Creating a Clean Heart and Pure Spirit

Psalm 51:5-10

“For I was born a sinner-

yes, from he moment my mother conceived me.

But you desire honesty from the womb,

teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Oh, give me back my joy again;

you have broken me, 

now let me rejoice.

Don’t keep looking at my sins.

Remove the stain of my guilt.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. 

Renew a loyal spirit within me.”

It’s so easy to do things that please ourselves only, with no regard for others. How often do we do things to please God instead? Probably not as often as we would like.

It seems we are always searching for instant gratification for ourselves. We want that piece of cake, now. We want to watch our favorite tv show, now. We want to get on social media and post something, now. We want to make more money, now.

But doing things to please ourselves is only temporary, as we know. Nothing we do for ourselves lasts very long and before you know it, we want something ELSE, NOW.

When was the last time we did something to please God? For some of us, it’s been awhile. We might have to search our memory banks for the last time we did something self-less.

We are born sinners, as this Psalm tells us in verse 5. But there’s good news of course! We don’t have to live that sinful life that we were born into. The secular world might try and get us to stay sinful, but that’s not our destiny. No, we can live a holy life, and we don’t need to be a nun or priest to accomplish this. We pray for God to cleanse us from within, to purify us and fill our hearts and spirits with His love.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Reflect on the times that you felt your heart was pure and your spirit was filled with the Holy Spirit. What action were you taking? Chances are, you did something self-less. How did it make you feel? How long did that feeling last?

Now, reflect on the times when you didn’t feel so pure, so holy. Was it a struggle to be without sin? It’s not easy to be free of sin and pure of heart, is it? We can find many examples of how, throughout the course of any given day, we are not the best version of ourselves. Instead of dwelling on those instances, repent and move on. Try to fit in your faith today by LIVING IT. Ask God for a clean heart, a pure spirit within you the moment you wake up. Keep asking it throughout the rest of the day when you need it!

 

No Need to Keep Jesus a Secret

John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
“Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.

From the New Life Study Bible: Jesus came with the greatest gift ever offered, so why did he often act secretly? The religious leaders hated him, and many would refuse his gifts of salvation, no matter what he said or did. The more Jesus taught and worked publicly, the more these leaders would cause trouble for him and his followers. So it was necessary for Jesus to teach and work as quietly as possible, and worshiping publicly with little persecution. These believers should be grateful and make the most of their opportunities to proclaim the Good News.

The Jewish religious leaders had a great deal of power over the common people. Apparently these leaders couldn’t do much to Jesus at this time, but they threatened anyone who might publicly support him, most likely with excommunication. Excommunication from the synagogue was one of the reprisals for believing in Jesus. To a Jew this was a severe punishment.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Do you hide your belief in Jesus? Do you think you’ll get grief or persecuted for your belief in Christ? We don’t need to hide or keep our faith quiet these days. Learn from the early followers of Christ. Take opportunities to spread the Good News. Today, many of us living in the free world don’t need to worry about persecution for our beliefs. Do not be concerned about a negative reaction or someone not “hearing” your words. In time, they might come back to you with questions or inquiries and you can expand on your love of God and possibly help this person become a follower as well!

An Impossible Discovery

Galatians 3:28-29

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.

An Impossible Discovery by Father Vincent Nagle, from the book Praying with St. Paul

“It was December and the beginning of summer vacation for the students in Kenya. Myself and a missionary priest I had just met were standing in a field far from Nairobi waiting for the students to start arriving for a vacation together. I had arrived in the country just a couple of days before for the first time, to begin a new mission. As I stood there I could not have felt more estranged. I did not know anyone coming, I did not know the language, I had never been to sub-Saharan Africa, and there was almost nothing planned for the days ahead. And as the young men and women started to wander in, bedraggled from hard travel, and we had a first bad meal together, my anxiety increased.

Then, after dinner, some of the students, the teachers, the priest, and I all sat down together. We asked, “What do we want from these days ahead?” What strongly emerged among us was that we wanted to meet Christ that week. We wanted the One in whom we see our destiny to become visible among us. We wanted him, the meaning of everything. What had seemed alien to me now was familiar. They wanted what I wanted. What they had encountered and had brought them to that place was precisely what had brought me.

After that I have always been able to hear the stupefaction in the words of Saint Paul as he describes what is impossibly unfolding in the people before him. Their hearts, touched by Christ, are one. Gulfs once believed unbridgeable, between mentalities, histories, and cultures, are joined in the unity of an identical commotion in their hearts. Their desire has become one, him. Differences no longer have the last word. The encounter with Jesus Christ has revealed for each the heart of the other. In all our estrangements, let us beg for Jesus to reveal himself, giving us our communion with all.”

