Thursday – Cleansing Water, New Heart, New Spirit
In today's first reading, God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel and promises to one day cleanse His people and give them a new heart and a new spirit. Let's look at this in more detail.
First, God will sprinkle clean water upon the people in order to remove their impurities and free them from their idols. We Christians recognize this as a prophecy of Baptism, by which God washes away all sin, both original and personal; fills baptized souls with sanctifying grace, which is none other than God's own presence; and makes them adopted children of God and heirs of the covenant.
Second, God promises to give His people a new heart. Hearts steeped in sin are hard and impenetrable like stone. But the heart that God provides is soft and pliable and human in the best sense of the word. It is capable of great love because it allows Love to penetrate it.
Finally, the new spirit that God pledges to His people is really His very own Spirit. We Christians identify the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, Who does indeed write God's law on our hearts that we may obey Him with love.
Cleansing water, a new heart, and a new spirit. What amazing gifts our God gives us!
Friday – Two Commandments
Jesus is really the best teacher ever. In today's Gospel, He summarizes the entire Law and all the prophets in two short but powerful commandments: 1. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” and 2. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
These two commandments are all about love: love of God, love of neighbor, and even proper love of one's self. They invite us to examine what we think about love. What is love? Is it merely emotion? Is it giving others everything all the time and agreeing with them in everything? Is it physical desire? No. This kind of love is about total self-giving. It's about willing the absolute best for another and then helping that other achieve the best.
When we love God, we give ourselves to Him totally. We place our lives in His hands and trust Him to care for us in the best possible way. We follow His laws because they are designed for our good, and we respect His authority over us.
When we love others, we will the very best for them, and we do what we can to help them attain it. That may mean taking a “tough love” approach and telling people they are on a dangerous path of sin. It may mean meeting their physical and/or emotional needs in some concrete way if we are able. It always means praying for them that God may pour out His grace upon them and that they may open their hearts to receive it.
Love is always about giving, giving ourselves to God and giving as much as we can to others that they may have the very best. Lord Jesus, help us to love and to fulfill Your two beautiful commandments.
Saturday – God Dwells With Us
In the Old Covenant, God made the Temple His dwelling place on earth as He said to the prophet Ezekiel: “Son of man, this is where My throne shall be, this is where I will set the soles of My feet; here I will dwell among the children of Israel forever.”
But now those of us who have accepted the New Covenant experience God's presence in new and marvelous ways. God dwells with us even more intimately than He did with the Israelites in the Temple. He dwells with us in the Holy Eucharist where He is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. But even more amazingly, when we are in a state of grace, God dwells within our souls. Think about that for a moment. God is within us. God is present to us in a very real way. We are His temple, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16. He lives with us 24/7. We can talk to Him any time we want and be assured that He hears us.
Brother Lawrence, a 17th century lay brother who lived in a French monastery, encouraged all people to practice the presence of God. By recalling God's presence continually, placing himself in God's hands, and talking to God often throughout the day, Brother Lawrence received peace and joy far beyond what most people experience. He constantly remembered and received great assurance from the fact that, indeed, God dwells with us.
To read Brother Lawrence's writings on practicing the presence of God, please visit http://www.ccel.org/ccel/lawrence/practice.