Blessed and Broken

Ash Wednesday 2017

This morning, still hoping to cobble together a new thought about the forty days ahead from my books and journals and half-written, reformulated iterations of Lenten wisdom, it occurred to me that I am attempting, inelegantly, to freshen up what has already been so perfectly delivered.

There are only a few days in the liturgical year when the readings never change. Ash Wednesday is one of them. Year after year the Prophet Joel tells us to rend our hearts and return to the Lord [Joel 2:12-18]. St. Paul exhorts the Corinthian community (and all contemporary Christians) to reconcile with God and not take our redemption through Christ in vain, [2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2] and Jesus instructs his followers on the right way to give alms, the purpose of prayer and fasting, and the Father’s awareness of it all.  [Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18].

Rending one’s heart is ripping it open. Reconciliation demands humility. Almsgiving is a sacrifice. Prayer takes time and fasting is painful and at times both may seem pointless. The choice to change our ways is never easy, but God sees it all and rewards us with even greater Grace to do it all again.

In a Lenten homily given to the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires one month before he was elected Pope, then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio said:

“Rend your hearts, so that through that crack we can really look at ourselves.

Rend your hearts, open your hearts, because only in a broken and open heart can the merciful love of God enter, who loves and heals us.

Rend your hearts says the prophet, and Paul asks us almost on his knees “be reconciled with God.” To change one’s way of living is the sign and fruit of this broken and reconciled heart by a love that surpasses us.

This is the invitation, given the many wounds that harm us and that can lead us to the temptation of hardening us: Rend your hearts to experience in silent and serene prayer the gentleness of God’s tenderness.

Rend your hearts to be able to love with the love with which we are loved, to console with the consolation that consoles us and to share what we have received.”[1]

Yes, let’s rend our hearts, and have a blessed and broken Lent, dear readers.

Today’s readings can be found here. 


[1] Read a translation of the entire homily here

Author: Susan Francesconi

Catholic blogger, liturgical art consultant, citizen of the world, and student of life striving to generate something good.

7 thoughts on “Blessed and Broken”

  1. It goes counter to our instincts to recognize the value of a broken heart, humility, and pain, but in my experience nothing else would have worked. This Lent will be a good time for me to recommit to the true nature of my baptismal vows, and try to be more faithful as a Christian.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right! I don’t know if you will agree with this analogy but I think we tend, as a people, to spend our lives building a fortress which we mortar with busyness and self-sufficiency. But when the cracks form, and they always do, our attempts to patch them usually fail unless we allow God’s grace to enter us–kind of a divine “admixture,” to continue the metaphor.


  2. Rend, yes. There is a time for that, but it strikes me as too dramatic this time around. I get it, I do. I see the logic of it. For my heart, I’m going to add a couple of letters – rend+er – and rest there for the time being.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice! I like the idea of rend+er-ing one’s heart, as in re+turning it, or even re+new-ing, is that what you mean? Your recent writing,, (linked here for anyone who wishes to read its loveliness) speaks to this. We can also add sur and we have sur+rend+er. In Lent (or any time) the act of surrender seems a romantic gesture towards returning to God. All of these rendings, renderings, surrenderings make me think about the word humility and my need for more of it. Ah, words. Beautiful words.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s exactly it! Love the sur+rend+er addition, too.

        Curious, though, about your characterisation of return to God as ‘romantic’? Could you say more about this?


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