Make me a clean heart, O God: Religion Column

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 2, 2018

By Fr.Jonathan Filkins 

Most Christian churches include music in their worship. It is, by no means, a modern invention, with the roots based in the practices of the pre-Christian era.

About 1,000 years before the birth of Christ, King David wrote many songs, which we call the Psalms, to edify, remind and chastise those within reach. A devout Jew, and great leader, these writings have carried over to our days and remind us of our relationship with our Creator.

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From the fifty-first Psalm, “Make me a clean heart, O God, and stablish me with a clean spirit.”

It was the practice of the Jews to take a ritual bath before entering the Temple. It not only indicated the physical cleansing of the body, but an inclusion of washing of the inward parts of the heart and mind.

It has often been compared in removing the “dust of the road; both of the physical and the “dust” of life.

Many of today’s catholic churches have water stoops. These are small basins, usually found near the entrance, where the devout will dip in their fingers and then make the sign of the cross.

In the act, they too are acknowledging the need to remove the detritus of their lives, as they bring themselves to God.

So often, we hear from the pulpit, the necessity of cleansing our spiritual selves.

It may be that we get tired of the repetition. For, after all, we consider ourselves to be a “good person,” and don’t go out of our way to hurt anyone. We acknowledge that this all gets so tiring.

After all, are not the Gospel’s the “Good News?” Why all of the doom and gloom?

Consider our earlier days and in our youth.

Consider those we have encountered, or those we have had some role in their upbringing. In either case we may well remember our encounters with outright resistance to the notion of cleanliness.

As children, we had far too much going on to tale the dreaded bath; feeling that we were clean enough.

As adults, we too have a certain resistance to cleanliness. Now, it may not be imparted to our exteriors in our over-heated climate forcing the necessity of a quick wash.

However, just because the exterior has a squeaky gleam, the interior may be in need of a good flush.

Let us acknowledge the music, of our lives, does not come from our exteriors.

While our outer selves may sing a song of beauty and grace, the inward parts take much greater work and discipline.

Of course, “out of sight, out of mind,” is a frequent justification.

Perhaps, if we ignore it long enough, it all will just go away.

As God, through Jesus Christ, is always present and always with each of us, the answer is not to ignore the message, but to seek the courage and strength to cleanse our errant interior selves; where is really counts.

We are called to sing a new “song,” in our hearts each day, with the exquisite cleansing voice of our Creator echoing gently in our hearts, in all that we are and do.