Another First Friday, another nag – at least that’s how I feel about it. No, the priest wasn’t nagging us at Mass this morning; it was me, nagging God again. It seems that every time I receive Jesus in Holy Communion, every time I go to Adoration, every time I pray the Litany of the Most Sacred Heart, I hear myself nagging God with these words: “Change me, Lord.”
I can’t stop, although it isn’t as if He’s never obliged me. I’ve been a Christian since my infant baptism, a Catholic for nearly 11 years now, and I’m still here, stuck in the mud. God has worked in amazing ways, delivering me from sins I felt doomed to commit and recommit, teaching me to trust and obey more profoundly, granting that I might grow and mature in faith, hope and love – in other words, making possible truly undeserved progress in my spiritual life! And yet I’m still here, stuck in the mud of my self-absorption.
All of those wonderful, undeserved graces, all the deliverance, all the progress – it’s not enough, because I’m still not like Jesus. When people look at me, they still don’t see Him.
And so I nag, “Change me, Lord! I don’t want much – just holiness!” Snatches from the Psalms float through my brain, the ancient cries of folks in distress:
O God, hasten to deliver me; O LORD, hasten to my help! Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer! Give ear to my words, O LORD, and consider my groaning! Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray! In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. To You, O LORD, I call! My rock, do not be deaf to me, for if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary. Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power! Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth! Give ear to my prayer, O God, and do not hide Yourself from my supplication! Give heed to me and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and am surely distracted. Hear my cry, O God! Give heed to my prayer! From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint!
Nag, nag, nag – at least I’ve got Biblical precedent! Jesus Himself endorsed the persistent widow, nagging the judge into seeing things her way. In the presence of His Most Sacred Heart in the Eucharist, I can’t help but blurt out to Jesus my importuning. I need you to change me!! Fortunately, the Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart gives words to my longing:
As I consecrate myself to You, I ask You to create in me a new heart, one which will be free from sin and filled with compassion and love for all people.
A new heart – yeah, that’s the ticket! That’s what I need!!
And He knows it, better than I do….
That’s why the devotion is there for me, every First Friday: another chance to kneel in Adoration, another opportunity to gaze upon the Heart that so loved the world, another opening for my pesky little squeaks of a prayer to ascend with the incense before the altar. Believe it or not, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is a tried-and-true spiritual principle! As a very saintly man once advised:
Do not ever lose heart when the tempest rages; place all your trust in the Heart of the most gentle Jesus. Pray and I might add, devoutly pester the divine Heart. St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Change me, Lord!
On the memorial of Bls. Anselmo Polanco Fontecha and Felipe Ripoll Morata
Deo omnis gloria!