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God’s Broken Heart

On this Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

As noted in my previous posts, David is a Man After God’s Own Heart.  Clearly, this means David is not susceptible to temptation as we mere mortals are.  Surely, he cannot sin, right?  Wrong!  In fact, when David sins, he does it BIG!

First, David sleeps with a married woman.

Then he tries to cover up his sin by arranging for Bathsheba’s husband to sleep with her.

When this deceit fails, David murders her husband.  Not directly: David schemes.  He arranges for Uriah’s death on the battlefield.

Finally, on top of the adultery, conniving and murder, David has the audacity to become outraged over allegations that a rich man stole a poor man’s single lamb.  What chutzpah—after all he did!

But I think what is most revealing—what explains best why David is a Man After God’s Own Heart—is not his sins, but his sorrow.

When Nathan the Prophet explains that the rich man’s theft of the lamb is really a metaphor (or is it analogy?) for David’s sins, David is sorry.  Not just, “Gee, I’m sorry.”   Deeply remorseful.  Repentant.  So sorry that he writes a Psalm expressing his sorrow.

In Psalm 51, David provides a great template for our Acts of Contrition.  It contains everything needed:  recognition of God’s mercy and justice, acknowledgment of his transgressions, expression of sincere sorrow, petition for forgiveness and cleansing, and praise.

David recognizes what God wants from us in our repentance:  true sorrow, true contrition:

My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.  Psalm 51:19.

And because David is sorry, God forgives him. God doesn’t remove the effects of the sins.

David’s infant—conceived in sin—becomes “desperately ill.

David’s reaction?  Total fast in a sackcloth.  Not “woe is me!”  Not blame or anger, but an appeal to God’s mercy.  In his heart, David knows that God can still save his son.

But the child dies.  Despite David’s appeal to God’s mercy, God takes the child.  David’s reaction?  Worship.

Rising from the ground, David washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes. Then he went to the house of the LORD and worshiped.  2 Samuel 12:20.

This is the model I need to emulate.
Day 37-2

I know I am a sinner, but David provides a great example of true repentance, giving God the sacrifice He truly desires:  David’s heart.Day 37-1


From Faithfulness to Forgetfulness

On this Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

One of my earliest childhood memories was learning the song, “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” from my Mom:

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho
Jericho, Jericho
Joshua fit the battle of Jericho
And the walls come tumblin’ down.

Play "Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho":

I remember singing this song with Mom and then reading about the battle.  What an unusual strategy to attack a walled city—circle it for six days with priests blowing horns and then, on the seventh day, and on the seventh time around, everyone shout!

Who would have thought this would work?!

And it wouldn’t have worked—but for God, present in their midst.  I think that was the point.  Obey God, no matter how silly it may seem, and He will deliver you.  Great things will come to pass.

The Battle of Jericho was one of many in a series of miracles God uses to prove His faithfulness and might.  You would think such incredible occurrences would stick in the memory of all Israelites, encouraging their constant obedience and devotion to God.  Unfortunately, it didn’t.  They would repeat a vicious cycle:  sin to slavery to supplication to salvation to surplus.  What were they thinking!?

But while it’s easy to tsk-tsk the Israelites and their failures, I know I have my own vicious cycle: sin to guilt to confession to forgiveness to sin.

It starts with my predisposition toward sin, be it pride, lust or any other vice.  I fall and then, realizing my fall, feel guilty.  After confessing my sins and receiving absolution (with the firm resolution “to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin“, I am drawn closer to God and surrender to His will.  But, eventually, I try to re-take control of my life.  Or I re-place myself at the center of my life.  That’s when my vices push me back into sin.

The process for breaking the negative cycle begins with the blessed Sacrament of Reconciliation. And I need to remember that, no matter how often I fall:

There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Luke 15:7.

Day 31-2Obedience is the key.  As Mary told the stewards at the wedding at Cana, “do whatever he tells you.”  This Lent has been a wonderful opportunity to re-center my life on Him who saves.

Day 31-1

Forgiveness Reunites

On this Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Today we read about forgiveness.  Specifically, the reading describes how Joseph—stripped and thrown into a cistern and then sold into slavery by his jealous brothers—is now in a position of authority in Egypt with the means to make or break his siblings during a time of extreme famine.

Joseph ultimately forgives his brothers for their offenses—but not before playing some cruel pranks on them.  He doesn’t reveal himself to them until well into their second visit, and only after first imprisoning one brother and then framing their youngest brother for the crime of theft.

I can appreciate what Joseph did.  More than a few times have I felt slighted by some minor offense or insult.  I am usually faced with two choices:  forgive or hold a grudge.  Often I choose the first option—forgiveness—but only on my terms, and only after I have exacted some minor revenge or other form of self-satisfaction.

Take for example the commute to and from work.  I have to admit some of my ugliest moments occur in the car and my least Christ-like behavior takes place behind the steering wheel.  For instance, someone might cut me off in his hurry to get somewhere.  It wasn’t that long ago that I might react in anger—not overtly dangerously, but still not safely either.

But I still, at times, find myself reacting immaturely, and I find it difficult to surrender the immediate grudge that the minor offense ignites.  Rather than give up the anger immediately—turning it over to Christ—I tell Him, “I’ll forgive that other driver, but just give me one moment of self-satisfaction.”  Usually that moment takes the form of an angry-yet-superior look when I pass by the driver, glancing over with condescension.

When I find myself doing this, I remind myself of that petition in the Lord’s Prayer:

And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.  Matt. 6:12.

In that prayer, I am asking for God’s forgiveness to the same extent and quality that I offer mine to others.  So for each brief moment I hold a grudge, I am asking God to hold a grudge against me.  And I remember that to God a thousand years is a day.  So that one-minute grudge in traffic might cost me over eight months in Purgatory!

Instead of holding onto that grudge, I need to look at how Jesus handled all the insults and abuses heaped on Him—falsely accused, scourged, crowned with thorns, forced to carry His cross, stripped and then hanged on a cross. How did He respond?

“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  Luke 23:34.

After all the severe beating He endured, He begs for the forgiveness of His tormentors.  And I can’t let go of a petty grudge?!

Day 21-1

Petty or great, nothing I endure compares to the suffering Christ endured for my sins.  He doesn’t hold a grudge because of the suffering my sins have caused Him.  Am I one for whom He begs His Father’s forgiveness?

Once Joseph forgives his brothers and reveals himself to them, the true healing begins within his family.Day 21-2

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