Friday, February 27, 2015

In Sync Inside and Out

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Jesus said to his disciples:  “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, you shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.  But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…(I)f you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother.”  (Matthew 5:21-22a, 23-24)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
For with the Lord is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.
(Psalm 130:1-2, 7b-8)

A couple of weeks ago, I reread Glittering Images by Susan Howatch, the first in a series of six novels she wrote about the Church of England from the 1930’s to the 1960’s which I had enjoyed about 20 years ago.  The first one is told from the point of view of Charles Ashworth, an Anglican clergyman whose career in the Church seemingly has been quite successful.  But as the story unfolds, he runs headlong into a spiritual crisis when his glittering image of success can no longer shield him from the unresolved pain of past hurts or the self-deceptions that are leading him down the wrong path.

I thought about Ashworth’s story as I read today’s Gospel passage.  We all have images, glittering or not, that we like to project to the world.  Most of us hope others see us as having it all together, and Jesus knows that.  He knows that many of us would go to the altar, whether to present a gift or to receive the Eucharist, looking the picture of piety, while inside our hearts might seethe with anger or resentment toward someone.  We can fool others.  Sometimes we even successfully deceive ourselves.  But God cannot be tricked.  God sees clearly how things really are with us.

Lent is a time for examining our hearts.  If our hearts and our actions are not in sync, simply admit it.  Heed the words of the psalmist: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!”  The worst thing we can do is ignore any dissonance between our hearts and our actions.  What we hide in the dark only festers and spreads. 

Sit with Jesus today and show him what is in your heart.  Ask for his help in dealing with any anger, hurts, or grudges that reside within.  “For with the Lord is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption.”  Jesus will not condemn you; he will seek to heal and forgive you that from your loving heart genuinely loving actions may flow.

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