Rend your hearts and not your garments, and return to your God.
Lent is a call to turn back to God and reclaim our own essential integrity. It asks for a rejection of what is unjust and selfish in our personal and communal lives. Token religious symbols of penance are really not true interior change. Spiritual renewal demands a choice that rends the heart. It is the choice to leave our personal complacency and strip away our cosmetic covers. This enables us to realize that by our indifference we, too, can become the ones responsible for a broken society. Then, having become humble enough not to blame or scapegoat others but to live honestly and justly, we can become more true. Lent calls us to authenticity.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Where do you accept cosmetic coverings and cliches presented as reality? How can you see through them and help others to do the same? How can you choose what will heal community, both local and societal? In what way can you concretize this during the next wee
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of God shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and God will answer;
you shall cry for help, and God will say, here I am.
Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.
There is an awareness of sin that does not lead to God but to self-preoccupation. Our temptation is to be so impressed by our sins and failings and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity that we get stuck in a paralyzing guilt. It is the guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God. It is the guilt that has become an idol and therefore a form of pride. Lent is the time to break down this idol and to direct our attention to our loving Lord.
Lent is the opportunity to change what we ought to change but have not. Lent is not about penance. Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now. Lent is a summons to live anew.
Joan Chittister, OSB
The journey of Lent with its climax in Good Friday and Easter, is about embarking on the way of Jesus on that path of mortality and transformation that is at the very center of the Christian life. When you think of it, who of us does not yearn for this? Who of us does not yearn for a fuller connection to life? Who does not yearn for an identity that releases us from anxiety and self-preoccupation? To be born again, it seems to me, corresponds to our deepest yearning.
Lent is not just a time for squaring conscious accounts: but for realizing what we had perhaps not seen before. The light of Lent is given us to help us with this realization.
Lent is a time of going very deeply into ourselves… What is it that stands between us and God? Between us and our brothers and sisters? Between us and life, the life of the Spirit? Whatever it is, let us relentlessly tear it out, without a moment’s hesitation.
It is not just about giving up our favorite food but it’s about going further and giving up things like hatred and unforgiveness. You need to clean your heart and prepare yourself for purity.
Remember that Lent and Ash Wednesday are not just about putting away the bad things. It is more about creating good things and helping the poor and the needy, being kind to people, and much more.