“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” Psalm 51:1
How many times have we found ourselves in difficult situations? Our desires pull us one way and the Word of God comes to us, reproaches us and then we see with clarity the evil we have done, the wrong choices we have made.
This is what happened to King David, God’s anointed, in today’s first reading. These last few days, we have been reading the life story of King David during Mass. We read how he was chosen by God even though he was the youngest of his family, how he overcame the giant Philistine without the weapons of war and how he was loyal and faithful to King Saul, even when Saul wanted to kill him. God was with him. God protected him. God anointed him King of Israel. Who could have asked for a better life?
Then David did something stupid. He allowed his desires to overcome his good life and his good works. He takes the wife of one of his military officers, makes her pregnant and then has her husband killed. Maybe we haven’t done exactly the same thing, but we have acted in similar ways. We have allowed our vices and desires to overcome our goodness, made bad choices and have had to live with the consequences.
God needed to remind David of what he did. God did this by sending the prophet, Nathan, to confront him, using a parable of good and evil. When David renounced the evil in the parable, then the prophet showed David his own guilt. David’s conscience then got the better of him and immediately began to do penance. One of our traditions says that David wrote the Psalms we pray between the Mass readings. His Psalm prayer for today’s Mass is: Create a clean heart in me, O God!
How do we go about creating a clean heart for ourselves? Like David, we may live in denial for a while. It can be so difficult to admit to our wrongdoing. The first step toward repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation is the acknowledgment of our sin and our responsibility for it. Hardly any of us ever make it that far on our own. Let us not turn a deaf ear to our conscience and let us not harden our hearts toward the grace of God, whose love brings forgiveness and communion. This is precisely the moment we need Jesus in our lives.
When we are tossed about in turmoil and turbulence, like the disciples were in the Gospel reading for today’s Mass, our inability to confront the storms in our lives, compel us to Jesus, afraid and frightened. Jesus will not only rebuke the storm but may rebuke us also for being people of little faith.
Creating a clean heart within us will take the courage to acknowledge our wrongdoing and the courage to turn to the only one who can forgive us, our loving God. Then, we, too, will be filled with great awe!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.