spiritual relationship with God! Furthermore, God often calls the Israelites who commit idolatry, not “idolaters”, but “adulterers.” Why? Because both He and they knew that they were, through faith and through the covenant sealed with their circumcision, espoused to God Himself. Therefore, when their hearts were no longer set on Him, but on an idol, their hearts were like that of a married man who commits adultery.

Thus the heart of Jesus, when circumcised on the cross, reveals Himself as the Bridegroom whose heart is ready for marriage to His beloved. We must ask ourselves daily: Is my heart, too, ready? How good it would be to be able to gaze at Our Lord and say truthfully: “My heart is steadfast, O Lord, my heart is steadfast” (Ps 57:7).

In conclusion, God Almighty could have chosen any sign in the universe, and He chose a sign linked to the custom Abraham would be familiar with a custom which declared a man ready for a marital relationship, whose very meaning was “bridegroom.” Thus, by this sign, God points to the fact that His intention for His covenant has always been spousal, defined by a mutual and total trusting gift of self, defined by love, unity, life-producing fruitfulness and an everlasting, inviolable bond. To contemplate circumcision as the sign of the covenant and circumcision of the heart or purity of heart as the New Testament understanding of our heart’s covenant with God, is to be rendered speechless in the face of the recognition that the Holy Trinity has long desired to be the bridegroom of every human soul.


Thoughts For Further Reflection

1. Jesus had cried out to any who would listen, “Rend your hearts, not your garments!” And He, of course, would do no less. Indeed, His heart was rent by the spear on the Cross, and his garment was not. But what exactly did He mean when He enjoined us: “rend your hearts”? It was appropriate to tear your garments when a great sin had been committed the sin of blasphemy against God. But it is easy to tear your garments without being truly contrite. God desires a truly repentant heart one which is grieved over sin. The following passage is marvelous to ponder in light of these thoughts: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps 51:17). He asks that our hearts break over sin. Only a lover can have a broken heart. Only one who loves God sufficiently can have a broken heart about God’s grief over sin. When the Pharisees tried Jesus, the high priest tore his garments at Jesus’s supposed blasphemy. Our advantage of hindsight makes it very clear that the Pharisees’ hearts were not broken over sin, but only indignant because Jesus had taken from them power and prestige. . . . So Jesus Christ calls us to do some severe self-examination and see if our hearts are sufficiently rent over sin.

The contrast is stark: as the Pharisees stood rending their garments in hypocrisy and futility, Christ hung with a rent heart and secured the salvation of the world. And while the Pharisees and Sadducees refused to rend their hearts, Jesus refused to perform only the outward sign of piety His garment was not torn by the soldiers who tossed dice for it; it remained intact even as His heart was rent!

Furthermore, it is stunning to consider Jesus’s words here: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” Jesus, who is GOD, stood immediately in front of the high priest, but the man could not see God. The reason is because his heart was not pure his heart was not circumcised. Compare this scene to the one involving Nathanael. Jesus pronounces that Nathanael is without guile pure of heart. Less than one minute after meeting Jesus for the first time, Nathanael cries out: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God!” (Jn 1:49). Nathanael’s purity, or circumcision, of heart enabled him to see God. But it gets even better — the very first time Jesus lays eyes on Nathanael, his exact words are: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” (Jn 1:47). The word used here, which is translated “indeed,” is also translated “truly”; its root word is “truth.” For example, the same word is used in John 8:31: “If you continue in My Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” The words “truly” and “truth” in this verse are simply the adjective and noun form of the same Greek word for “truth,” and the same word Jesus uses about Nathanael. So if we consider Jesus’s words to Nathanael that he is a “true” Israelite — then we can conclude that there is such a thing as a “false” Israelite. Jesus clearly makes a distinction here by using the word “true”. And, if we consider Romans 2:28–29, we see that St. Paul clarifies this distinction: “For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal.” And so, we can conclude that Jesus is pointing to the fact that this man without guile is a truly circumcised Israelite in other words, one circumcised in heart. Thus, purity of heart is tied to the circumcised of heart, and that sort of heart is the one which will be able to see God. We see this truth dramatically contrasted in Nathanael who had very little reason to see Jesus as God, but did, and in the high priest who literally stared God in the face but couldn’t see Him.

This idea of the pure of heart being able to see God applies to every moment of our lives. When Jesus proclaims that the pure of heart will see God, He is not limiting that experience to when one is in heaven. When one is circumcised of heart, there is no stubbornness toward God, and so there is an ability to accept every moment as coming from the hand of God a gift from Him. We see the opposite attitude depicted so clearly in the Old Testament: the Israelites who were being led by God in the desert were given gift after gift, but the Israelites, because of their uncircumcised hearts, couldn’t find God in the events they were experiencing. The heart that is pure, or circumcised, is full of trust and gratitude, and therefore able to accept each moment for what it is a gift full of God.