Fit In Your Faith Today: We can learn a lot from this reflection from Father Vincent. People may be different from us, we may feel threatened by them. We may just think we couldn’t possibly have anything in common with those who are different from us. But we can see and hear, even if we don’t speak the same language, that our hearts are the same. They all seek to know Christ. If there is someone in your life whom you don’t interact with because they are “too different” from you, ask them. Ask them if their heart is the same as yours – You might discover the impossible – that you seek the same thing!

 

Their Hardened Hearts

Mark 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

From the New Life Study Bible:

Jesus rebuked the disciples for their hard hearts. Today the Hardhearts believe:

(1) that poverty is always caused by laziness; helping the poor only enables them;

(2) that worship is best conducted in one way- our way- which has worked very well for forty years, thank you, and need not be changed;

(3) that evangelism doesn’t apply; people will never change anyways, so we don’t need to do it. Joining the Hardhearts requires only one pledge; you must refuse to listen to Jesus’ questions. Don’t be a hardheart. Be open to Christ’s truth. Let him soften your heart.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Do you allow Christ to “soften” your heart? It’s difficult to accept new ways of thinking. It’s hard to believe in God all the time. What’s EASY is the opposite: To believe in nothing; to think that change is not possible with any one or any thing; that evangelism can soften a heart or two. Shift your way of thinking and accept that your once hardened heart, is now softening for the love of Christ.

 

Not an Inspired Message

1 Corinthians 13: 1-2, 8-10

I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains- but if I have no love, I am nothing. 

Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass. For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial; but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear.

Fit in Your Faith Today: Are you falling for an “inspired message” from the secular world about Valentine’s Day and about Love? Remember who and what is love: God. God is love. (1 John 4:7-10) Let us show one another THIS kind of love not just today, but every day. Not just with chocolate and flowers, but with actions and words.

Running the Race of Faith

Hebrews 12:1-2

New Living Translation:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now, he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Good News Translation:

As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

There are many takeaways from this passage from Hebrews:

1. We are not alone in our struggle to stay faithful to God. The large crowd of witnesses are the people who came before us. We can think of them as up in the heavens, cheering us on in our “race.” They crossed the finish line a long time ago, but they haven’t forgotten about the rest of us. And we shouldn’t forget about them!

2. The “weights” that hold us back are difficult to let go. But we can pray for the strength to leave them behind. Once they are gone from our lives, we’ll finish our race stronger and lighter. The burden of these sins, these addictions, these people in our lives who don’t fit in with our faith have to be let go.

3. There’s no giving up. We might become discouraged at times because our circumstances get too hard, because life is unfair and because we might become persecuted or “unfriended” due to our beliefs. Jesus didn’t give up. We can’t expect to be as strong as our Savior, but we can think of the way he died for us as a reminder that as tough as we think our lives are, they can’t compare to the live and death of Jesus. We aren’t expected to be Saviors, but we can live our life as close to Christ-like as we can.

Fit In Your Faith Today: What weights are holding you back from finishing your race of faith?  Think of ways you can lighten your load, running towards the finish line with faith-filled endurance for Christ fueling you every step of the way.

Blessings in Disguise

Psalm 65:11

You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.

At first glance these verses might seem kinda blah. But when you read it again, you see that David, the author, is expressing thankfulness to God, even when times are tough.

God provides abundantly, even when we are in the path of difficulty or challenge. Nature was a way that God showed his blessings and generosity to the people at that time. They were thankful for the bountiful harvest, but noted that even the rough and hard paths are overflowing with abundance as well.

You can interpret this several ways; maybe David meant that difficult people and his friends were hardened. They had a rough exterior or maybe difficult to deal with. And he could have meant that even THEY were blessed with God’s generosity and love.

Or maybe he meant difficult encounters or decisions he had to make had God’s blessing. That even when he was faced with adversity, he felt blessed by God with abundant knowledge and faith that he was making the right decision.

I think it means for us today, that we recognize the GOOD that God does when things are going our way, when our harvest is plentiful. But we also need to see God in the not so good situations. God is with us even when we are walking down a difficult path. He’s there when we are faced with a crisis or a devastating loss. He is still there providing us with abundant love and faith.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Have you recently overcome a difficult situation? Looking back on it, do you see where God was present and blessing you? It’s easy to see God in the good, but remember that He is with us even when our path is difficult. Seek His guidance in those times even more than the good times. It’s then that we can rely on His abundant love and have faith that He is providing us with help and comfort that we need.

Have You Received Your New Heart?

Ezekiel 11:19

Good News Translation

I will give them a new heart and a new mind. I will take away their stubborn heart of stone and will give them an obedient heart.

New Living Translation

And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart.

I included the New Living Translation in this scripture passage so we can see how the New Life Bible Study defines singleness of heart:” a unanimous singleness of purpose.”  The commentary goes on to say: “No longer will God’s people seek many gods; they will be content with God. Their stony, stubborn hearts of stone will be radically transplanted with tender, responsive hearts. This new life can only be the work of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s work, but we must recognize and turn from our sin. When we do, God will give us new motives, new guidelines, and new purpose.”

