OLD TESTAMENT READING [EXODUS 17: 3 – 7] indicates for me that the hearts of the people were no longer in the journey they had been called to make. Immediately we see the link between our Exodus reading and TODAY’S PSALM [95 or 94]. “O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts.”

Is my heart still into Lent?

Here is the question I must ask myself as I begin this third week of my own Lenten journey.

His (her) heart is (was) not in it

. We must have heard this adage a good few times during our lives. It always applies to one of three things (and sometimes a combination of them all); (i) a remote / disinterested involvement which was merely a going through the motions; (ii) a purely external execution of the routine; or (iii) the reason for failure in the commitment / undertaking.

In this context it may be useful to recall that Lent began with an appeal from the very heart of God himself. “Return to me with all your heart … tear your hearts and not your garments.”

{the first reading of Ash Wednesday – JOEL 2: 12 – 18}

The journey the Israelites were called to make through the desert to the Promised Land was essentially a journey of faith. We have been called to make the Lenten journey – a call we heard and accepted when we were marked with the Ashes. Were our hearts really in it? Are our hearts still in it?

WE ARE MORE THAN WHAT GOES ON IN OUR MINDS. We are always more than what we think we are. The head and the heart must work in harmony. Against this background I have found the following extract both helpful and creative:

“The journey of faith and belief is intimately connected to the heart. … To believe, to have faith, is to have your heart in something. The most personal and exciting journey that you can make in terms of your heart is the journey of faith. Here, mind and heart work together as you journey into your God. They are, if you like, your privileged guides. Together, they enable you to find and chart your unique path through life. Just as two eyes give you perspective in landscapes, your mind and heart working in tandem allow you that perspective, which you need to find your own way. … Our ideas are important, vital even, but they are not everything. ”

{Michael A Conway: quoted in The Furrow: November 2016: Page 584}

All of this basic thought is clearly outlined for us in the challenge that Saint Paul provides in

TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [romans 5: 1 – 2. 5 – 8]. “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts … but God shows his love for us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Where does hope find its basic foundation? In the mind or in the heart – surely it is in the heart? God’s love for us that he died for us, where does this really touch and penetrate us? It is sterile if limited only to the mind. Further on in the same Letter Paul writes that “the word is near you; it is upon your lips and in your heart … in your heart the faith that God raised him from the dead … the faith … that is in your heart …” {10: 8 – 10}. Do I actually FEEL something real in the fact that Christ died for ME?

Now we need to reflect on the connection between the hope that does not disappoint and the word expectation. Real hope which must always have the characteristic of reality gives rise to an expectation. My Lenten hope must be accompanied by an expectation that it is realistically possible for me to achieve something positive, creative and worthwhile, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, as a result of my personal Lenten Journey.

If we look at

TODAY’S GOSPEL READING [JOHN 4: 5 – 42] we should be able to recognise, among other things, the importance and value of allowing ourselves (as well as creating) opportunities to have a few heart-to-heart conversations (not monologues) with the Lord. Jesus is never in a hurry and is not ‘into’ rushed, passing, chitchats. The woman says to him “I know that the Messiah is coming; when he comes, he will show us all things.” Here is real hope because it is founded on a certain and clear expectation. The Lord’s reply is both clear, direct and personal – “I who speak to you am he.”

Study the entire conversation. There is no hurry in the open and honest exchange which covers a number of issues. What emerges is that the woman’s heart was involved – her heart was in it! However, the conversation was an honest and open one.

My heart must be IN this Lent

. My efforts will provide me with the means to draw water from the Well. I need to hear for myself and know that he is, indeed the Saviour of the world. However, I must not harden my heart.

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