Fr. Britto's Blog

Create in Me a Clean Heart

In three days we will celebrate Ash Wednesday. The ashes we receive remind us that we want to put on an attitude of humble submission and sincere sorrow. The word used in the Scriptures for conversion is “metanoia” which means “change of heart.” The project of Lent is all about change – change of heart, change of attitude and change of behavior. During this time of grace, we seek to move away from our sinful ways and align ourselves with the standards of the Gospel.

There is a well-known personage in the Bible who really understood the beauty of the gift of God’s forgiveness. King David not only committed adultery but also murdered the husband to cover up his crime. When Prophet Nathan brought him to his senses, the king confessed his sin. As a mark of his conversion, David composed one of the most moving prayers in the Sacred Scriptures, known as the “Miserere”. We recite that prayer often during the season of Lent.

The opening lines of that prayer – also known as Psalm 51 – go like this: “Have mercy on me, O God, in your kindness, and blot out my offense! My sin is always before me.” As we enter into this season of grace, we need to pray Psalm 51 both communally and individually. Let us use these forty days to become aware of our sins and to run to God’s boundless mercy. With King David let us cry out: “Create in me a clean heart, O God!” This is what opening our hearts to the Lord means. Recognizing our sinfulness, we are ready to open our hearts to His grace and forgiveness. It is in that spirit of conversion that during Lenten Masses we kneel and confess our sins. We approach the Eucharist with contrite and humble hearts.

During this time we will have many opportunities to welcome the Lord into our lives in more serious ways. There are opportunities for prayer. In addition to our daily and weekend Masses, on Fridays we will have adoration (following the 8:30 am Mass) and Stations in the evening. We will recite the Rosary together on the Feast of the Annunciation. Following the lead of our Holy Father, we will honor St Joseph with a special prayer service on March 18th, the eve of his feast. We will also celebrate a special Mass on March 13th to remember and pray for all those who have been adversely impacted by the pandemic. In union with the sufferings of Jesus, we will lift up all those in pain, especially those who died from the virus. We will continue to make sacrifices in order to help the Purepecha Indigenous community in Mecca, CA, build a new church. Once we get a better sense of the situation in the country and state, we will announce the schedule for Holy Week and Easter.

Usually during Lent I preach one or more Lenten Missions in various parishes. Whenever I preach a mission, I remind people that our growth in holiness or our spiritual life is not about what we do. It is about stepping out of the way and allowing God to take over our lives. The first step in that process is to realize how deeply this God loves us. I firmly believe that our God not only loves us; He is in love with us. When we are children, we relate to God as children. Just as we interact with our parents, we try to win God’s approval by good behavior and good deeds. As we get to be adults, we realize that God’s love is not won; it is a given. As grownups, in our spiritual life we must graduate from a filial relationship to a romance with God. Once we fall in love with the Lord, our whole spiritual life will change. Prayer, faith, surrender to God’s will, joy and many other aspects of our relationship with God will completely transform. 

God is madly in love with us. He is passionate about us. He orchestrates everything for our maximum benefit. Even if I were the only person in the world, God would not love me any differently. The great St Augustine said these memorable words in this regard: “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” 

If God loves us romantically, we need to love Him the same way. Let us implore the Holy Spirit to enable us to fall in love with the Lord. I will leave you with the words of Padre Arrupe who used to be the Superior General of the Jesuits. Here are his words:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

Let us avail ourselves of all these opportunities to bring about true conversion within ourselves. May we come to Easter with clean hearts and steadfast spirits! 

Who is Fr. Britto?

Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.

After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...

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