There’s an urgency running through the Scripture readings this morning that calls us to recognize this moment. It’s as if we are crouched at the starting line of a race, having registered late, maybe, but waiting for the gun to signal: “GO!” The prophet Joel starts it off with his initial words: Even now, declares the Lord. St. Paul picks up the theme telling us that now is the acceptable time and Psalm 95:8 (the gospel acclamation) chimes in with the familiar line: If today you hear God’s voice…These are the prompts that get us from “READY” to “SET” but what will start us running?
It’s all about the heart, you see. This season of Lent could be called “Forty Days of Big-heartedness.” Joel says it doesn’t matter how bad you’ve been because even now, declares the Lord, return to me with your whole heart! Rend your hearts, not your garments. (JL 2:12-13). Harden not your hearts, Psalm 95 adds. So how are we to accomplish this softening inside in order to draw closer to God?
First, we have to take stock of our lives – not necessarily an exhaustive search for what needs correction, but just an honest look in the mirror that will start us on the humble road to conversion. Then we have to ask for God’s help, as with anything we do. Psalm 51 gives us a way to start. A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Lastly, we might turn to today’s gospel for a detailed way to pray that makes concrete that humble turning that we wish to achieve. Just a few words of Jesus from the text (MT 6:1-6, 16-18) will give us the idea.
Jesus said to his disciples: Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them…When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you…do not let your left hand know what your right is doing…When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret…When you fast…anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting…
It’s easy to get the point about honest intention, motivation and determination, i.e. working from the inside. May your Lenten journey begin today with attention to the beating of your heart for the good of all you encounter. And may the love you share during this season make you stronger in the knowledge that, in truth, it really is all about the heart.