“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.
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?