Everything has a melting point. In the summer heat of El Paso and our surrounding region we can often discover what that melting point is. Certainly if ice is exposed to our desert sun it will not last very long. If you mistakenly allow a plastic bowl to get too close to the stove you might find what the melting point of plastic is. Everything, no matter how impervious it might seem has a point at which it will melt, even stone! Take note of the striking videos of molten rock flowing from the volcano in Hawaii.
I have noticed that this is also true of the human heart. God says through Ezekiel the Prophet that “he will melt our hearts of stone and make them human hearts.” (Ez. 36:26) Sometimes I wonder if that requires more heat in our present age than in the past. Our hearts today seem to be so desensitized by everything we see in our media and in our entertainment; we seem to be hardened by our self-seeking and so cold to the suffering of others that there is little that can melt our hearts.
In the Church's teaching and preaching more than anything else she is trying to move hearts and to melt them. For much of the suffering in our world God intends for us to be the ones who bring healing and peace. If we remain unmoved, if our hearts remain like stone, little will change. And yet there are events that occasionally manage to break through our well protected defenses.
I think, for instance of abortion, which remains a plague upon our country these many years after it was legalized. Every now and then, at least for a moment, people's hearts are touched. It happened a few years ago when an undercover operation revealed how Planned Parenthood was seeking to make money selling various aborted baby body parts. It happens occasionally when the body of an aborted baby is found in the trash as happened here in El Paso a number of years ago. At these times, at least for a moment, people stop and say this terrible violence against the unborn child is just not right.
We can see the same dynamic impacting the questions our country faces regarding the treatment of migrants and refugees. Many of us are cold to their struggle and see those arriving at our border as a threat to our comfortable way of life. But every now and then a bright light is thrown on how our present harsh and legalistic immigration policies are effecting the most vulnerable of the poor among us and the heart of the people of our nation melts. It becomes a human heart at least for a time.
Such was the case recently when the Administration adopted a policy of family separation and thousands of young children were being forcibly separated from their parents when they arrived here. The images and sounds of children being taken from their parents, the sounds of their desperate crying, the pictures of the children being kept in chain link cages, finally moved us. The outpouring that followed was able to cause the President to back down from this ill-considered policy.
Now the question is whether we will be able to maintain a heart of flesh? Will we here in El Paso and our nation as a whole be able to continue to push for an immigration process that respects the legitimate needs of our nation to have orderly processes at our border and at the same time to respond with compassion towards undocumented people, these brothers and sisters of ours who are suffering so greatly?
This remains to be seen. Only God can give us a heart of flesh. Only God can prevent it from hardening into stone.
Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz