“WHAT IS THE COLOR OF MY HEART?” (Jn 3:22-30 ): 12 January 2008 (Saturday)

“WHAT IS THE COLOR OF MY HEART?” (Jn 3:22-30 ):  12 January 2008 (Saturday)


In the 17th century Isaac Newton studied light and concluded that white light is actually a mixture of many different colors. If a ray of white light is aimed at a prism, what we see is a spectrum, a broad band of different colors looking like a rainbow.  The colors of the spectrum range from violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.

Science teaches us a lot about nature.  We learn a lot of things about the physical universe through the laws and theories of science.  But when you think about it, science can also teach us a lot about the spiritual universe.  Science can also offer us some guidelines about the world within.

When I read the gospel this morning, the words of John the Baptist struck me:  “He must increase.  I must decrease.”  He was referring to what he should do in order to make Jesus known. His words reminded me of Newton’s discovery and something I learned in my Science class back in Grade Five.

It’s the theory about light and colors, and it tries to explain why and how we see colors.  According to the theory, ordinary light is white light, as Newton learned, the product of the combination of all the colors.  An object is perceived as red because it reflects the red light wave to the eye while absorbing all the other light waves.  Another is colored blue because that object reflects the blue light wave while absorbing all the other light waves.

How do we explain a black object?  All it means is that the object absorbs all the light waves and does not reflect any light to the eye.

What about a white object?  According to the theory, white objects reflect all the light waves and absorbs nothing for itself.

I think this theory about light and colors can be applied to the spiritual life.  Just as the sun is the source of all light on earth, God is the source of all our gifts.  The important thing is what we do with the gifts that we have received from him.  As a result of what we do, we could say that our hearts come in different colors, as it were, depending on the gifts that we give away.

Hopefully, most of us are able to share some of our gifts while keeping the rest.  But maybe there are some of us who insist on keeping all our gifts to ourselves–hoarding them, as it were.  If that were the case, then our heart would have a pretty dark color.

Today a good question to ask myself is: “What is the color of my heart?”

If we had to assign a color to the heart of John the Baptist, it would clearly be the color white.  Everything he had, he was willing to give away, decreasing so that the Lord may increase.  Today he extends to us the invitation to do the same, to reflect everything that we have received back to God and to try to keep none of it for ourselves alone.  Are we capable of decreasing so that the Lord in us might increase?

As the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins urged us in a tone that can only be called desperate:

“Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.”


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