Today's Gospel story, like last Sunday's story of the prodigal son, is a deeply human story of the human heart. As the prodigal son experienced the unconditional forgiveness of his father, so today, the young woman welcomes the tender forgiveness of Jesus.

As these gospels suggest, Lent is about opening our hearts to God's unimaginable love and compassion. But this in turn demands serious reflection. It demands that we look honestly at ourselves, remove the masks we wear in public, and stare deeply into our inner souls. In my readings, I discovered writings by someone with the unusual name of Oriah Mountain Dreamer. I present this hoping it will help to you as we continue this Lenten journey, Oriah writes:

"It doesn't matter to me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of achieving your heart's longing. It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the simple, profound adventure of being fully human and fully alive.

"It doesn't interest me under which alignment of planets and stars you were born. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own universe, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or shriveled and closed up for fear of further hurt.

"I want to know if you can sit with pain without needing to hide it, or mask it or even fix it. I want to know if you can love joyfully, dance wildly and let ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes. I want to know if you see Beauty present in life's most difficult circumstances, and if you can govern and direct your life in accord with the Beauty you see.

"I want to know if you can live with failure, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout 'Yes!' to the full moon of the midnight sky. It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you make. I want to know if you can get up after a dark night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and still do what needs to be done to help those you love.

"It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire and not shrink back. It doesn't interest me where or what you study or with whom you associate. I want to know what sustains you from within when all else fails. I want to know how you feel when you stand alone, and if you truly love the company you keep in the quiet moments of your life."

These words of Oriah Mountain Dreamer are simple, but profound. Jesus lived them to the full. He invites us to do likewise. So with bowed heads we pray: "O Gracious One, we often notice the faults in others while overlooking the faults in ourselves. In today's Gospel you remind us that good and evil reside in every human heart, and we must be as compassionate toward others as You are toward us. May we live with the courage and integrity of your Son. Help make it so. Amen!"

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