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, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment....The selection from Joel ends with these words of hope:
Then the Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on hia people.Lent is that recurring season that culminates in Easter. Before we get to Easter however, there is work to do, and suffering to endure. C. S. Lewis wrote that "nothing that has not been crucified will rise." A number of candidates seeking the office of our United States presidency have latched onto catch phrases such as "rise" and take up "greatness." Rising, just like the process of tiny plants during their growth crack open the seed and leave it behind as they push through the earth toward the sun, requires leaving the familiar and cozy behind to risk getting above ground and thriving in the light of the sun. So we need to crack open the shell of our old sinful patterns of allow the Light of Christ's grace to penetrate us to our very depths.
"Lent is like a long 'retreat' during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil One. It is a period of spiritual 'combat' which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the word of God and penance. In this way we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our Baptism." -- Pope Benedict XVIWhile most of us cannot physically retreat from our daily routine, we can always reflect more, examine our consciences on a daily basis, pray more intentionally, practice humility and patience. None of these practices are flashy or attention-getting. It is love for God lived out in the nitty-gritty of our lives; stuck in traffic, yet not cursing or complaining, but taking that time to pray or turn on the local Catholic radio, or listen to an audio book on the spiritual life...there are so many ways to return "love for love" in this Holy Season. These 40 days are a way for us to say a daily thank you to Jesus for coming among us, especially for suffering and dying and rising for us. I wish each of you readers a holy and grace-filled Lent. May it be the best ever!