Harden Not Your Heart

So last night we decided to take Tom’s Mom to the Meadows Casino and Racetrack in Washington, PA and have dinner at The Terrace restaurant where you can watch the horses race on the track. I just love that! His Mom and brother are visiting from Phoenix until next Sunday — and she wanted to go to one of the casinos. My brother’s parish, St. Benedict the Abbot is about 10 minutes from the casino, so I called him to see if he was having the Saturday evening mass. To our luck, he was, and we decided to go to church there first before going to the casino for dinner.

So that was the plan.

Earlier in the day, I was reflecting while flipping through my prayer book — looking for a prayer regarding the “hardening of my heart.” I was listening to the Christian talk radio 101.5 with the John and Kathy Show earlier in the week. They were talking about some of the controversial topics of the past couple of months — some of the things that have been weighing heavily on my mind. And as I pulled into my driveway that night, John was wrapping up his thoughts and he said, “so don’t let it harden your heart…” and I thought about that for several days.

How many times have I heard that during mass? So many I can’t count.

But I never really heard that until that day. All of these things in the news that are overwhelming and against all of our Catholic morales and values — all of these things that I really couldn’t understand — all of these things were hardening my heart. For the first time, I could really sum up how I’ve been feeling by saying, “yes, I’ve been hardening my heart.” My anger against our politicians and all those things I cannot change — has been hardening my heart.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. That was the first prayer I read while looking for something regarding the hardening of my heart. And then I prayed that I would have reflection around this at mass this evening.

This was all before I knew I was going to Bob’s mass or the casino or even knowing what our plans were for Saturday evening — besides knowing we were going to mass somewhere.

So anyways, wouldn’t you know that they responsorial psalm during mass was… “So if today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” I couldn’t believe it. Then Bob’s homily was about trusting in God and his plan — getting out of your comfort zone and make the changes that you need to in your life. I could have wept after his homily — I miss the simple messages of his five minute homilies that strengthened my faith from week to week. Homilies that spoke directly to me — and opened my heart — not harden it. Sadly, I don’t have this in my life anymore. During mass, I even contemplated if Tom would up for a 50 minute drive every week to go to mass at St. Benedict’s!

After mass, I asked Bob if he wanted to join us for dinner. I was surprised when he said he would join us at the casino. He didn’t like casinos. He had to change his clothes and then he would meet us. I told him to text me when he arrived and we would meet up for dinner.

We got there first. It was sheer madness. Hundreds of cars and police directing traffic. It was a mad house — pure craziness (probably God’s way of telling us that we shouldn’t be going to the casino after attending church!) I couldn’t even get out of the stream of cars to turn around and get the heck out of dodge. I ended up entering a garage and finding the exit after driving around a bit. Then I left a message for Bob not to come to the casino. There would be no way to get seated for dinner with these hundreds, even thousands of people.

Then I text Bob. Once, twice, three times. No response.

We drove back towards the church and found a Max & Erma’s restaurant to have dinner. I text Bob again and told him to join us at Max & Erma’s. Then I hoped that he didn’t go to the casino without his phone. He has a habit of doing that. It had been an hour now.

Finally I got a text back from him that simply said, “I went to the casino, went in, too much excitement for me. Forgot my phone. Am having a quiet dinner at the rectory.”

Ugh — I felt so bad! He actually found a parking place and went into the casino. I was so looking forward to talking to him during dinner. It’s been a while. It turned out that Bill Cosby was live at the casino. But, I guess somehow it was as it was supposed to be.

So we ended up driving 50 minutes to church, eating dinner in the South Hills and another 50 minutes back home. Not exactly what we had planned at all. But you know what? I got the right message to start this week. A message that reaffirmed my faith and opened my heart. Harden not your heart — has new meaning in my life for all the things that make me angry in our faithless society of today.

Always B E L I E V E.

Let me know your thoughts!