Heart-Softening

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
January 12, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011223.cfm

psalm 95 copy

Today, in Mercy, our first reading quotes at length from Psalm 95, and the message is reprised in the Responsorial Psalm.

Harden not your hearts.

We all know what it feels like to harden our hearts. We do it out of anger, fear, exhaustion, frustration and so many other reasons. We feel like the only way to protect ourselves and our space is to build a wall! Put up those bricks made out of our stony faces, curt words, numbing silence, distancing indifference – our hardened hearts.


Today’s reading tells us that this is never God’s way.

The way to freedom, peace, self-respect, joy and fullness of life is always found in relationship – as God is in relationship with all Creation.

Jesus demonstrates that relationship in today’s Gospel by connecting with the leper. This leper has been walled off from society by illness and disfigurement. Most people’s hearts are hardened against him, but Jesus is “moved by pity” at the leper’s isolation.

The leper, too, has built a bridge by reaching through his own hardened heart in faith and trust. Surely all the years of mistreatment had made him wary of trust, had immobilized him in self-protection. But he allows himself a courageous plea to Jesus, and he is heard.

Jesus Cures a Leper – Rembrandt


It is no easy challenge to soften a hardened heart. Some of our walls are very high, some of our bricks very heavy. But, one by one, we can choose opportunities for forgiveness, kindness, understanding, patience, encouragement, listening and companionship – even, and especially, toward those estranged in any way from us or from themselves. And we can do this even toward ourselves when we have become hardened to our own beauty and goodness.

To begin might take only a smile, a prayer, a phone call, a small kindness, an invitation, a moment of ordinary conversation…. just these might start to crumble a wall, to soften a heart.

Let’s ask God’s grace today to do this heart-softening wherever we might need it. Let’s ask this grace for others in need as well.


Poetry: The Altar by George Herbert – Herbert wrote this poem in the shape of an altar. He describes the spiritual process of allowing his “hard heart” to be built into an altar for God’s praise.

A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,

 Made of a heart and cemented with tears:

  Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;

No workman’s tool hath touch’d the same.

                   A HEART alone

                   Is such a stone,

                  As nothing but

                  Thy pow’r doth cut.

                  Wherefore each part

                  Of my hard heart

                  Meets in this frame,

                  To praise thy name:

       That if I chance to hold my peace,

 These stones to praise thee may not cease.

   Oh, let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,

     And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.


Music: Soften My Heart, Lord (and adding a second song, just because I think you’ll like it.)

With Open Arms

Friday, January 7, 2022
Friday after Epiphany

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, John and Jesus continue to teach us.

In our first reading, we hear John preaching to a community that has become confused. Some have begun to doubt and to teach a watered-down version of Christ and the Gospel.

John convinces his community, and us, that we are invited into God’s own life through Baptism, the Paschal-Eucharistic Mystery, and through the Holy Spirit. This is the truth of Jesus Christ which we embrace by a faithful life.

This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and Blood. 
The Spirit is the one who testifies,
and the Spirit is truth. 
So there are three who testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the Blood, 
and the three are of one accord. 

1 John 5:6

In our Gospel, Jesus shows us how to live that faithful life – through loving, generous service such as he models.

Jesus cleans the leper, Mosaic detail, 12thC,
Cathedral of the Assumption, Monreale, Sicily

A pitiable leper interrupts Jesus on his journey to ask for help. People like this man were scorned, feared, and isolated. Their leprosy impoverished them, making them annoying beggars. Their cries usually met with indifference at best and banishment at worst.

But when this leper poses his proposal to Jesus – “If you want to, you can heal me.” — Jesus gives the spontaneous answer of a true, merciful heart: “Of course I want to!” He responds with open arms and open heart.

Greek rendering of phrase “Of course I do!”

There is no annoyance, no suggestion that other concerns are more important. There is just the confirmation that – Yes- this is the purpose of my life: to heal, love, show mercy toward whatever suffering is in my power to touch. There is just the clear message that “You, too, poor broken leper, are Beloved of God.”

What an example and call Jesus gives us today! We are commissioned to continue this merciful touch of Christ along the path of our own lives. When circumstances offer us the opportunity to be Mercy for another, may we too respond with enthusiasm, “Of course I want to!” May we have the eyes to see through any “leprosy” to find the Beloved of God.


Prose: Mother Teresa – from In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers

Seeking the face of God
in everything, everyone, all the time,
and his hand in every happening;
This is what it means to be contemplative
in the heart of the world.
Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus,
especially in the lowly appearance of bread,
and in the distressing disguise of the poor.

Music: Compassion Hymn – Kristyn and Keith Getty

Just the Miracle, Please.

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

March 16, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings are about prophets and miracles, brought to us by Elisha and Jesus.

The core of the readings is this: some of us want the prophets’ miracles, but we don’t want their challenge to live in God’s freedom. We want their cures, only to return to lifestyles that make us spiritually sick or imprisoned.

Wanting to write about these themes, I decided to check with my favorite Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann to see if he had any wisdom on the story of Naaman.

