written by Teresa Donati
The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our ancestors; may he not leave us or abandon us, but incline our hearts to him…(1 Kings 8:54-65)
Inclines – those slanted surfaces that take us upward or downward, and we pray for the upward incline, that our hearts see what is holy, heavenly, just, good, pure, loving – all those qualities that lead us toward God, that encompass us with that ineffable sense of the Wondrous Eternal.
That term, ‘incline,’ really is not so much a surface as it is an emotion; the ultimate ‘inclining’ is a lifting of the heart toward the inexpressible joy and goodness that is the person of God. But for the sake of analogy, we can look at the term as a path on which we can travel toward (or away from) the Divine.
There are so many beautiful things in this world also, toward which we incline our hearts: love for a special someone, love of art and music, of our friends and families, of children, animals, nature. They are gifts and gladness in which we rejoice.
And there are those slippery downward inclines: the love of money, the love of power, the arrogance of believing we are righteous and good. These are the saddest paths, leading away from joy: they are paths often followed by those whose souls have been wounded in ways they cannot or will not recognize.
Those who received no love, or received cruelty in the place of love, may always feel justified, no matter what wrongs they do, because they cannot see how their hurt ends up hurting others. They may even feel they are inclining their hearts toward God, when, rather, they are trying to force God’s heart to incline to their ways. They see God as their road to ‘justice’ for what they have suffered, and see those who ‘oppose’ them as malicious and hostile. There is no ‘loyal opposition’ for them, no idea that their scars can be healed by looking at the reality that they have yes, been sinned against – but that there is no righteousness in revenge or anger.
When God asked Solomon what he desired, the famous answer Solomon gave is for a discerning heart, to judge God’s people justly (1Kings3:11-13). Because Solomon asked not for riches, but inclined his heart toward God’s purpose, God said, “see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.”
Is it not amazing, the result of this humble request from a heart inclined toward God? We may not have Solomon’s thousands of years of remembrance. And it takes the commitment to faith, the disciplined yet joyful determination to live the gospel of love that Our Lord proclaimed, to keep our hearts inclined toward God. But we certainly can have the joy of knowing, in this world or in ways we may not even see until we are in eternity, that inclining our hearts to God brings us to the abounding radiance of God’s eternal love.
|Teresa Donati is a Sociologist living in Fort Lee, NJ.|