“Written then is that the Lord is “gracious,” in the sense that He gives grace, has compassion and, in His greatness, bends over one who is weak and poor, always ready to receive, to understand, to forgive. He is like the father of the parable reported in Luke’s Gospel (cf. Luke 15:11-32): a father who does not shut himself in resentment because of the younger son’s abandonment but, on the contrary, continues to wait for him — he has generated him.” (Pope Francis’ general audience 1/13/16)
When my niece was very little, the purity and innocence of her heart just exuded in the smallest of ways. What often comes to mind is how much she enjoyed the Brach’s gummy orange slice candy that her Grammy always had around. So much so that she wanted to share that joy with me. Soooo she would spit her chewed up candy into her hand and offer it to me with be biggest smile only outdone by the gleam of joy and excitement in her eyes. She was so sure I would understand how wonderful these are, and she couldn’t keep her joy to herself. It was easy to control my gag reflex because the love driving her desire to share was so all-encompassing!
Now as an adult, I often think of how my heart is like that mangled gummy chewy. Between my own choices and the damage which the world has imposed upon me, my heart is a mangled mess. And too much of my life has been spent hiding it from God. I finally came to learn that if I offer it to Him with that same purity of intent and desire to love, He responds with great affection. God doesn’t have a gag reflex; he understands. There is nothing to hide.
“The Lord is “merciful”: this word evokes an attitude of tenderness as that of a mother in dealing with her child. In fact, the Hebrew term used by the Bible makes one think of the insides or even the maternal womb. Therefore, the image it suggests is that of a God that is moved and becomes tender for us as a mother when she takes her child in her arms, desirous only of loving, protecting, and helping, ready to give everything, even herself. This is the image that this term suggests. A love, therefore, that can be described as “visceral” in the good sense.” (Pope Francis’ general audience on mercy)
What better way to honor God than to offer our hearts this Lent? Hand over to Him the mangled mess and let Him start to reconstruct it. Any change we can make for 40 days in Lent can be made for life, so it is time to think about what to take on anew. Padre Pio is quoted as saying everything is in preparation for and thanksgiving of the Eucharist. If that is my Lenten focus, then what can I take on so that my day is lived in this preparation, in thanksgiving? What will dispose me to God’s re-creating Grace?
Small changes made in your environment, daily schedule, and prayer over these first few days of Lent will prepare you for the life-giving change that will come to you throughout the period. Turning off cable tv, unsubscribing notifications and committing to spiritual reading each day is a major influence in growing our relationship with God. These are preparation for those conversations in mental prayer in which you give up the suffering that comes out of the mangled mess of the heart. It can be difficult to address as we have accepted it as our identity. In doing so, we retain a grasp on it even as we long to give it up. It becomes a struggle of wanting to give it to Jesus while also not letting go. Our suffering shouldn’t be who we are. Rather, it should be a medium through which we connect with Jesus. In doing so, that connection becomes relationship.
“But who is this willing accomplice in the Paschal Mystery? Ordination to the priesthood conforms a man to Christ the priest and gives him unique power to exercise Jesus’ priesthood at the head of the Church.” (Christopher Carstens, A Devotional Journey into the Mass)
Lent also provides opportunity to offer our suffering in a special way for our priests. We continue to pray for Pope Francis, our clergy and religious, and the worldwide Church:
Dear Spouse of our souls, if we could with the love of all hearts, that love would be Thine. . . .
Give us, O Lord, this love ! Then come to thy spouses and satisfy Thy Thirst.
And give to, us souls, dear Lord . . . We thirst for souls !—Above all for the souls of Apostles and Martyrs . . .
that through we may inflame all poor sinners with love of Thee.” (St. Therese)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.
This post was originally published on The Face of Grace Project and is reprinted here with permission.
Photo by Nagesh Badu from Unsplash