Fifth Sunday in Lent – A Discerning Heart


A common image in the scripture for this Sunday in Lent is the heart. The Prophet Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant between God and God’s people. That new relationship is rooted in the interiorization of the word of the Lord. “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts …”

Psalm 51, the miserere, includes the line, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and put a new and right spirit within me …” The context for both the reading from Jeremiah and the psalm has to do with sinfulness. That sinfulness is the reality of life. None of us have reached perfection in our relationships – with self, with others, with God.

The result of having God’s law written on my heart is that, when I grow in awareness of my sinfulness, I am unable to blame it on external factors – e.g., the original parents in the Garden of Eden or the state of the broken world in which I live – or the result of my personality – e.g., “I did it because I am naturally impatient.”

I realize that my relationship with God behooves me to act as if I take it seriously, as if I take it to heart. I am responsible for my sins and wrongdoing. I suppose that it is actually easier to simply be told what to do and how to live. For instance, to say that I follow the ten commandments. That offers me a pretty clear black-and-white path.

I can just check off the things I don’t do, kind of like a sign-up page on medical information. No. No. No. And so forth. But the reality is that there is plenty of gray in life in a more general way. My life cannot be reduced to a medical form. The path in a serious matter is rarely evident. Tough choices are necessary. In that decision making, it helps to have a discerning heart.

I’m always strengthened by the example of King Solomon, the paradigm of wisdom. In the First Book of Kings, God offers him a choice of any gift. He doesn’t ask for riches or military victories. His choice is a discerning heart (Chapter 3, verse 9), to know right from wrong in his role of governance. God is impressed!

My self-examination concerning my heart and its reasoning is a suitable way of allowing the Season of Lent to have an impact on my life. Self-examination leading to self-actualization! What is in my heart this Lent? Is it directed towards or away from God?

This Sunday includes the National Collection for Development & Peace. The organization’s Share Lent campaign for 2021 supports partners in the Global South in their struggle for social justice; and raises awareness amongst Canadians and mobilizes us to take action in solidarity with the most poor and vulnerable.

The campaign quotes Pope Francis, “We have an obligation to ensure that every person lives with dignity and has sufficient opportunities for his or her integral development.” Find more information at

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Robert Czerny
    Posted at 07:51h, 21 March Reply

    Very well said, thank you.

  • Kathy Stewart
    Posted at 13:13h, 21 March Reply

    Thank you

  • Claire Williams
    Posted at 18:25h, 21 March Reply

    A good reflection. Thank you

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 15:28h, 22 March Reply

    Thank you Philip!

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