Posted by: Thomas Richard | February 27, 2016

Thoughts in this time of Lent

Catholics who pray the Liturgy of the Hours in this time of Lent can recite, with the Invitatory Prayer, the antiphon: “Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.” Just repeat that antiphon – out loud – slowly – and listen to the words!

“Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.”

There is so very much spiritual power in this brief and simple exhortation! The spiritual power I speak of, which is at risk for the possibly inattentive human heart, is the power of the voice of the Lord – the power of His Word – the power of His Spirit – power to effect conversion, life-giving transformation, supernatural renovation in the soul. The antiphon can be found in Scripture in Psalm 95, and is quoted in the Letter to the Hebrews – similar exhortations are found in other places in Scripture as well.

Ps 95: 7b … Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
8 Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah,
as on the day of Massah in the desert.
9 There your ancestors tested me;
they tried me though they had seen my works.
10 Forty years I loathed that generation;
I said: “This people’s heart goes astray;
they do not know my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my anger:
“They shall never enter my rest.”

This portion of the psalm points us to the trial of the Israelites in the wilderness, as they went their way under the leadership of Moses and Arron – thirsty for water in the desert, and untrusting of God in their understandable desert thirst. “Meribah,” and “Massah” indeed mean “the place of strife, of quarreling”, and “the place of the test,” respectively, and that place and that event was thus named in the verse, “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert”. God gave them water – water from a rock, and “the Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor 10:4)

The lesson is clear for us, today. The water is the Holy Spirit, and the Rock is Christ the Lord. From Him the Spirit is out-poured to mankind, out-poured through His Cross, and that Holy Spirit brings His life to humanity. From the death of Christ flows life for humanity – eternal, unending life even now – for men in the desert of a world of sin and hardness of heart.

The Spirit has a mission, which includes this promised by Jesus to His own, in His last hours before His last hour, and the Passion of His Self-offering: “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” (Jn 16:13) This truth includes, specifically, truth concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

Jn 16:8 And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation:
9 sin, because they do not believe in me;
10 righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me;
11 condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

In this way, the Spirit can lead a believer into life – the life of Christ – and out of the death of this world, a world condemned in the light of His holy truth. If we will listen! If we will “harden not our hearts”! If we will become “convicted” concerning our sins, “convicted” concerning sin in us, in the Church, in the world. If we will become convicted – and convinced – concerning His righteousness, and our call into His righteousness, and we grow in a life-long journey into His holiness, for His name’s sake. In this way, in the guiding and leading of the Holy Spirit, we can turn from the world condemned because of sin, and turn to salvation unto life in Christ.

If we will listen, and hear, and turn: “Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.” The Spirit speaks to us today, in the voice of conscience, in the quiet of our hearts, in the solitude of prayer, in the truth of Jesus Christ and His grace. We read in the Letter to the Hebrews,

Heb 3:12 Take care, brothers, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God.
13 Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin.
14 We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end,
15 for it is said:
“Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion.’”


Responses

  1. Thanks, Thomas, for these thoughts in this time of Lent. Every day is an “acceptable time” but Lent is especially given to us by the Church to repent of all that is not conforming us to Christ. We are to “rend our hearts” and not our garments. We need to make clean the inside of the cup, to purify our hearts.

    As you pointed out:

    The Spirit has a mission, which includes this promised by Jesus to His own, in His last hours before His last hour, and the Passion of His Self-offering: “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” (Jn 16:13)

    Too few listen to Jesus deeply enough in their hearts. Too many prefer “opinions” of the world which seem so much easier to assimilate. Mary, Mother and Model for the Church, kept all that Jesus said and did in her heart. She pondered and prayerfully kept His Word so she might obey God’s Will faithfully. May we learn from Jesus as Mary did, by the power of the Holy Spirit to love and do our Father’s Will in Jesus.

  2. Thank you for a great reflection during this time of lent.
    I love this season as it helps us to look deeply inside ourselves and hear the word of God, realizing the outpouring of love He gave us on the crucifix.
    Let us continue to follow him and hear His word as we go about our day.
    Betty

  3. Hey Thomas, as always a beautiful blog. Thank you for sharing with us all that our Lord gives to you. “Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.” I pray today for all those who may hear the Lord, but do not listen because of the “stuff” in this world. Susan

  4. The Rock in the desert is Christ and the Water which flowed from the rock that was struck is the Holy Spirit that gives life to God’s people dying of thirst.
    My mind is absolutely blown! I never put that together before, wow, just… wow – thank you for that insight Sir. I love contemplating these Old Testament writings that point to Jesus as true as a compass’ needle.

    • Hello Charles,
      Thank you for your comment. And thank you for your gratitude, in writing “thank you for that insight Sir”! But the gratitude is due to God for the wisdom entrusted to the Church, through and guided by the Holy Spirit! The Spirit led Paul to see, and inspired him to write:

      1Cor 10:1 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea,
      2 and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
      3 All ate the same spiritual food,
      4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ.

      And since he is speaking of a “spiritual drink” that flowed from a “spiritual rock” that was the Christ, we find that what was to flow from Christ was both blood and water: the blood of redemption, and the water of the Holy Spirit. I hope these Scriptural passages show this clearly. First,

      John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

      Only through His death, could He send to us the Holy Spirit! He told the disciples, before His death:

      John 16:5 But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’
      6 But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts.
      7 But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

      IF! Ah, the mysteries of God and His ways!

      And then, this water is the type of the Holy Spirit to flow from the Passion of Christ:

      John 1:33 I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

      John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

      John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
      John 4:11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water?

      John 4:13 Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again,
      John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

      John 7:38 He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'”

      Blessings in Him,

      Thomas


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