Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he… Joel 2: 12-13
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, a time to remember who we are and whose we are. Today’s reading from the Book of Joel reminds us that God longs for our whole hearts, not empty ritual or pious posturing. God wants to be with us in good times and in bad. Faith is not about getting our lives in order impress God: it’s about inviting God into the circumstances of our lives and experiencing his transformational grace.
This passage brings to mind another Joel, Billy Joel, and his beautiful love song, This is the Time. In it, the singer expresses his delight in his beloved, and yet he longs for more. He understands that time will change their circumstances, and so he wants to enjoy every moment. Yet more profoundly, he wants to know his beloved intimately and completely. “You’ve given me the best of you; now, I need the rest of you.”
This plea echoes back to the prophet Joel, calling God’s beloved to deeper relationship with him. He reminds them that it’s not public displays of faith, but rather the intimate connection with God that the Creator desires. We may have given God our best through ritual, prayer and works of service, but it is the deepest part of ourselves that he longs to inhabit and companion to fullness of life.
Lent is the time to open our hearts to this love. Let’s clear away the clutter of distractions and creature comforts and create a space in our lives to get reacquainted with God. Prayer, fasting and abstinence are the three traditional Lenten observances we are invited to pursue. Over the coming weeks, we’ll explore each of these observances in greater detail, and offer resources to support your own Lenten observance.
Moms, welcome this season as a time to nurture the most important relationship in your life. Take a few moments everyday and spend them in God’s loving presence. “Return to me with your whole heart,” says the Lord, and see what his love can do in your life.
A wonderful resource for daily prayer: http://sacredspace.ie/ Created and hosted by the Irish Jesuits, this prayer site invites us to “make a ‘Sacred Space’ in your day, and spend ten minutes, praying here and now, as you sit at your computer, with the help of on-screen guidance and scripture chosen specially every day.”