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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


A Rich Treasury

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

Today’s reading focuses on the Book of Psalms.  When I reflected on the reading, I realized that I really did not know a lot about the Psalms.  Sure, I have my favorite ones.  And yes, I know we regularly sing Psalms at Mass.  But I never really sat down and studied them in any depth.

So as I delved again into David’s lyrics, I began to appreciate better the beauty of these verses.  And I began to understand better why David is a Man After God’s Own Heart.

I found this wonderful document online breaking down the Book of Psalms as a parallel to each of the five books of the Pentateuch, providing examples.  I need to study this more closely.  It also divides the Psalms into several categories:  prophetic, personal (to the Psalmist), Passover, poetic, pilgrim and praises.

The Psalms seem to cover every aspect of our human condition: suffering and joy, despair and hope, promise and rejection.

Did you know that, of the 150 Psalms, approximately 65 contain complaints?   That’s almost half!

As I reflect on my human condition, especially my suffering (and even more specifically, the self-inflicted suffering), two Psalms stand out in my mind:

“Be still and know that I am God!”  Ps. 46:11.


“I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.”  Ps. 131:1.

Each of these reminds me of my place in the Creation.  You see, much of my suffering can be attributed to one thing:  a distorted self-image.

Sometimes I think too highly of myself, like I’m God’s gift to . . . whomever.  When I take on this attitude, I begin to take on an air of entitlement.

“How dare you cut me off!  I’m entitled to that part of the pavement!”

“I deserve this larger piece of cake!”

“How could they do that to me?!”

I think you get the picture.  Me. Me. Me.  I’m the focus.

On the other hand, I sometimes think too lowly of myself.

“How can God forgive me?”

“I am not worthy of God’s love!”

“I don’t deserve . . . .”

The problem, here, is that I don’t fully accept the graces and mercies that God offers.  And it leads to moping and self-pity.

In either case, my focus is squarely on myself.

That’s where the two Psalms come in.  They each tend to take my focus off myself.  They remind me that I am creature, not creator.  And that our Creator has everything under His control.  I need not worry.  He loves me.  He will provide.

One of my prayers is that I see myself through God’s eyes.  Loved, but not perfect.  Humble, but not humiliated.

Once I do that, I start to get my priorities straight and can truly praise God.  Like in the shortest Psalm:

Praise the LORD, all you nations!
Extol him, all you peoples!
His mercy for us is strong;
the faithfulness of the LORD is forever.

Psalm 117

Day 36-2

David, a man after God’s own heart, plunges deep into his own heart to communicate his love to God, delivering his heart and soul to the Father.  He bares all and in doing so, models for us true intimacy with God.
Day 36-1

A Servant’s Heart

On this Tuesday 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 an earlier post, King David viewed all the blessings surrounding him, recognized their source and sought to reciprocate.  He knew that God had given him a beautiful palace, and yet God dwelled in a lowly tent.  So David planned to build a home for God.

God’s response?  “You ain’t seen nuttin’ yet!”

I will make your name like that of the greatest on earth.  I will assign a place for my people Israel and I will plant them in it to dwell there; they will never again be disturbed, nor shall the wicked ever again oppress them, as they did at the beginning, and from the day when I appointed judges over my people Israel.  I will give you rest from all your enemies.  Moreover, the LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you: when your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom.  He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever.  I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.  If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments; but I will not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from Saul who was before you. Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever.  2 Sm. 7:9-16.

How does David respond? First, with humility:

Who am I, Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you should have brought me so far?  2 Sm. 7:18.

And then with grateful praise:

Therefore, great are you, Lord GOD! There is no one like you, no God but you, as we have always heard.  2 Sm. 7:22.

King David sets a wonderful example of how to be thankful:  True gratitude begins with humility.

It is not possible to be truly grateful without recognizing our humble position in relationship to the source of our blessings.  How can a proud heart ever truly be grateful?  Deep in its recesses, a proud heart believes it deserves its blessings.