Naaman
Naaman brings his retinue and gifts… from The Pictorial History of Palestine and the Holy Land (1844) by John Kitto

Well, Walter certainly did…. something so good and wise that I won’t water it down with my own words. The link is below. It’s a little long, but so worth your reading and meditation. I hope you’ll take the time.

Click here for Walter Brueggemann’s article

Music: some instrumental music to listen to while you’re reading🙏😇

Mercy says, “Of course…”

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 16, 2020

Click here for readings

( Our Gospel today nearly repeats a passage in Luke about which I wrote last year. Being a little lazy tonight, and wanting to watch Jeopardy- GOAT, I am offering that earlier reflection to you again. Besides, I liked it.  I hope you do, dear Friends.)

Mk1_41-of-course
This is the Greek word for “Of course!”

Today, in Mercy, Jesus shows us how to live a merciful life – through loving, generous, joyfully responsive service.

A pitiable leper interrupts Jesus on his journey to ask for help. People like this man were scorned, feared, and isolated. Their leprosy impoverished them, making them annoying beggars. Their cries usually met with indifference at best and banishment at worst.

But when this leper poses his proposal to Jesus – “If you want to, you can heal me.” — Jesus gives the spontaneous answer of a true, merciful heart: “Of course I want to!”

There is no annoyance, no suggestion that other concerns are more important. There is just the confirmation that – Yes- this is the purpose of my life: to heal, love, show mercy toward whatever suffering is in my power to touch. There is just the clear message that “You, too, poor broken leper, are Beloved of God.”

What an example and call Jesus gives us today! We are commissioned to continue this merciful touch of Christ along the path of our own lives. When circumstances offer us the opportunity to be Mercy for another, may we too respond with enthusiasm, “Of course I want to!” May we have the eyes to see through any “leprosy” to find the Beloved of God.

Music: Compassion Hymn – Kristyn and Keith Getty

A Grateful Spirit

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 13, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, two significant themes in our readings are gift-giving and gratitude.

In our first reading Naaman, a pretty hot-shot Syrian commander, is a leper. He takes the advice of a captured Israel slave girl who encourages Naaman to seek a cure from Elisa the prophet.

As Naaman approaches, Elisha sends word  to rinse in the Jordan. Naaman, who is obviously accustomed to personalized subservience, is not happy with Elisha’s absentee advice. Angry, Naaman sets out for home. But his servants encourage him to cool down and to act on Elisha’s instructions. 

Naaman receives the cure and he promises, half-heartedly, to from henceforth worship Yahweh. He then asks what he can pay for the gift of the cure. Elisha responds that there is no payment .

Notice: Naaman never says “Thank you”. Instead, he wants to pay, to owe nothing for the immense gift he has received. He doesn’t want to be beholden, even to God.

Elisha, in so many words, tells Naaman: What I was blessed to convey to you comes from God. The power is God’s. I am the instrument. You can’t buy or own it. I can’t sell it. It’s God’s – freely given.

2Tim2_9JPG

Paul repeats the theme to Timothy: the Word of God is not chained. God’s power, grace, and healing are given freely. We cannot earn them buy, them, control them, or ever thank God enough for them. But we should try.

In our Gospel, only one cured leper – a Samaritan – has the sense and humility to try to thank Jesus. Born of his faith, that gratitude saves him.

God is Infinite Gift. God’s love pours over us spontaneously and continually to bring us to wholeness. God can’t help loving us and hoping for our completeness in grace.

May we be delivered from any speck of entitlement, indifference, arrogance, or ingratitude in the face of such Goodness!

Music:  Thank You, Lord – Don Moen

Of Course, I Want To!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, John and Jesus continue to teach us.

lk5_12 of course
Greek rendering of phrase “Of course I do!”

But, as much as I love John’s letters, there are a few places where his needle gets a little stuck (a metaphor that might be lost on my younger readers?). This passage is one of them.

What I think John wants to get across to us is this: we are invited to eternal life through Baptism, the Paschal-Eucharistic Mystery, and through the Holy Spirit. This is the truth of Jesus Christ which we embrace by faith.

In our Gospel, Jesus shows us how to live that faithful life – through loving, generous service.

A pitiable leper interrupts Jesus on his journey to ask for help. People like this man were scorned, feared, and isolated. Their leprosy impoverished them, making them annoying beggars. Their cries usually met with indifference at best and banishment at worst.

But when this leper poses his proposal to Jesus – “If you want to, you can heal me.” — Jesus gives the spontaneous answer of a true, merciful heart: “Of course I want to!”

There is no annoyance, no suggestion that other concerns are more important. There is just the confirmation that – Yes- this is the purpose of my life: to heal, love, show mercy toward whatever suffering is in my power to touch. There is just the clear message that “You, too, poor broken leper, are Beloved of God.”

What an example and call Jesus gives us today! We are commissioned to continue this merciful touch of Christ along the path of our own lives. When circumstances offer us the opportunity to be Mercy for another, may we too respond with enthusiasm, “Of course I want to!” May we have the eyes to see through any “leprosy” to find the Beloved of God.

Music: Compassion Hymn – Kristyn and Keith Getty