After reading this passage I immediately thought of the church hymn, “Here I Am Lord” by Dan Schutte that we often sung as children during mass growing up. I always get a little smile on my face when I see it listed as one of the hymns during mass these days because it brings back such great memories as a kid.

Here are the verses that came to my mind:

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them, They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak My word to them
Whom shall I send?

It’s a wonderful song but I would get so sad when I would sing it sometimes because it’s almost like a love letter from God to the His people that won’t listen to Him! The people are turning away and worshiping false idols and pagan gods and they won’t listen to the prophets. But finally, God is telling them that indeed, He will take all of this away and they will be content to worshiping just Him. He’s going to give them new motivation. A new heart.

Have you ever hit rock bottom? What does everyone say when you’re at the end of your rope, at the bottom of the pit? “Well, there’s no where else to go but up!” Right? I almost feel like this is similar – We hit the bottom, we have reached our limit and there’s nowhere else to go. We can’t get any more low than we are at this moment. And then…God turns our stubborn hearts into loving ones. We get out of this rut. We turn the page. A new heart, a new life, a new purpose!

The time between hitting that bottom and getting a new heart is probably a lot longer than we care to admit. But it can happen. The Holy Spirit is working inside us constantly to change and form us into the people that God wants us to be. And our hearts are being transformed too!

Fit In You Faith Today: What comes to mind when you hear that God will take your stubborn heart and turn it into a tender and loving one? Do you feel renewed with a greater purpose? Spend some time with this passage and perhaps with the hymn I referenced (or another one!) and study the lyrics and words. Is God trying to get you to turn away from a sin that’s hardening your heart?

We Believe

Acts 1:8

“But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

This verse reminds me of a conversation I once had with a friend of mine. He is not a believer in God and asked me why “religious people” like myself were always trying to get people to believe what I believe in. He put me in the category of a disciple I suppose and assumed since I go to church regularly I must be one of “those” people who evangelizes often.

I was slightly embarrassed to admit that I actually wasn’t the type to try to get people to convert. I left that to the people who knew more about Christ than me. This friend of mine was actually irritated that “people like me” were always preaching their beliefs to non-believers and it was irritating and annoying to him.

I recall not knowing what to say to my friend after that in regards to the conversation. I do remember telling him that as a Catholic, I knew it part of my faith spread the Good News but that I wasn’t very good at it (This was back in the summer of last year, before starting this blog).

This verse is a reminder that I don’t have to be a preacher, a priest, a minister, a nun or anyone considered to be an expert in my faith to still be a good witness to others. I hope to have this conversation with my friend again and it would go a lot differently. My response this time around would look something like this:

Friend: Why are you always trying to convert people to your religion? Why can’t we all just believe whatever we want?

Me: You can believe in whatever or whoever you want. You have free-will. But as a Christian, I have this gift that I would be selfish to keep all to myself. I would never force someone to convert or force anyone to listen to me. But if they want to know WHY I believe in God and WHY I’m so confident in my faith, I would point out resources to them to read and I would invite them to my church for a mass so they can see why I love it so much. I need to be a witness to others because my life changed shortly after my Mom died. I saw how strong she was in her faith and I wanted to live my life like that. I also saw someone I love die right before my eyes and of course that makes you take stock in your own life. I want to live my life filled with faith, not hate or neutrality or “I know I’m a good person so I don’t need to worry about life after death” type of mentality. I want to spread the word of how I TRY to live a good life filled with faith because of course, I’m not perfect nor expected to be. Others who don’t know about God SHOULD at least get to hear from me so they can make the decision on their own on whether or not they want to live their life the way they have been doing it, or if they want to live their life with a purpose for God.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Do you selfishly keep God all to yourself? Have you ever “witnessed” or discussed why you believe what you believe with someone who asked you? Try not to brush these questions off. Remember, we don’t all have to be wordsmiths or preachers or pastors in order to give advice or discuss our faith with non-believers. Just tell someone your story. You might be surprised at how they respond. You could change their life!

Be Not Afraid

Joshua 1:9

This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Today’s message is so simple, it really doesn’t need much commentary. How much more clear can you get? The Lord asks us to be strong and courageous. We have no need to be afraid of anything because HE is with us. Of course, you have to believe that He is with you. That might be the most difficult part to accept. We are so used to doing things on our own, we don’t like to rely on others. But God wants us to count on Him. He wants us to ask Him for help. How encouraging it is to read these words – The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Fit In Your Faith Today: What are you afraid of this week? What discourages you or causes you to doubt yourself? If you remember that the Lord is with you wherever you go, whatever situation you are in, it can help give you the courage to keep going. Don’t be afraid of taking the wrong action, be afraid of taking NO action. The hard part is listening to what God wants us to do. So be strong, be courageous in all that you do today and the rest of this week!