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SPIRIT MATTERS: With age comes simplicity of heart

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. ~ Psalm 90:12

Last Sunday as I was sitting in a pew preparing myself for Mass to begin, I picked up the missalette, and read through the readings that were scheduled for that day.

I try to do this every time I go to Mass, before it begins, so I can have the foundation of the Word of God in my heart, prior to it being proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word.

Then when it is actually being read, I sit back and close my eyes and let the words being proclaimed from the altar sink ever deeper into my heart.

This is especially important for me to do on those occasions when I am scheduled to be a lector, so I can be prepared for what the Lord is about to proclaim through my voice.

I want to do it justice, as best as I can.

Also, doing this little practice every week is a good way to get attuned to what God might be speaking to me at that particular moment, what little piece of his Word he wants me to meditate on in the coming days.

So as I read through the readings before Mass, this verse from Psalm 90:12 sparked something in me, calling me to attention.

It is always wondrous how the Divine works with each one of us, individually, and picks out those things we need to hear at that particular moment in our lives.

For the past few years (or maybe more), I have been particularly preoccupied with being in the middle age category, and what that means for me spiritually and for my femininity. But even through that preoccupation, I have acted as if I have all the time in the world to figure it out.

And I don’t.

Lately, I don’t know if I would call it a sense of urgency, but this middle age thing has been gnawing at me more and more.

I want to make the most of the rest of the days of my life, no matter how many there are.

And in those days, I want to live out the fullness of who I am and who God made me to be.

I don’t know if any readers will agree with me, but I get the sense that in some ways, rather than achieving self-actualization in the sense of showing off a long list of achievements, awards and honors, God wants us, as we grow older, to pull back all those layers of who we think we are to ourselves and to the rest of the world.

The Holy One wants us to let go of all of that and become “the virgin point,” as Thomas Merton described it, of who we are, or who we were when we were born, and who we were in our earliest years – in all that simple brilliance.

In the scriptures, Jesus tells us that if we want to enter the Kingdom of God, we must become like little children.

In a physical world where intellect and degrees and recognition are what are most admired and respected, Jesus wants us to back up and do the opposite.

He wants us to simply be pure of heart and full of wonder in the acknowledgement that our existence is not in our hands. We didn’t will ourselves into existence, and we don’t keep our own bodies, minds and spirits, not to mention the rest of the universe – working in cohesiveness every day.

Something much larger, and infinitely more intelligent than ourselves does that.

I believe we become who we are actually supposed to be when we take time each day to quietly rest in that Presence that is beyond all human comprehension, and yet resides in our breath, in our bodies, in all of creation.

I think waking up each day and remembering that, and going to bed each night and being grateful for that, just might be the beginning of the wisdom of the heart.

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality in The Times' readership area. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.

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