I think this is why an attitude of gratitude is the remedy to so many maladies; because the effort to recognize my blessings encourages a humble heart, reminding me of my need for God, our Creator.

I am reminded of a friend who recently blogged about her recent experience with gratitude.  She was having a grumpy day and recognized this immediately.  But she also recognized the remedy:  gratitude.  So she began a Gratitude List.  As she so wisely notes, “Nothing like a gratitude list to cure a bout of self-pity.”

It’s hard to suffer self-pity with a humble heart.

Day 35-1 Maybe this is what it means for David to be “a man after God’s own heart.”  Maybe David, with a humble heart, is reflecting the Love that is God.  Like Mary, who proclaims that her soul magnifies the Lord, maybe the servant’s heart is like a polished mirror that reflects God to all around us.Day 35-2

Son of Promise

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

In David’s youth, he seemed to have direct access to God.  David asks God if he should attack the Philistines at Keilah and the Lord answers.  1 Sm. 23:2.  David asks God if Saul will betray David in Keilah, and again the Lord answers him.  1 Sm. 23:10.  David asks God if he should pursue the raiders who destroyed Ziklang, and God answers him.  1 Sm. 30:8.  When David asks God where he should go after Saul’s death, the Lord tells him to go to Hebron.  2 Sm. 2:1.  David asks God if he should attach the Philistines at Rephaim, and even asks how he should attack.  And God answers.  2 Sm. 5:18-25.

But eventually this direct line of communication seems to dry up and the Lord begins communicating with David through prophets.

When David contemplates building a house for God, the Lord sends Nathan as His mouthpiece.  And David listens.  Is this what is meant when David is described as being after God’s own heart?  Acts 13:22.  Is it because David can hear the voice of God in any medium God uses?

I’ve heard people talking about how God told them something.  Maybe He told them to do something.  Or not to do something.  Or to be patient.  Or be “not afraid.”  I don’t remember ever have such direct communications with God.  Sure, I pray and I am confident He listens and answers.  But I don’t ever recall a burning bush experience, a finger drawing on the wall, or a voice in the night.

Instead, it seems God speaks to me through the circumstances I find myself in.  He speaks through the scale that tells me I have a few extra pounds and need to adjust my eating habits.

Mostly, God speaks to me through the people He blesses my life with.

God speaks through my son when he tells me and my wife, “stop arguing!”

God speaks through my wife when she reminds me to drive safely.

And God speaks through my dad when he tells to get back into running.

How do receive God’s messages and little nudges?  I know I can be very resistant.  I blame my pride.  It’s not so much that I’m expecting God to “tell it to my face.”  In fact, I’m afraid He might!

It’s more that either I don’t think the message is meant for me (“I AM driving safely!”) or I didn’t get the right messenger (“you’re no better a driver than I am!”)

So I now pray that I listen more closely to God, no matter how He tells me or whom He chooses to deliver the message.

Day 34-1

I ask God for the humility to accept His corrections no matter He uses to deliver the message.  He has blessed me abundantly and I know will bless me many-fold again if I only listen to His call.

Day 34-2

Humble Means

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.  This week’s theme is “From Kingdom to Exile,” which begins with the establishment of the Davidic Dynasty and takes us through to Babylonian exile.

After God rejects Saul as His king, he sends His prophet, Samuel, on an errand to find Saul’s successor.  God directs Samuel to the family of Jesse and Samuel starts interviewing Jesse’s sons.

He begins with Eliab, Jesse’s eldest.  Apparently Eliab has a stately—perhaps regal—appearance about him and Samuel is taken by Eliab’s bearing.  But God rejects Jesse’s eldest, reminding Jesse:

“God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.

And so it goes with the next six brothers.  Each one is rejected, including Abinidab, who later would prove to be a mighty warrior.

Finally, Samuel has Jesse send for his youngest, David, described as “ruddy, a youth with beautiful eyes, and good looking.” 1 Samuel 16:12.  And God chooses David, the youngest and smallest of the brothers.

