“O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”
“Shouldn’t that crush our hearts and make us bow our heads in an endless sorrow? Shouldn’t that bring all human beings who believe that life is worth living together in a common contrition and a public penance? Shouldn’t that bring us finally to a confession that we as a people have sinned and need forgiveness and healing?” (Henri Nouwen)
Henri Nouwen gives this quote in the context of having a contrite heart. A contrite heart is a humble, confessing and repenting heart. Contrition is good but what is not good is too much individual focus. Nouwen writes, “But if the catastrophical events of our days, the wars, mass murders, unbridled violence, crowded prisons, torture chambers, the hunger and illness of millions of people and the unnamable misery of a major part of the human race is safely kept outside the solitude of our hearts, our contrition remains no more than a pious emotion.”
We have to let some of the pain in. We have to allow the condition of the human race to penetrate our hardened hearts so that we re-discover the real value of this life God has blessed us with. It is in the solitude of our hearts where we most need to re-connect with the human race and lift its fallen condition before a holy God.
I’m guilty, how about you? How often do I come across the pain and suffering of my fellow human beings and choose to steel my heart so that it doesn’t penetrate to my core? What am I afraid of?
I’ll tell you exactly what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid I’ll be able to see nothing else. I’m afraid I’ll have to walk away from my own life for one minute and help another. I’m afraid I’ll be changed and that the change will be painful. I’m afraid I’ll have to give up my own version of happiness. I’m afraid I won’t know where to stop. I’m afraid there won’t be enough of me to really help. I’m afraid I’ll have to act like a Christian and live the life God has called me to.
I say I value life but do I? I say sin is sin but am I really willing say I am sinful?
Here’s the truth in this matter: we are members of the human race and, in some way, we are responsible for what does and does not happen. We own the human condition together. Do I think I’m better than those who are suffering on the other side of the world? How about those people on the other side of the block? I am not above the human condition. I am a part of the human race and I have a part in confessing the sins of my race. We all do. It’s a collective contrition. What would happen if Christians actually cared for the world they live in? What would happen if we truly lifted one another up in prayer deep in the solitude of our hearts? Could a world be changed for the better? Could we find the faith with which to move a mountain of humanity?
Oh Lord, break through to the inner core of my heart and, there, allow enough of the pain and suffering of this world to flow in to move me towards understanding my role in the human race and towards the action I need to provide to the world around me.