The passage in the lessons today that I focus on in this reflection is in the Psalm reading: “Give me back the joy of your salvation and a willing spirit sustain in me.” I am convinced that God calls us to repentance for our own good, not because he just wants to straighten us out. God wants most of all for us to be happy and to feel sustained joy. That can only come from a clean heart and a steadfast spirit, and that is what God wants from us in return for securing our salvation. It seems easy, but we know it is not. The Old Testament is filled with stories of God’s people seeking happiness and security in all the wrong places. They looked to idols and they hardened their hearts to God and each other. We have our own 21st century idols and cold and stony hearts are everywhere to be found, even in our own bodies. But the stories in the Bible reveal that God never gives up on God’s people. As God’s chronic heart and stroke patients, God puts new hearts and new spirits within us on a regular basis.
So the Gospel lesson today fits us. We try to attend the wedding feast of life without the proper garment. God wants us to honor God and the Kingdom of heaven by responding fully to the invitation and putting on the appropriate demeanor … in this case, contrition and humility. So I have been pondering lately what I need to do to respond to the invitation to enter the Kingdom of heaven and celebrate sustained joy in my life. I think each day I must confess my sins through a process of deep soul searching and each day offer my life to God in a state of greater humility. But it is difficult for me to connect humility with joy. Most of my Christian education has focused on trying to obey the commandments and practicing the sacraments. When I fall short, I feel contrite and humbled. When I stay on track, I feel pretty happy. So, not surprisingly, I have great difficulty connecting humility and contrition with joy.
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