March 12 / First Tuesday of Lent
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. ~ Ps 34:18
In Angela’s Ashes, his searing and spirited memoir of his impoverished childhood in Ireland, Frank McCourt writes vividly about his boyish fear of confessing to a priest that he had listened to a story with the word “piss” in it, or had thought of his aunt as “an old bitch.” Seen through a boy’s eyes, this is amusing. But in fact, whether we approach the physical confessional in the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation or simply acknowledge our sins to God in private prayer, we may be reluctant to expose the shame and ugliness within (indeed, as he grew older and the occasions for sin expanded, McCourt found himself more and more loath to share his shameful actions in confession). If we’ve prepared ourselves properly and undertaken the “searching moral inventory” that many Twelve-Step programs advocate, we may be all too aware of everything that has gone wrong in our souls and in our lives. We may think that our wrongs — both how we act and how we fail to act — will repel God, that what we’ve done and what we’ve failed to do are unforgivable, that God will withdraw from us as perhaps others have. But we would be wrong. For the reassuring truth is that Our Lord uses these moments of brokenness and vulnerability to draw closer to us. Not only does God not spurn our abject selves, he will wrap us in his abundant mercy and steadfast love. True repentance can call forth deep anguish. But offering God our shattered hearts and crushed spirits (phrases that also occur in Psalm 51) is a first and necessary step towards wholeness.
Lord God, help me to trust in your loving response when I cry to you with the pain of my sinfulness, and heal my broken spirit.Amen.
For today’s readings, click here.
[Editors’ note: This is part of a daily Lenten reflection series. Sign up for our America Today newsletter to receive each reflection every day in your inbox.]