Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Afternoon meditation: With your whole heart

There's something about today's readings that would make them suitable (if unlikely!) for Valentine's Day--that feast day being transposed from the popular romantic level to the deepest level of love possible: God's love for us, responded to fully. There's also the poignancy of King Solomon praying about the people being "faithful to you with their whole heart" when he would turn out to be less than wholehearted in God's service himself.

The theme of responding to God's love with the whole heart is the background of today's Gospel, too. Provoked by the critics who observed the ritual omission of his disciples (how do you observe an omission, anyway?), Jesus complains that they have taken the heart out of the divine precepts, replacing God's priorities with temporal values, replacing love with a legal fiction. Without even realizing it, and believing they were upholding all things good and holy, "they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the creator" (see Rom. 1:25).

On today's feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, we hear again the dramatic call from Mary, "Penance! Penance! Penance!" Not in a vacuum, not as a value in itself, but as an act of love, acknowledging the compromises we tend to favor as a way of not-quite-loving, not-quite-sinning. A penance that restores the right order of things, and lets God stake his claim on us--and our whole heart.

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