It is the penitential season of Lent and many Catholics have already blown their Lenten sacrifice. Some have given in to the temptation of eating that piece of chocolate cake, logging on to social media, or grabbing that Hershey’s bar from the counter at the grocery check-out line. Despite our failures in Lent there is one thing most of us are missing in our Lent journey and is crucial for a successful penitential season.
The prophet Joel gives us a clear picture that we can apply to this beautiful season. It’s a powerful portrayal of how we should go through this period in the liturgical calendar. Lent is not meant to be just another time period that has become routine. It should be something greater. It is intended to be days which draw us nearer to God.
“Yet 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. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.” (Joel 2:12-13)
The Lord begs, through the prophet Joel, for us to return to him. The purpose and result of our Lenten sacrifices should for us to draw closer to the Lord. It is a way for us to recognize those things which we hold more important in our life than the Lord Jesus. Our Lenten sacrifices should reveal to us the fleshly desires we have of things of this world over things of eternity. It should pull back the curtains of deceit and reveal to us the ugliness of the sin in our life.
We can “give up” whatever we want in our life to make ourselves feel better, to look good to our fellow Catholics, or to show off how “holy” we are to our loved ones. It is, on the other hand, fruitless and dead works if we do not have the desire to utilize that sacrifice to draw us closer to the Lord’s suffering. If we are not seeking to draw closer to the Lord through our surrender in “giving up” things then it is of no avail and just as worthless as if you chose to not give up something. Our Lent journey should not be about what others perceive. It should be about what the Lord recognizes.
The Lord, speaking through the prophet Joel, begs us to come to Him with our whole heart. He is waiting, pleading, with us to throw off those things which separate us from Him and prevent Him from being our priority and to allow Him to put on a cloak of righteousness. He desires for us to come to Him, to run to Him as the prodigal son ran back to his father, and to allow the Lord to love us and forgive us.
Return to Him. Surrender to Him. He is waiting patiently and lovingly. This Lent, the Lord wants you to give up your entire heart to Him. It’s not an act of sacrifice but rather an act of surrender. Give your entire heart to Him this Lent.