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The Humblest Heart

First Reading: Deuteronomy 31:1-8

When Moses had finished speaking to all Israel, he said to them, “I am now one hundred and twenty years old and am no longer able to move about freely; besides, the LORD has told me that I shall not cross this Jordan. It is the LORD, your God, who will cross before you; he will destroy these nations before you, that you may supplant them. It is Joshua who will cross before you, as the LORD promised. The LORD will deal with them just as he dealt with Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites whom he destroyed, and with their country. When, therefore, the LORD delivers them up to you, you must deal with them exactly as I have ordered you. Be brave and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them, for it is the LORD, your God, who marches with you; he will never fail you or forsake you.” Then Moses summoned Joshua and in the presence of all Israel said to him, “Be brave and steadfast, for you must bring this people into the land which the LORD swore to their fathers he would give them; you must put them in possession of their heritage. It is the LORD who marches before you; he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed.”

Responsorial Psalm: Deuteronomy 32:3-4AB, 7, 8, 9 & 12

The portion of the Lord is his people. For I will sing the LORD’s renown. Oh, proclaim the greatness of our God! The Rock–how faultless are his deeds, how right all his ways! Think back on the days of old, reflect on the years of age upon age. Ask your father and he will inform you, ask your elders and they will tell you. When the Most High assigned the nations their heritage, when he parceled out the descendants of Adam, He set up the boundaries of the peoples after the number of the sons of Israel. While the LORD’s own portion was Jacob, his hereditary share was Israel. The LORD alone was their leader, no strange god was with him.

Gospel: Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father. What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.  In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”

ESV

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Today is the feast of Saint Clare. When I was seventeen and visiting Assisi, I’d been impressed by her incorrupt body and her basilica’s striped facade. So I decided to take her as my confirmation patron (and be a little exotic about it by choosing Chiara, her Italian name).

Clare was raised in a wealthy and devout home in Assisi, and at eighteen, she heard St. Francis preach a Lenten service. A holier teen than me, she was so moved by the homily that she left her father’s house on Palm Sunday to join Francis. He cropped her hair and traded her gown for a rough habit. She convinced her father to let her stay in the convent, and later, she founded a new order. Her “Poor Ladies” lived life of such extreme poverty that they had to receive special permission from Saint Pope Gregory the Great to continue living so simply.

Even without considering her devotions and miracles, that’s a pretty incredible woman. Her radical trust in the providence of Christ reflects the example of the child in today’s Gospel. Clare lived with almost nothing, relying wholly on the Eucharist and her deep trust in Jesus. She truly became humble like a child, and I imagine she is spending eternity as she lived her life: close to the foot of the Lord.

No one had warned me that I was taking such a powerful woman as my patron saint, but I am so glad I did. As I stumble through my twenties with many questions of discernment, I am constantly asking, “How will I know when something is the right thing?” I think Saint Clare offers me at least part of the answer.

The right thing is the moment that shines right into my heart when it is open toward Christ. I may not run home from hearing a homily, ready to toss aside all I own, but I can be receptive and prepared to listen with a yes on my lips when I hear His call. Clare’s heart, primed from a childhood focused on God and resting in the Church, was listening and ready to be found.

Jesus looks for you and me the same way He was looking for Clare: He seeks each of us, ready to rejoice in us as the shepherd rejoices in his lost sheep. Only with humble hearts can we truly listen to hear the Shepherd calling.

Today, pray that your heart is humble and open to Jesus, and that you, like St. Clare, will turn to him when you hear his call.

Brigid Hogan loves the view of the Washington Monument from her apartment, her standing desk, the Green Bay Packers, and a good mystery. She tolerates taking the Metro to the office, where she works as a communications consultant. You can find out more about her here.

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