Ann Voscamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, writes beautifully on this subject:

And I tear open the seed packets of zucchini, and is it this too, witnessing again this Genesis giving? That again he gives the first gift he ever gave to humanity? That again he gives the impossible gift and asks for wild faith? The seeds, they fall into my hand, small jewels. I am holding seeds, first gift he ever bestowed upon his people. Maybe this is why the bare feet? But to look at seeds and believe he will feed us? When what he gives doesn’t look like near enough. When it looks like less than a handful instead of a plateful, a year full, a life full. When it looks inedible.

These seeds, they are food? It looks like a bit of a joke.

To hand someone seeds for his swelling, panging starvation, and ask him to believe in a feast — is this what everyday faith is?

Behold! For those who have learned to see he gives, he gifts. He gifts with seeds as small as moments, grace upon grace; and the unlikely here and now, it shall sustain you, feed you. Do not disdain the small. The promise of feast is within the moments. Our enough is always in the now, because he never leaves us. . . .

Lord, what would happen today if I saw all the not-enough, too-little in my life to be but a seed? All the hardly-things could be holy-things small somethings you are growing into more glory for you. Cause me to believe again: All feasts began as seeds.

2. In Jeremiah 17:9, God’s Word tells us: “There is nothing more tortuous than the human heart.” The definition of tortuous is the following: 1) marked by repeated twists, bends, or turns: winding; 2) marked by devious or indirect tactics: crooked, tricky. Is it no wonder, then, that the herald of the Messiah’s coming John the Baptist the one who went before the Lord to prepare His way, cried out: “Make straight the way for the Lord!” What needs to be made straight more than the most crooked thing in the world man’s heart? And where does God wish to take up His dwelling? Within our hearts. So the call to make a straight path refers in great part to the removal of any obstacles so the Lord might find an unhindered path to our hearts. When we consider what it takes to make a straight path, we realize that an untended path is full of brambles and rough places, rocks, weeds, and barriers of all kinds. So the tended path requires a lot of cutting away. The cutting away reminds us of circumcision of the heart a cutting away of stubbornness and obstacles of every kind. Thus, John the Baptist reminds us to circumcise our hearts that the Lord might have free access. It would seem that it is the life work of each soul to continually remove all obstacles, all walls, all barriers in an effort to circumcise one’s heart. A priest said once that the Catholic life consists of a constant removal of obstacles between one’s soul and God.

Another translation for the verse in Jeremiah 17:9 is “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” And so some translators use “deceitful” rather than “tortuous.” An honest, even brutal, scrutiny will do much to propel us toward the goal of a guileless heart. Again, Psalm 51 enlightens: “Behold, you desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart” (Ps 51:6). So, God wants us to be free of self-deception, possessing hearts which acknowledge their sin and the root of those sins which come from the heart. The Christian who would have a circumcised heart must constantly, in prayer and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, try to cut away the attitude which nurtures the sin/disobedience and is rooted deep within his heart. Consoling is the fact that much of the work is the Lord’s. But we must be willing to place this difficult work in the Lord’s hands even as we see Him with scalpel in His hand. Scripture suggests that the Christian’s part is an honest baring of the heart and soul to God, a consistent renewal of one’s willingness to turn toward the Lord and not away, an asking of forgiveness of one’s stubbornness and resistance and hardheartedness, a constant honest prayer echoing our Lord’s prayer: “Here I am, Lord, I come to do Thy will.”

3. Another truth which the piercing of Christ’s side points to is that, even after His death, Christ’s heart continues to be wounded. It is significant that Christ’s heart was pierced after He was dead. When we consider the words of Christ to St. Margaret Mary, that the worst part of His suffering comes from the wounds to His heart from tepid souls, from their apathy toward Him, it makes sense that Jesus was thus wounded after His death. In summary, the literal piercing of Jesus’s heart, coupled with the fact that Our Lord was already dead, should cause us to reflect on the fact that His heart continues to be wounded by us even after His death.

  1. Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Social Institutions (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965).
Maggie Willson About Maggie Willson

Maggie Willson is a homeschooling mother of twelve. She is a homemaker who has been married for twenty-eight years. She and her husband John own a small farm.


  1. Avatar Fr. David Nerbun says:

    Thanks Maggie! I enjoyed your article. Email me, as I’d love to say more.

    • Avatar Maggie Willson says:

      Dear Fr. Nerbun,
      Thank you for reading my article. I am slow to respond because I don’t have the internet at home by choice–very inconvenient at times. But I would love to know what you have to say…
      Maggie Willson