I went to Mass with our girls this morning. Nearly 250 students marched from Saint Gertrude High School to nearby St. Benedict’s Church to celebrate the beginning of Holy Lent. Another 250 cadets from Benedictine High School marched in and sat across the aisle from our young women. The two schools nearly fill every pew! I found a seat in the back with staff and some local families.
Though all of the readings today are powerful, I was struck by the responsorial psalm: “Create in me a clean heart.” What does that mean? My heart didn’t feel “dirty” this morning. My heart was joyful at the prospect of these forty days. I must need a clean heart, or we wouldn’t sing those words on this sacred day. As I was trying to chew on this, I couldn’t help noticing the toddlers and babies in the pews around me. There was a little boy next to me for whispered to his mother, “I don’t want to go to school. I want it to be Saturday. And I want to go to a birthday party and have birthday cake.” I couldn’t help but smile at his mother and share her giggle. In front of me, there was a tiny infant – maybe, three or four months old – in a baby-bucket. He woke up somewhere around the Gospel and his little yawns were absolutely precious. His big brother had a container of pretzels and that seemed to help him focus on Father’s homily. A few pews ahead another baby was grinning at all of us – like it was Christmas.
Children have clean hearts. They are perfectly transparent and without guile. They say what they mean and allow every feeling to surface. Little ones don’t miss much. They are very sensitive to what goes on around them. They show affection freely and ask for what they need. They haven’t made any serious mistakes yet. They haven’t wounded the people they love or disappointed Mom and Dad. They are fully alive and carry in their faces the child Jesus for all to see. On this first day of this holy season, I know exactly what I want. I want a clean heart – a child-like heart. The ashes on my forehead remind me that I have a ways to go, but filled with the graces of Word and wheat, I feel excited about this Lenten journey. And ready for GOD to create in me a clean heart – a heart that loves more faithfully, lives more joyfully and gives all without reserve.
Blessings and love to you all…and Happy Lent!
- Sister Vicki