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!

 

A New Perspective on the Commandments

The key to getting our relationship with God right is the key to getting everything else right in the moral life. – Fr. Robert Barron

Fr. Barron gave a very insightful homily today on our first reading from this Sunday’s mass.

Here’s a summary of his thoughts on each commandment:

  1. I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods besides me. Everybody worships something or someone – the center of gravity for your life. Everyone has the ultimate concern. What is of supreme importance to you? That is what you worship. What is of highest worth to you? The first commandment tells us it has to be God. If He is not, your spiritual life comes apart.
  2. You shall not the name of the Lord your God in vain. It’s one thing to claim that God is the center of your life, but do you speak like it and act like it? Don’t speak so casually about it. Speech matters. Right speech contributes to the building up of the soul. Wrong speech leads to the coarsening of the soul.
  3. Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Unless you incarnate your worship of God in some definite of act of worship otherwise that commitment becomes an abstraction and then irrelevant. It must express itself through action. God does not NEED our worship. WE NEED worship. Fr. Barron points out the falling off of people attending mass on Sundays. Sunday has become like any other weekend day like Saturday. This signifies this loss of focus of our society.
  4. Honor your Father and Mother. Not just your parents but also your family. If you love God but can’t manage to love and honor those closest to you, something is wrong. Family is the building block of society. The foundation will become lost if you love God but don’t love those closest and dearest to you.
  5. You shall not kill. 60 million unborn babies killed since Roe vs Wade. Victims of ISIS, casual murders in our streets/gang violence. God is the giver of life – We have no business interfering with that preogative. Do we enhance life or do we diminish it after meeting someone? In our dealing with people, do they feel more alive after being with us?
  6. You shall not commit adultery. Marriage is in serious trouble. Think of the pain that takes place when infidelity takes place. The family is the building block of society. Husbands and wives can’t stay committed and the sadness and pain that takes place when that commitment is broken.
  7. You shall not steal.  When you start bad mouthing someone, that’s a kind of stealing. You’re stealing the good reputation of someone.
  8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. How we love tearing each other down. It’s a function of the ego’s need to be superior and to feel protected.  Our favorite indoor pastime is critiquing each other. How often do you engage in bearing false witness during the course of the day? Do you lie about someone for your own purposes?
  9. You shall not covet your neighbors goods/ 10. You shall not covet your neighbors wife. We desire what our neighbor desires. We tend to desire things not because their good in themselves, but because someone else desires them. We want someONE or someTHING because someone else wants it.

Fit in Your Faith Today: Take one of the commandments and focus on it and how you are possibly, without even realizing it, comitting one of these sins. Are you honoring your family? Do you covet things just because someone else wants it too? Have you stolen someone’s reputation by bad mouthing them? Do you treat Sundays just like any other day without making it a holy day? There’s so much we can work on spiritually to live out these commandments. We can go through our own transformation this Lent as we make an effort to not only memorize these commandments but live them out as well.

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.

Falling Short while Looking Up

Romans 3:23-24

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 

Today’s verses really hit the nail on the head as far as sin goes: We all fall short. We all sin. You can categorize some sins into “Big” and “Little” sins but in the end, we all fall short of His standard. Even Paul recognized this in his letter to the Roman.

It’s somewhat of a relief to read this though, because we probably put a lot of pressure on ourselves to live up to certain expectations; maybe from our spouses or parents or co-workers and friends. We might fall short in those relationships, too. But it’s comforting to know that God understands that as humans, we are not perfect and will have moments of walking away from God. In those moments of sin, we aren’t living up to His expectations.

But there’s Good News: He declares that we are righteous. When God forgives our sins, our record is wiped clean. As the Deacon at my parish told me just yesterday, “God can read our hearts.”  When we stray, and we confess that we have strayed, God welcomes us back. He can read our hearts that we are sorry.

So while you may feel you are falling short, remember to look up. Look up to Him, confess, be forgiven, and walk the path of righteousness that God has set for you.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Where are you falling short, not just in God’s eyes, but in other parts of your life? We are not perfect but we can strive to be better Christians by looking up to God, before we fall down and sin again. Confess and be forgiven, then get up again.

 

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?

Wisdom, not Pride.

Proverbs 3:7-8

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

Good News Translation:

Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the Lord and refuse to do wrong. If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains.

The book of Proverbs always has interesting insights. Especially the direct nature of the wording.

This one basically says – Don’t be a know-it-all. You aren’t all that smart.

This isn’t meant to make us feel inferior or unintelligent. I believe it’s just meant to take the ego down a notch. Don’t let yourself become inflated with thinking you are superior to others.

On the contrary, obey the Lord and turn away from evil and wrongdoing. By doing so, it acts like medicine for our broken bodies. It eases the pain in our hearts. I appreciate that this passage compares obeying God as a way to stay healthy in mind, body and soul. You can think of sin or doing not-so-great things as causing a wound in our body to be opened. Or pain in our soul taking place. What’s the cure? Good works. Good words. Good actions. Obeying the Lord and treating others as equals.

Fit in Your Faith Today: Do you talk down or act differently around people who you think are inferior to you? Do you think yourself as being a know-it-all sometimes? Try to look at others as equals, no matter what their job or their education level or social status says about them. Treat them well, obey the Lord as He commands us, and our minds and bodies and souls will be healed from the pain of mistreatment, anger, and pride.

Reach Out to Those in Need

Galatians 6: 1-3

Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself.

Here’s another translation:

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

It can be difficult to ask for help when we are so used to being independent. But sometimes we need help. We may have sunk to a new low. We may have fallen in with the wrong crowd or just gotten into bad habits such as resentment, gluttony, or even something as seemingly harmless as laziness. After all, you might think, I’m not hurting anyone but myself with my ______ (insert bad habit here).

But hurting yourself is not healthy or holy. And it’s at that point when you need to reach out to others for help.Look to the godly and holy people in your life. Seek them out to help you get out of your rut. If you yourself are being sought, be careful not to fall into your friends bad habits. It might even be someone close to you like your spouse or parent. If you are not fully aware, you could easily be sucked into their world. Don’t let that happen. Stay true to your beliefs and your godly ways.

Extend the rope. Pull them out of that place and offer to lighten their load. Offer assistance. Work together for the common good!

Fit in Your Faith Today: Who in your life could use your kindness and goodness? Who can you call upon to help YOU get out of a difficult situation you find yourself in? Depend on others and allow others to depend on you. Be open to it!