March 13 / First Wednesday of Lent
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. ~Ps 51: 2, 10
Anyone who has been fortunate enough to live with a two-year-old knows that the drive towards doing it yourself begins early in life. Pulling a mismatched shirt and shorts out of her drawer, the intransigent toddler insists on dressing herself for preschool. Grabbing the hand-held shower head in the bathtub, the determined tyke demands to rinse the shampoo out of his own fine locks. As we grow up, we carry on in like fashion, wanting desperately to take the reins (or the wheel) ourselves. Now of course, the notion that “if it is to be, it is up to me” works well in many areas of our lives as we seek to make the world better, or simply to get things done. It is less applicable, however, when it comes to setting things right with God. Acknowledging our sins is critical, and so is making ourselves accountable to God (and in many cases, to those we’ve sinned against). But as the grammar of today’s verses teaches us, absolution remains firmly in God’s hands. Back in the private boudoir of Psalm 51 (or so I imagine it, tucked away in a corner of the household of King David, the legendary author of the Psalms), the poet issues forth his pleas, begging his Lord to erase his transgressions. Knowing that God alone can forgive, he willingly hands the shower head over so that he might be scrubbed clean (and the Hebrew verbs for washing and cleansing here imply vigorous action, not gentle rinsing!). If we truly repent, not only will God wash us clean, he will make our hearts new, and our spirits right, and send us back out into the world, strengthened, restored and possibly even a bit wiser than we were, to try again.
All-merciful Lord, cleanse my heart, wash my spirit, and renew my soul through your steadfast love.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.]