“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.” Each year as we attend Mass on Ash Wednesday we hear this scripture passage. We hear this challenge to return to the Lord. For some of us this is not an easy task. For some of us, we’ve lost track of who God is in our lives. As we begin this Lenten retreat the first thought in our mind should be giving ourselves to God. Sunday we will hear a story of Jesus’ time in the desert and then John the Baptist’s proclamation to reform our lives. Where are we headed with the life that we are living today? Are our lives leading us to our all loving God, or are our lives leading us to ourselves? I think that each year as we begin Lent that these are good questions to reflect upon. As you strive to “return to [God] with all your heart” you may find some areas in life that are not about God.
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I’m not going to go in depth into the Church’s teaching on morality. You can take a little time to check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt3sect2chpt2ind.htm
However, as an example, I will address one issue, but it can be carried over to many of the issues we struggle with in our lives as we strive to turn back to God. Most people, Catholic or not, know what the church teaches about artificial birth control. It is prohibited. Very few people have taken the time to actually read why the church teaches what she does. It is easier to say the church is outdated on this topic and do our own thing or to think, “I know what is best for me.” To strive to know why leads us to a change of heart.
As you look at your life during this Lenten season, I want you to be serious about the areas where you may need to return to God. What are the things that are pushing us towards ourselves? Sometime these things take the form of our jobs. While jobs are an important part of most people’s lives, we often let our jobs become the all important part of our lives. If our job, or making money, becomes a god, we need to take the time to turn back to God.
I made a quick reference above to morality. As we look at our sexuality, is it geared towards what makes us feel good (what brings us pleasure),or is it geared towards doing God’s will with the great gift that he has given us? Do we need to redirect the intimacy in our lives to living out a faithful, loving relationship as God intended? In married life this means that special relationship that exists between a husband and wife when they share in the marital embrace. For single people, this involves sharing the love that God has given us with those around us by modeling that love for others. Perhaps for many of us this is an area where we need to return to God.
The second thing we need to think about as we hear God’s call to conversion is to really understand what it means to “rend your hearts, not your garments.” In our lives it is very easy to go through all of the hoops to live out our faith. We can go to church because we are suppose to. We can give up something for Lent because we should. We can do good things for the wrong reason. Part of our call to conversion is to change our hearts to truly realize where God is leading us. It is a lot easier to look like a follower of Jesus as opposed to being a follower of Jesus. Lent is a time to ask ourselves if our actions really reflect our hearts. Do we love God? Do we spend time in true contemplation as we pray? Why do we go to Mass or other church services? Do we truly love our hurting neighbors, or do we throw money at their problems so we do not have to deal with them personally?
As you reflect upon your heart, I hope that it is opened wider towards loving our God with all of your heart, soul, and being and towards loving our neighbor as yourself.
As a preview here is a hint of the topics that will be coming up in the next few sessions: God’s Call For Healing, God’s Call For the Vocation of Marriage, God’s Call For the Vocation to Priesthood or Religious Life, God’s Call to Evangelize. [/font]