Man sees the appearance, the Lord told Samuel, but the Lord looks into the heart. When we speak today of the heart we think of the emotions, and because we know that religion and spirituality are to do primarily with the will, we tend to be suspicious of references to the heart in the literature of the spirit. But since the Bible mentions the word 176 times, we can conclude that the heart is above reproach. As the terminus a quo the heart should be thought of as the most significant area in the human makeup. What comes from the heart gives to human action its character. The heart is more, even, than the launching pad: it accompanies the rocket on its flight.
If there is nothing in the heart, there will be nothing to show. Ex nihilo nihil fit. If the heart is possessed by Christ, there will be everything to show. Another scholastic axiom is actio sequitur esse, which means that what we are will declare itself in what we do. If we have no thought of the supernatural, we achieve only natural results. In order to paint the mysteries of Christ, Fra Angelica is believed to have said, you must make your home in the mysteries of Christ. The same idea is echoed by Jacob Epstein: You can copy Greek sculpture and get the look of it, but if you are to get the feel of Greek sculpture you must think as the Greeks did.
Having instanced the parable of the two sons, we can cite here another two sons, Cain and Abel. What mattered to God more than the offerings themselves was the attitude which prompted the offerings. The objects sacrificed were the outward evidence, the symbol almost, when it was the inward dispositions that qualified. The same may be seen in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. In our present context the conclusion to be drawn is that unless I live Christ’s life, totally accepting his values, I live the world’s life and will find myself being conditioned by its values.
In proposing to himself to work for God and not for worldly considerations, the serious Christian has to create for himself an environment which does not admit of compromise. He is not now concerned so much with good and evil but with good and better. The pull of grace is for him the pull towards evangelical perfection. It is not even as if he were embarking upon a career; it is more a question of allowing a certain way of life – a way of life resulting from a response to grace – to mold him. He accepts what God has chosen for him, and what God has chosen for him is his own divine life. It is not something which souls have to learn out of a book or arrive at by practicing certain rituals, devotional and ascetical.
I do not think that people are good because they have read instructions to be good. I believe that they become good because their souls have been penetrated with the goodness of God, because the Holy Spirit is in them with the Love of the Father and the example and redemptive sacrifice of the son. (William Rees-Mogg, An Humble Heaven)
And again, The energy of a man depends on the life of the idea within him. It is the underlying idea, pervaded by grace, which alone gives to man’s action its merit.