Pray for a Humble Spirit and Contrite Heart This Lent

Jeannie Ewing

Pray for a Humble Spirit and Contrite Heart This Lent

We hear the word “corruption” without flinching in our modern world. Along with it, such words as “infidelity,” “defect,” and “impurity” conjure similar reactions. Perhaps it’s because the word “sin” has been outlawed from secular vernacular. Perhaps it’s also because we’ve accepted – or at the very least, tolerated – spiritual sickness within ourselves and in greater society.

But this week we reflect on these words through God’s eyes. God is constantly inviting His people to return to Him, to come back and be made new. We are all broken in different ways, each with his or her spiritual malaise or physical malady. But we are beckoned to be made whole by way of God’s grace.

It takes radical humility on our part to begin this process, in which we admit our sin and desire to turn away from it and instead follow God’s path. As we progress in our journey, let’s adopt the words of God’s endless mercy: “contrite heart,” “patience,” “healing,” and “grace.”

“The corruption of the Temple represented much more than simply an issue of social or institutional justice. It was a compromising of the identity of Israel. Jesus comes to restore God’s holy people to right praise – and hence he turns upside down and inside out all forms of false worship. Thus, as you contemplate the image of Jesus cleansing the Temple, ask yourself the following question, ‘Precisely what or whom do I worship?’” (Bishop Robert Barron)

I admit, I need my life to be turned upside down. I’ve made idols of my work, my children, my spouse, money, acquisition of material possessions, sports, my car, etc. Anything that replaces God has become my idol. Even my thoughts, if they are consumed with politics or the latest celebrity gossip, become an idol in my life.

Lord, I need You to cleanse my temple, too. If it requires turning my life inside out and upside down, so be it. I need Your restoration just like the Israelites did during Your day. My life needs a change, and You are the one I long to mend my brokenness.

“We deposit our faults in Jesus’ heart; he reciprocates with his graces, erasing our iniquities.” - Luis M. Martinez

Sometimes I focus too much on my sins, failures, and weaknesses. I am scrupulous and find fault with little things, even. Such rumination wears me down. I am ashamed. I am guilty. While it’s true that I am guilty as a sinner, why haven’t I focused instead on Your unending wellspring of grace and Your unfailing love?

Lord, I turn to You now in all my misery and humiliations, bringing to You every flaw and defection – known and hidden. I know that if I come to You with such emptiness and longing, You will fill the cracks and crevices of my brokenness with Your healing touch. You will erase my sins when I confess them in the Sacrament. Help me to run, then, to find peace and mercy in the confessional this Lent.

“But with a contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received…for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.” - Daniel 3:39

How can it be that all it takes is contrition and humility for me to be received into Your arms, Lord? My life is riddled with shame. I usually turn away from You, because I cannot bear to meet Your loving gaze. I know I have to face myself and all of the ugliness and filth of my sin. Sometimes I don’t want to change.

But Lent reminds me that change happens every day when I choose it. Yes, it’s true, I may mess up a thousand times a day in countless ways, but I can also come to you a thousand-and-one times a day with contrition and humility. That’s where my faith buoys me into Your embrace – in bringing you my miseries, my tears, my sufferings. Jesus, I trust in You.

“Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.” - Matthew 18:26

When I look at the people in my life with whom I am impatient, I am inclined to dismiss them without making painstaking efforts to extend mercy to them. Maybe their repayment isn’t literally in monetary terms, but I tend to keep tabs on what people “owe” me: their time, a thank you, a smile, a response to my emails or text messages or cards.

What if I were patient with them instead? What if the gifts of my own time, gratitude, kindness, and courtesy were freely given without condition? What freedom! Lord, teach me to carry with me the long-suffering of patience with others, to give them the benefit of the doubt and pray with compassion for their own brokenness to be healed.

“Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper.” - Jeremiah 7:23

Lord, I get so confused about whether or not I truly hear Your voice. So many doubts flood my heart: what if it’s just what I want instead of God’s will? What if God is silent right now, and I’m hearing the voice of my mother (or spouse or coworker, etc.)? Is this the world’s message, or God’s?

So much discernment, and yet how hard it is for me to clearly hear a resounding word from You!

I know You are my God, and I truly seek to walk in Your ways. With that intention, like Thomas Merton once wrote, I believe that means I am genuinely moving in Your direction. Maybe I don’t always hear You, but I am trying. Teach me to quiet my mind and heart so that I may recognize that “still, small voice” within.

“I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them.” - Hosea 14:4

So many times You reconsidered destroying Your people in their sinfulness and betrayal, Lord. I read about this in Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, and I am amazed at how much I do this to You in my own life. Each time I choose to ignore what You are asking of me – even to ignore time for prayer each day – I am doing what Your people of old have done for millennia.

Still, You know I am weak and finite. I long for healing, just like everyone else. Will you hear my plea of desperation today? I have a spiritual defect, a heart-wound, that needs Your healing touch. If I but graze Your cloak, will You heal me like You did the hemorrhaging woman? Thank you for withholding Your justice, Lord, and keep me always in Your stead.

“Without you I can do nothing good. Give me your grace, O generous one!” - John of Dalyatha

I have come to see my weaknesses and selfish tendencies quite clearly. There are days I wonder how I can possibly carry on any good work for You in my home or at the workplace or in my marriage. It’s because my thoughts are so negative, so self-deprecating, judgmental, destructive, uncharitable. I know they are a reflection of my own brokenness, but still I indulge them.

Despite all this, I know I am nothing without You. If I do any good today, it is due to Your grace alone, Lord. I pray Your love will compensate for every omission of charity I commit, for every deliberate act of violence through my emotions or words or thoughts, for every time I refused to turn the other cheek. You cannot be outdone in generosity, so I thank You for Your abundance in my scarcity.

 

How are you practicing contrition and humility this Lent? Leave a comment!