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A Profound Conversion

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

After Solomon’s reign, Israel splits into two kingdoms and then suffers through several centuries of conquest by foreigners, destruction of its cities and infrastructure, captivity and exile of its people.

Whatever happened to God’s promise to David?!

“Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever.”  2 Samuel 7:16.

Sure, the people turned from God, disobeyed Him, worshiped other gods, broke every commandment.  But didn’t God promise that David’s house would last forever?  Didn’t He promise of David’s son “I will establish his royal throne forever?”

God gives some insight into the centuries of suffering when He couples His dynastic promise with a fatherly admonition:

If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments.”  2 Samuel 7:14.

God provides Israel—His chosen people—these years of suffering so they can fully prepare for the arrival of their (and our) deliverer.  He knows they are not ready for the fullness of His promise—His Son—and so He “reproves” them and—at the same time—prepares them for the coming of the Messiah.

This concept reminds me of my journey through Lent.  Lent is a season of preparation, a season to put myself into the proper spirit and state of mind to fully celebrate Easter.  Just as God used those centuries to prepare His people for the coming of His Son, I must seek God’s grace to use these 40 days of Lent so that I can better prepare myself to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.

The typical formula for Lenten preparations involves three distinct elements:  fasting, special prayer and alms-giving.  Each of these areas requires some measure of sacrifice.  Fasting is an overt denial of self.  Special prayer requires me to dig deeper into my prayer life, reach beyond my comfort level and draw closer to God.  Alms-giving requires I give of my blessings to others.

Ultimately, however, I find that while this sacrifice may involve a modicum of suffering, blessings I receive through the transformative experience far outweigh the sacrifice.

Day 39-1

Sometimes, it may seem that fasting is for naught.  I might feel like I am speaking to myself in prayer.  And my “alms-giving” might appear to go to the wrong people.  Perhaps this is my exile, my Babylonian Captivity.  In those times I must remember that even Blessed Mother Theresa suffered a spiritual desert.  I must remind myself that these spiritual exercises will strengthen me and my faith.
Day 39-2


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

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