The image from our first reading, of God writing his law on our hearts, is very consoling and meant to encourage us.
The image of writing could call to mind one complication. That is, if we are honest with ourselves we all could probably admit that we may not always be the best medium for God to write on. We might not always cooperate with the Lord when he wants to fulfill his “writing assignment,” which is one way you might describe God’s work of writing his law on our hearts.
Now here’s another complication. Even the simple term, “to write,” or the image of “writing,” might call to mind very different things for people here in church today. Across the generations represented here, for instance, we have very different experiences of what it means to write. Those differences came to mind with this past week having been spring break.
You see, one young lady’s spring break involved a challenge and a bit of a chore. Her grade school has a very rigorous and advanced writing program. So even though it was spring break, she had an assignment of writing a journal to be able to give a report of what she did during break.
At first, she figured that would be a piece of cake. You know, she’d just keep track of what she was doing on her laptop. And since she’d be texting all her friends to update them on what she’d be doing all week, she could save those messages. Then she’d upload the text messages to her laptop, cut-and-paste those together with the journal she’d be keeping, have her document-writing software edit it all, and just print it.
Then she had to face the fact that her spring break was to be spent way out in what she considers the middle of nowhere in eastern Oregon with her great-grandparents who wouldn’t know a computer from a space shuttle.
And so she gets there, and there’s no computer. There’s no ability to get or send calls or text messages using her cell phone. See, no satellites are close enough because she’s out “in the middle of nowhere.” Certainly there’s no wi-fi; there’s nothing! But she’s got to keep this assignment, and so she has to struggle with this ancient, antiquated technology called “pen and paper.” And she’s struggling and making mistakes and crossing things out and crumpling up the paper.
Her great-grandfather is watching this with great amusement. Finally he says, “Little Dearie, why are you having such a hard time with this writing assignment?”
And she picks up the pad of paper and says, “Great-grandpa, I can’t figure this out. Where’s spell-check on this thing?”
Just like that uncooperative and difficult writing medium that the young lady faced, we might cause the same difficult writing experience for the Lord, as He pursues the on-going project of writing his law on our hearts.
Of course, God has nothing wrong with his ability to write his law, but we offer resistance. Somehow, what God is trying to write just won’t stick to the surface of our hearts. And so we’re invited to apply this image to see that the Lord in his compassion and, quite literally, his timeless patience does not give up on us. He continues to write. He realizes that in fulfilling his prophecy to write his law on our hearts, the first time he writes it is not going to be the final draft and the final version.
God knows that he’s likely to keep rewriting and revising, cutting and pasting, deleting sections or sometimes doing a “select all” and deleting that and starting all over again if he’s in, say, computer mode. If he’s in old-fashioned mode, he’s ready to go through reams and reams of paper and boat-loads of cover-up correcting liquid. He’s prepared to do lots of crossing-out or writing in ever smaller print between lines of what he’s already written.
Here’s another image to consider. The Lord may be writing his law on our hearts, and then we sin. We give in to some temptation, and that creates a spot on our hearts, so to speak. When God is writing and comes to that spot, it might be just like if you’re writing on paper and you come across a grease stain or some other kind of smudge, and you can’t write across that part of the page.
Now even though God comes across those hard-to-write-on spots, he is extremely and unbelievably patient with us. He knows that the fulfillment of his law being written on each of our hearts may involve millions of drafts, perhaps, with lots of revisions and times of starting over. But he never gives up on us and encourages us never to give up on ourselves, and therefore not to give up on one another. Let’s always look at one another with the sense belief that God is in the process of writing his law on our hearts.
Each one of us is in some version of draft sixteen or draft twenty thousand or whatever. And the Lord is still writing. He is still in the process, as our Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15) said, of creating clean hearts in us. It’s a creative process that takes time and is not just over in the snap of fingers.
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