Harden not your hearts

posted in: Prayer and Virtue | 6
File:Tissot Moses Smites the Rock in the Desert.jpg
Moses Smites the Rock in the Desert by Tissot (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).

“If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” This Psalm response from Sunday’s Mass is familiar to those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office). Taken from Psalm 95, it is part of the Invitatory prayed every morning. This verse helps me immensely in my spiritual life. It reminds me always to be open to God’s grace.

I get easily overwhelmed when I think about all the obligations of the spiritual life. I need to pray every day and pray well. I must be detached from everything except God. I must answer my children with love, work diligently, be considerate of my husband’s needs, refrain from gossip, be humble… Yikes! The phlegmatic part of me can’t handle all that at once.

Over the last year, God has shown me how to reduce these obligations to just one: trust. I must believe in and accept His plan for me at every moment. Another way of saying this is I must have an open heart.

Don’t look for grace before you need it

Corrie Ten Boom, who survived Dachau’s horrors, wrote her family’s story in The Hiding Place. I love the tale she tells about her conversation with her father concerning death. As a little girl, she was distraught at the thought her beloved father would someday leave her:

I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can’t die! You can’t!”

“Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”

“Why, just before we get on the train.”

“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”

I don’t need to think about all the things God is asking me to do throughout the day. I only need to recognize what He is asking me to do at this moment. Grace exists in the present moment. It is available when we need it, not before. What is God’s will right now?

I must listen for God’s voice in the present. Then I must open my heart to respond to it.

Today it has helped me to repeat this verse aloud in moments of temptation. If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart. I take a moment before answering a child who is making demands at an inopportune time. Can I be open to grace, to the Holy Spirit? Can I be patient, loving, and selfless, even when I am tired?

Only one thing is needed

Again I am reminded of Martha, who was worried about many things. That is not God’s will for us. He does not want us to be overwhelmed with obligations. Only one thing is needed. That one thing is what Fr. Thomas Dubay would call “a deep love communion.” God speaks to my heart. I listen, I accept, and I respond. In doing so, I make my life a prayer.

At the risk of being controversial (something I try to avoid here), it strikes me that Pope Francis has been saying the same thing lately in other words. He has said that our focus should be on Jesus, not on rules and regulations. Rules can cause despair. They can close hearts. In contrast, Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts. “May I come in and sup with you?” He asks, knowing that we are sinners.

If we open our hearts and let Him in, we can enter into His rest. We can dwell in His eternal peace.  His commands are not burdensome. His commands are not ends. They are not a heavy yoke laid on our shoulders.

The yoke of Jesus is light. It gives rest. His yoke is companionship with Him.

Do not harden your heart towards Jesus. Receive His grace. Love Him for this moment. That is all He asks.

Connie Rossini

Share with us: When is it hard for you to open your heart to grace? How do you keep from being overwhelmed by God’s many commandments?


6 Responses

  1. Michelle

    This is so good Connie. Sometimes, I choose cleanliness over Godliness, if you know what I mean. My heart is closed to the knowing that God will give me that window of time and opportunity to get things done. Reading aloud, praying or maybe just to sit and listen to the kids and/or my husband are moments that I will never get back. So, it is this simple truth and grace that I need to be more open.

    • Connie Rossini

      Michelle, I can totally relate to your example. Even though we live pretty simply here, I still don’t slow down enough to focus on love. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Rachelle Rossini

    Thanks for this inspiring post, Connie. I read through it twice as it is so full of useful advice. I find it most difficult to be open when I am tired. With big kids who stay up late and little kids who wake early, sleep is hard to come by. But your words of encouragement will help.

    • Connie Rossini

      I’m glad to help, Rachelle. Yes. always too little sleep for moms! But remember that St. Therese always got too little sleep too (5-1/2 hours per night in summer in Carmel). She fell asleep during prayer, but she learned to respond to others with love. And she had the same sources of grace we have. So it’s not easy, but it’s possible. Be open and don’t give up. (And don’t get frustrated–God knows your weaknesses and challenges and is always cheering you on.)

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