A Heart, Soft and Tractable

Emily Glicksman // Scripture: A Mother's Lens


March 3  

It is not thou that shapest God; it is God that shapeth thee. For then, thou are the work of God, waiting the hand of the artist who does all things in due season. Offer him thy heart, soft and tractable, and keep the form in which the artist has shapen thee. Let thy clay be moist, lest thou grow hard and lose the imprint of his fingers.”─ St. Irenaeus of Lyon

Although this prayer has moved me deeply for years, I have let my heart grow hard, nonetheless. This hardheartedness came on gradually and developed as a defense mechanism so that I would not be hurt or annoyed or disappointed. And perhaps I was somewhat protected from these injuries, but I was also rendered unable to see the good in the other, unable to love as I should. 

On this Sunday in Lent, there are two possible Gospels you might hear, yet both apply to the theme of hardness of heart, albeit in totally opposite ways.

The Gospel accompanying the scrutinies is the well-known account of Jesus’ righteous anger when he encounters the merchants and money-changers in the Temple. These men have taken a sacred space and used it for their own material advancement. They have hardened their hearts to the mystery of God. Even when the God-Man himself comes into the Temple, they are unable to truly see and encounter him. Their hard hearts blind them to the presence of the Lord.

The other Gospel describes a very different encounter with the Lord, that of the Samaritan woman. Like the money-changers, she is not living a good life (by living with a man to whom she is not married); however, her heart is open to the presence of the Lord. When he reveals what he knows about her life and offers her living water, she is convicted and hurries to tell the whole town about what she has heard. Her soft and tractable heart attunes her to the truth. Because she has continued to bear the imprint of the master, she hears his voice and answers his call.  

Lent is a good time to check the state of our hearts. Like the money-changers, are we entrenched in activities or mindsets that make us immune to the presence of the Lord? Or are we like the Samaritan woman, ready to encounter him and make the needed changes to live more fully?

The hard clay of my own heart, while not yet fully soft and supple, has been worked upon by the Holy Spirit through painful experiences and needed changes so that the fingerprints of the master might again be seen. I am grateful for these moments of upheaval as they have allowed me to see more clearly my Lord in those around me. 

And, so, with great hope that any hardness of heart we might find in ourselves can be kneaded out by the Holy Spirit, we pray along with the psalmist: 

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts  (Ps 95).

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