Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday
Joel 2: 12-18; Psalm 51; 2 Corinthians 5:20–6:20; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18




Have you ever had your heart broken?

  • the death of a pet when a child, perhaps;
  • a crush, that first experience in adolescence or college of falling in love that seems so overwhelming, abruptly ended or not;
  • a marriage that is eroded, whether you were paying attention or not, and is now over;
  • a friend’s betrayal;
  • the death of a daughter or son, at whatever age;
  • a lengthy, rich friendship slipped out of our hands at the death of a spouse.

Your chest tightens. Your heart hurts. It can be difficult to catch your breath. The tears well up – held back so as not to admit the pain of your mixed feelings of anger, being decieved, sadness, emptiness. In Luke’s Passion narrative, it is summed up in a ‘look’. “Just as Peter was saying: “I do not know him”, the cock crowed, and Jesus turned and looked at Peter…” whose heart into turn was broken as “Peter went out and began to weep bitterly.” [See Luke 22:60-62]

A broken heart is painful. Hearts are broken over relationships.

We have to wonder when the people of Israel asked the prophet Samuel to appoint a king over them as other nations had, was God’s response that of a broken heart? “Grant the people’s every request. It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.” [1 Samuel 8:4-7] Does our God know the breaking of a heart? Is Jesus the fruit of a divine broken heart?

God’s voice cries out through the prophet Joel: “Rend your hearts, not your garments,…”

Tear open your hearts! Reveal the pain and darkness, the hurts and betrayals, the rejections and sin. The divine broken heart deeply desires to heal the wounds of our hearts. Our hearts are to be broken not because we have been betrayed but because, like Peter, we have betrayed. We have betrayed God.  We have betrayed others.  We have betrayed what is best in us.  God invites us, in the words of Pope Francis, to look beyond, to focus on the heart to see how much generosity everyone is capable of. No one can be excluded from the mercy of God. Do not forget that God forgives all, and God forgives always. Let us never tire of asking forgiveness.” [Pope Francis, homily, 13 March 2015]

And so we pray:
A clean heart, [a healed heart] create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. [Psalm 51:12]

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