I admire those of you who keep steady and committed Lenten observance.
I feel like my work in music ministry keeps me mindful, but if I wasn’t singing, I might get distracted and fall off the journey. I have no problem with the fasting part. It is the whole change of heart part that challenges me. My Lenten reality is not desert enough. Life is busy and hectic. And yet, the psalms continue to point me in the right direction: “O that today you would listen to his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Our hearts are so hardened by our way of life these days. I find myself scrolling through social media reading about conflicts between Hollywood elite or royalty. Why do I go to places where my heart can be hardened? I want a clean heart. I want to stand at the foot of the cross with my heart cleansed, ready to celebrate the empty tomb on Easter morning. So, I ask myself, where can I listen to his voice? The answer is: It is everywhere.

I attended a celebration of the life of a beloved leader in the Catholic Education community here in Ottawa. Mike was a joyous human being who touched the lives of thousands of people. I left this gathering with a softer heart. The stories of his life and how fully he lived left me inspired to live and love to the fullest. God’s voice was speaking through every story and encounter on that day.

We started a youth choir at my parish. We were not sure how many would appear on the first Sunday. With the first few notes of their singing I wondered why I ever doubt the power of grace when I let go of worry and control. God’s voice was speaking through the enthusiasm and commitment of these young people and their beautiful singing.

After being buried in snow almost weekly this winter, signs of spring are starting to appear. God’s voice speaks to me through the songs of the birds that are reminding us that spring is around the corner. The song of a bird softens my heart.

How could I have a hard heart when I look into the happy face of my first grandchild? Her sweet curiosity about the world and the joy that she exudes over simple moments are the undeniable presence of God speaking words of love. Despite any losses or grief that we have, Lent reminds us that there is a third day. It is around the corner. Joy and new life come to us again.

“If today you hear his voice…” We hear it every day. Lent is a time to be aware and make room to deliberately soften our hearts.

In these last few weeks of Lent, I intend to listen to the voice of God and render my heart. I want to be much more deliberate in choosing love over being miserable, a soft heart over a hard one. Even when I find myself frustrated or angry, I want to choose to open my heart and do the opposite of my impulse to fall back to a way of being that is not life-giving. Sometimes our habits can keep us there.
In these last few weeks of Lent, may we all hear God’s voice and open our hearts to transformation and goodness as we make our way to the celebration of the resurrection.

Jan Bentham is a retired Religion Coordinator with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. She is a musician, serving in music ministry at St. Ignatius Parish in Ottawa. She currently works at St. Paul’s University with the Catholic Women’s Leadership Program. 

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