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. (Joel 2:1-4)
Once again, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Today and usually all Fridays during Lent we are asked to pray, do penance and fast. Sometimes it’s like we are going in circles. It’s the Lenten season again and I know how to be “successful,” yet I recall many a Lent that I had the best of intentions with lackluster results. I chose something to give up or some good works to add. I decided to increase mass attendance or prayer, or not miss fasting on Fridays. Unfortunately, I often failed.
The thing is, God is reminding us today that we are supposed to go in circles. God is the first who desires our friendship as he loved us first and we are being summoned to return to that love. In one way that’s what we do every week. We return to him to offer ourselves and receive him. Now, God provides an opportunity to focus on him for the season of Lent. God is calling us to return to him, the one from whom we came.
How can we return to God’s love? We are told by Jesus to perform righteous deeds, pray, and fast, not as a show for others, but as a way of shaking off the world and returning to the Father. The thing is, we have a choice to act on our own behalf for our own reward, or to partake in prayer, fasting and almsgiving in secret, because “our Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:3)
When we turn to God, we are really returning to love, joy, and peace, from the one who intended this for us when he created us. We believe that we come from God and we return to God. Our ashes today are a visible reminder that we came from God and one day, coming full circle, we will return to God.