Reflection: Ash Wednesday (2/18/15)
To find readings:
“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me…give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me.” (Ps. 51)
Every Friday throughout the year, the Church begins Morning Prayer with Psalm 51: “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.”
I sometimes tell people that any announcement posted on a bulletin board becomes invisible after two or three weeks. The same can be true of our prayers. This text is used so frequently that it is easy for those praying to close their minds to the meaning behind the words.
Besides the prayer for the forgiveness we all need, the psalm begs for three things that I personally need: 1) a clean heart (that is, a heart that is not divided by conflicting interests), 2) a steadfast spirit (a spirit that cannot be weakened by external pressure or internal weakness), and 3) a willing spirit (a spirit that is ready to hear and obey).
One of the books that I am currently reading is Ronald Rolheiser’s Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity. Fr. Rolheiser is a well-regarded author whose books I strongly recommend. He says that many people are good Christians, but not all become great Christians. Many priests are good priests, but not every one of them is a great priest. The difference? In order to become great, we must give ourselves—without reservation—to Jesus Christ. We can’t hold anything back from Him. In short, we need a clean heart along with a spirit that is both steadfast and willing. (Fr. John Eaton, O.F.M.)