“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. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing” – Joel 2:12-18
Gracious, Merciful, Kind, and Forgiving are not normally adjectives we would use to describe Ash Wednesday, let alone the Lenten Season. Yet that is exactly how God is described in the First Reading from Joel this morning and I daresay that we can use those same words to describe this Ash Wednesday and this Season of Lenten journey we are embarking on.
Ash Wednesday, like Good Friday is a day of what Canon 1251 stipulates as being a day of fasting and abstinence. With Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day this year it can be upsetting for some to not be able to celebrate the day of “love” with the love of their life. Yet, this year we have an opportunity to celebrate this day of love with an ultimate act of love toward the one we should love above all else.
Fasting and abstinence help us to deny our carnal passions and desires and take control with our will over what our bodies seek. The hunger in our bellies, growling away all day helps us to realize that we hunger for something, for someone greater than what food can satisfy. Abstaining from meat gives us the opportunity to offer a small sacrifice, to give a small gift to the one we love as a testament of that love.
“Rend your hearts” Joel instructs us. When was the last time that you were heartbroken during Lent? When was the last time that your heart was rent, was broken for love of the one you truly love? How are we to “return to the Lord our God?” by realizing that thirst in our Heart, in our Souls for the living God.
This Lent, this Ash Wednesday, may we turn back to God. May we turn ourselves completely toward the Lord, allowing the growl of our bellies to speak of the thirst and hunger of our souls for Him who can satisfy every longing under Heaven. May our sacrifices, our weeping, our mourning be small gifts to the King of Kings; jewels to be added in our crowns at the day of resurrection.
Let’s make this Lent one of kindness to our neighbor, mercy on ourselves, slow to anger, rich in compassion, an one of forgiveness. For our God is a gracious God and he will surely leave us a blessing for the good we do this Lent.
Celebrate Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day with the one we truly love above all else this year. May our hearts be broken, rent with love of him, who had his own heart broken, pierced with a lance on a cross because of our sins.
Let’s learn to Love this Lent.
And let’s pray for one another as we continue to walk this beautiful Lenten Journey together!