As David’s life unfolds, we begin to catch a glimpse of why God favored him over his older brothers.  Ultimately we understand that God chose David because David was a man after God’s own heart.  Acts 13:22.

What does this mean, to be a man after God’s own heart?  David reveals this in song:

I say to the LORD,
you are my Lord,
you are my only good.  Ps. 16:2.

David recognizes that he derives value solely from his relationship with God.  Maybe this is the criterion God uses: our voluntary complete dependence on Him.  A desire to seek—and please—Him.

Even Samuel, God’s own prophet, fails to use God’s criteria when seeking a king.  Samuel thinks Jesse’s eldest—Eliab—is good king material.  And after God rejected Eliab, Samuel believes each successive son to be adequate.

But God chooses the youngest son to be the hero of His people.

So I have to ask myself:  how do I choose my role models?  What criteria do I use to select the heroes in my life?

Do I look to athletic prowess or sporting accomplishments, like seven Tour-de-France wins?  Or Cy Young Awards?

Do I look for popularity, intelligence, charisma?

Randy Travis noted that “your heroes will help you find good in yourself.”  Maybe I should seek heroes who will help me to see God’s image in myself and others.

If this is the criterion, who has lived up to this standard?  The teacher who encouraged me to live to my potential.  My Dad who taught me to serve others.  The wheelchair-bound quadriplegic who always had a smile on his face.

Day 33-2

God places many people in my life who help draw me closer to Him.  How can I be a hero to others and draw them closer to God?Day 33-1

Total Rest

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

 King David looked at all the blessings surrounding him—his beautiful home—and then looked at the tent housing the Ark of the Covenant.  So he decided to build a home for God.

Why did David want to build a home for God?  I can’t hazard a guess.  But in looking at how churches—and religious practices—are viewed today, and knowing my heart, I can tell you what my motive might be:  by building a home for God, we can put Him “in His place.”

There are a lot of beautiful churches built to honor—and house—God.  But for many practicing faithful, including myself, there is a danger that we will limit God’s influence in our lives to the boundaries of the church property.  Singing His praise is all well and good—at church.  It doesn’t belong at home or in a stadium!  Or so the attitude goes.

And as we compartmentalize our lives spatially, we likewise begin to block off periods of time for God: an hour at Mass on Sundays, a few minutes of prayer at night or/and in the morning, maybe a quick grace before a meal.  But pray regularly—continually—throughout the day?!  That’s for religious nuts!

And, as social animals, this tendency to sequester our faith spreads to our interaction with others.  It’s fine to believe in God and accept the Nicene Creed, but don’t let that belief onto my lips in gentle conversation!  Hide that Rosary so no one knows you’re praying!

And finally, this quarantine of faith bleeds into the public arena:  separation of church and state, to some, requires any public figure to only utilize logic divorced of faith for any decision or action.

“Can you support your vote without reference to your faith system?”

And it begins, perhaps, with the desire to give God a good home in a beautiful structure instead of inviting Him into our hearts.

So when David sought to give God a home, God reminded David:

Is it you who would build me a house to dwell in?  I have never dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up from Egypt to this day, but I have been going about in a tent or a tabernacle.  As long as I have wandered about among the Israelites, did I ever say a word to any of the judges whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel: Why have you not built me a house of cedar?  2 Samuel 7:5-7.

David wanted to honor God in his way.  But despite David’s best intentions, God said, “no thanks.  But I will build you a house, a dynasty.”  In response, David sings to God in praise and thanksgiving.

In the same way, I need to look deeply into my motives:  when I seem to be acting to honor God, am I really seeking to limit Him and His influence on my life?  God wants me to absorb myself in Him, to surrender completely to His will.  Rather than building a dwelling place for the Lord, I need to learn to live completely in His will.  And then I will find rest.
Day 32-1I can be my own worst enemy when I try to do things my way.  As Fr. Larry Richards likes to point out, the national anthem for Hell is, “I Did It My Way.”Day 32-2

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