“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.” (Joel 2:12-13)
According to Pope Francis: “Lent is a favourable time for personal and community renewal, as it leads us to the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For our Lenten journey in 2022, we will do well to reflect on Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Galatians: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity (kairós), let us do good to all” (Gal 6:9-10).
Pope Francis continues: “All too often in our lives, greed, pride and the desire to possess, accumulate and consume have the upper hand, as we see from the story of the foolish man in the Gospel parable, who thought his life was safe and secure because of the abundant grain and goods he had stored in his barns (cf. Lk 12:16-21). Lent invites us to conversion, to a change in mindset, so that life’s truth and beauty may be found not so much in possessing as in giving, not so much in accumulating as in sowing and sharing goodness.”
Every year, the voice of the Prophet Joel ushers us into the season of Lent with a beautiful message of hope that begins with two powerful words: “EVEN NOW”. If you are alive today and are able to read or listen to this message, it means God has given you another chance. It is not too late to return with all your heart to him.
St. Paul in our second reading adds: “Now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Procrastination, they say is the thief of time. Never keep until tomorrow whatever good you can do today because you do not know what day would be your last day on earth.
This very fact is what is symbolized by the ashes we receive today. “Remember that you are dust and unto dust, you shall return.” Ashes remind us of our own death; the fact that one day, we shall become dust, the fact that we profit nothing if we gain the world and lose our souls.
Make the most of this Lent. Apply yourself fully to all the spiritual exercises with sincerity and a genuine purpose. Do not show off. Joel says: “Rend your heart, not your garment.” Jesus warns: “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for you will have no reward in heaven.”
During this Lenten season, the church offers us certain great keys to aid our return to God. These include prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Fasting helps to discipline the flesh and put its desires to check but it must be accompanied by prayer. Secondly, if we must fast, whatever is saved should be for the benefit of the hungry. In other words, fasting and prayer must go with charity (almsgiving). Above all, let us never get tired of doing good.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, grant me the grace of genuine repentance. Amen.
Bible Study: Joel 2:12-18, Ps. 51:3-6,12-14,17, 2 Cor. 5:20-6:2, Matthew 6:1-6,16-18).