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Easter 2007 Thought for the Day - New Heart

Friday 6th April 2007

The following is a transcript of the Archbishop's 'Thought For The Day' delivered on BBC Radio 4 on Good Friday, April 6th 2007.

"Good morning. This week's news suggests that we can take heart about something at least - literally. A British research team has managed to grow part of a human heart from stem cells taken from bone marrow - a discovery that promises some serious progress in transplant surgery, given the shortage of actual human hearts for transplants at the moment.

It's a way of getting around the many problems that come up with the artificial heart valves that lots of people rely on at the moment. Something grown from your own genetic material isn't likely to be rejected. It works with the grain of who and what you are.

Well, despite our knowledge of school biology, we still talk about hearts as if they were more than just lumps of muscle inside the ribcage; we still use 'heart' as shorthand for what makes us tick. We take heart, we break our hearts or have them broken, we beg someone to have a heart, we accuse them of being hardhearted. So how do we think about the healing of hearts in this sense? What's the heart surgery that can deal with broken or hardened hearts?

The answer seems to be in line with what the Imperial College team have worked out this week at the physical level. You won't find healing by an artificial implant - by sticking something into your life that won't really fit and doesn't work with the flow of energy in the body. Something has to grow in you that really belongs with that flow, and changes things from inside.

Good Friday brings us up sharp against the recognition that something is very wrong with the human heart. The cross on which Jesus dies reminds us of the countless places where human beings make other human beings suffer unspeakably - and of the fact that most of us most of the time don't notice, and, even when we do, can't do anything to stop it or make things safe.

Healing doesn't come by any kind of man-made contrivance - by success in technology or politics or business. It only comes if we let some buried and forgotten bits of our humanity come to the surface. And what the whole of Jesus' life is meant to say to us is that those bits of our human nature we often don't value or notice, the bits that our society doesn't pay much attention to, are the ones most in tune with God and so the ones that God can use to rebuild us. Our capacity for trust; our capacity for compassion; our honesty about our weaknesses - there's where God can really take hold of us. There's the tissue out of which new hearts can be constructed.

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