“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart…” (Joel 2:12)
The whole idea behind “returning” somewhere is that you go back to where you were before. And in the case of returning to God, even if you have never loved or followed him, he has always loved you. Before you were even born, he had “a plan of sheer goodness” that included you taking part in an amazing life of blessing.
If you used to be close to God but have wandered away—not even rejected him but maybe gotten busy and involved in other things—he wants you back. He’s jealous like that. Not in a nasty, green-eyed, selfish way but in the way a spouse is jealous of anything that gets in the way of the loved one’s happiness and their loving union.
“Return” is a call of love
So when you hear “return” and “be reconciled;” “harden not your heart” and “don’t be like the hypocrites” at Mass this Wednesday, it’s not “come here so God can punish” but return to his love, and “your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” “For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”
Ash Wednesday calls us back
I’ve heard that more people go to church on Ash Wednesday than go on Easter. Whatever it is about ashes that draws them, and whether they go to church otherwise or not, I pray they will hear the Lord’s heart-cry in the Word that is proclaimed that day. I pray that you will hear it too, in a new and fresh way because his love is fresh and new every day. He never gets tired of reaching out to us, however tired or lost or even alienated we might become.
It’s been a long winter of weather and covid and restrictions of one kind and another. Let’s return to the Lord and be refreshed.
Will you join me?
Maybe you’ve decided on how to fast and give over the next 40 days, but have you thought how you will focus on prayer? (Those being the three traditional Lenten practices.) The scriptures of Lent are tailor-made for deep reflection that will draw you into the arms of the Father who longs for you.
Come into the Word this Lent
I, for one, will be praying with these readings. Will you join me? Click here to download free instructions and a checklist that carries the readings into the week so we don’t forget them. Print it out and keep it with your Bible. (If you already use a lectionary-based publication, that works too—but I challenge you for Lent to read right from your Bible. Get used to finding your way around it; make notes there when something touches your heart; let it become for you a “place” to meet the Lord.)
God bless you as you read his Word!
© 2022 Sarah Christmyer
Another way to pray this Lent is with the Penitential Psalms. Download instructions here or use my guided journal, “Create in Me a Clean Heart: Ten Minutes a Day with the Penitential Psalms.”