And Cleanse Me From My Sin

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Monday Within the Third Week of Lent

2 Kings 5:1-15a
Luke 4:24-30

Water

What is the link between yesterday's liturgy and today's? It is water. Yesterday: the water of Jacob's well: a sign of "the spring of water welling up to eternal life" (Jn 4:14. Today: the water of the Jordan by which Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy, the water of Jesus' own Baptism.

Psalm 50

In the Holy Rule, Saint Benedict places Psalm 50 at the beginning of Lauds seven days a week. Why? Because he understood it as a daily renewal of Baptism, as the psalm of resurrection to new life with the joy of a heart made clean. What makes every day so exhilarating is the possibility of a fresh start, of a clean slate, of a new beginning. Each morning we can say, "Today, I begin" (Ps 77:11). Try saying that every time you take Holy Water: "Today, I begin, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

God Alone Can Make Me Clean

In Psalm 50 we repeatedly and persistently ask God to cleanse us. "Blot out my iniquity" (Ps 50:3). "Wash me clean from my guilt" (Ps 50:4). "Purge me of my sin" (Ps 50:4). "Sprinkle me with a branch of hyssop, and I shall be clean" (Ps 50:9). "Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow" (Ps 50:9). We cannot cleanse ourselves because we do not see where we are soiled. We are as blind to our own sins as we are quick to notice the sins of others. The stain of sin has seeped deep into the very crevices of our souls. God alone can reach into those hidden places and make them clean.

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Holy Water

I don't know why, but a lot of folks, even among practicing Catholics, seem to pooh-pooh the use of Holy Water just the way Naaman, in his pride, pooh-poohed the water of the Jordan River. They find it hard to believe that God would make use of something so simple. Do you remember what Saint Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church, wrote about Holy Water?

From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like Holy Water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the Cross, but return; so Holy Water must have great value. For my own part, whenever I take it, my soul feels a particular and most notable consolation. In fact, it is quite usual for me to be conscious of a refreshment which I cannot possibly describe, resembling an inward joy which comforts my whole soul. This is not fancy, or something which has happened to me only once. It has happened again and again, and I have observed it most attentively. It is, let us say, as if someone very hot and thirsty were to drink from a jug of cold water: he would feel the refreshment throughout his body. I often reflect on the great importance of everything ordained by the Church and it makes me very happy to find that those words of the Church are so powerful that they impart their power to the water and make it so very different from water which has not been blessed.

Put the Devil to Flight

Last year at the beginning of Lent I had the privilege of preachng a retreat to the Franciscan Nuns of Perpetual Adoration at the Convent in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, Ireland. I noticed Holy Water fonts in alls the rooms: at the entrance to the choir, in the chapter room, in the workrooms, and in the cells. Everywhere. I saw the nuns take Holy Water and make a reverent sign of the Cross every time they passed a little font. A little splash of Holy Water puts the devil to flight, recalls the grace of Baptism, and remits venial sin. Did you know that? That is why there is Holy Water at the entrance to our churches, so that we can enter the presence of God cleansed of the accumulated dirt of venial sins. That is why we should take Holy Water before going to bed. Try it. You will get a better night's sleep.

And He Was Clean

Naaman, encouraged by his servants, the "little people" who surrounded him, swallowed his pride and "plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God" (2 K 5:14). "His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean" (2 K 5:14). The God who did this for Naaman is "the Restorer and Lover of innocence" (Collect of Thursday Within the Second Week of Lent). "Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 17:3).

God has put at our disposal everything we need to recover our baptismal innocence and to become again like little children. Frequent confession. Frequent use of Holy Water. Make use of the sacramental means given us by God and by the Church, and then trust Him to do all that we, of ourselves and by ourselves, cannot do. There is a verse in the hymn at Lauds during Lent that, I think, sums it all up:

The hidden wound whence flow our sins,
Wash clean by bathing in the tide;
Remove the things that, of ourselves,
We cannot reach, or put aside.

2 Comments

When I bless myself with holy water, I follow my Sign of the Cross with this little prayer: "In the water of my Baptism I died with Jesus and was raised to new life with Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I am dead to sin and alive in Christ!"

+JMJ+

Thank you so much for this post, Father! I went to Mass today but did not notice the connection between the first reading and the psalm until you brought it up, much less reached anything close to this reflection.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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