Entering the Lenten Season

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, you God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the Lord, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room,
and the bride her chamber.

Last night Mom and I went to Mass for Ash Wednesday. This beautiful reading from the book of Joel was one of the readings and it stayed with me afterwards, especially the line:

"Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God."

It says to me that God is less interested in what we give up for Lent and more interested in what is in our hearts. "Return to Me," says God. Let this Lent be a time of spiritual renewal in which we return to God and let Him speak to our hearts and renew our spirits.

With this in mind, I'm not giving up anything for Lent. Rather I'm giving myself to God, with my need for spiritual renewal.

Since January I've been good reading my Daily Walk Bible but I've allowed that to become a substitute for attending church, which it's not meant to be. Personal daily devotions have one place in our spiritual life, and attending church belongs to the part of us that needs communion with others.

Of course there's another piece to my lack of attendance at church. This was really brought home to me when Father Chris walked up to me right before Mass last night and handed me the Workbook for Lectors and walked away with a smile and not a word. A few months ago, I'd signed up to be a reader at Mass and then got cold feet at the idea of standing before the congregation, and had been avoiding church since. Which is odd since I loved doing it in the past.

With that in mind, I am returning to God this Lenten season through my commitment to go back to church and work on a part of my faith that I'm not generally comfortable with, being part of a church community. I am choosing to overcome my public shyness and embrace my greater desire for communion.

I hope that, in your own way, you will also return to God this Lenten season.

David Foster Wallace said it better than I ever could:

"Because here's something else that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive."

-from a 2005 Commencement Speech given at Kenyon College reprinted in the Wall Street Journal

God bless.


I loved Ash Wednesdays readings as well! It hit at home with me too. =o)

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