Lent beckons us to hear the call to return to the Lord. As in the Old Testament, when the Hebrews disobeyed God, persons called prophets called them to repent, to turn away from their sin, and have a change of heart. The people would put on clothes made from rough cloth, cover their heads with ashes; they would fast and pray for God’s mercy. “’Yet even now,’ says the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning, and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil” (Joel 2:12-13).
Like God’s people in the time of the prophets, we wore ashes at the start of Lent to show that we want to turn away from whatever keeps us from God, and to have a change of heart, so that we can live in right relationship with God and each other. We ask ourselves: What is the bondage of sin in me that brings harm not only to my spiritual life but also to others? What in my life distracts me from God? What can I choose to do as an act of service to my brothers and sisters that will also guide my path of return to the God who will never stop loving me? God’s grace is always there to help us in time of temptation. May we have the humility to ask for His help to repent, turn away from sin and find new life as we refresh our relationship with Him and with one another.
Pope Francis, in his Angelus message of March 16, 2014, in the light of the Gospel on the Transfiguration, said that “We all need to ascend the mountain in a space of silence, to find ourselves and better perceive the voice of the Lord. This we do in prayer.” After the prayer-encounter, the pope said that we need to “descend the mountain and return to the plain where we meet many brothers weighed down by fatigue, sickness, injustice, ignorance, poverty both material and spiritual. To these brothers in difficulty, we are called to bear the fruit of that experience with God, by sharing the grace we have received.” May we travel this journey wholeheartedly not superficially, walking with Jesus in the spirit of Mary’s discipleship, to extend His compassionate presence in our world today.