A Joyful Lenten Journey
Return of the Prodigal Son painting by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
The readings for Ash Wednesday, from the Prophet Joel, St. Paul, and St. Matthew, set the tone of Lent. When we look at these three scripture passages they all suggest a rather joyful Lenten journey.
The prophet Joel begins by using the image of a return. I think of this image as more of a coming home. I don’t know about you, but for me when someone returns home, there is always great rejoicing. There is a sharing of stories, embraces, reconciliation, and of course sharing of food. I believe this what our yearly observance of Lent is all about – our annual return.
Think for a moment of the popular story of the Prodigal Son in Luke’s gospel. It is a beautiful story of a son who was lost. One who wandered in the desert where he not only squandered what was given to him, but he realized what he had done. His time away was a time of reflection. It was a time of realizing the consequences of his actions. He knew he needed to ask for forgiveness. His words were: “I am going to my father and I will say, ‘father I have sinned against heaven and against you, I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ So, he went back home. As he approached the house, his father caught sight of him. His father ran towards his son, embraced him and hugged him to welcome him back. Then, there was a great celebration for this son was lost and now has been found.
Our Lenten journey is one of coming home, a return, a U-turn – making our way back to the Father’s house. We have been journeying a rather rough and tough road. The past year was not a pleasant one. There were big bumps. It was very turbulent. We experienced gigantic waves. Because of that there were feelings of impatience, anger, frustration, fear, confusion and doubt. Yet, God understands. God never left our side. He continues to be with us.
This Lent is a time for us to return to our God with all of what we have. As St. Paul says: “Be reconciled to God. Now is the time of salvation!” We approach our God in prayer. We give thanks for His enduring, healing and loving presence. We fast from what hinders us from being open as to how God works in and through our lives. We give alms by taking good care of ourselves by staying healthy and staying safe. We are also to be mindful of others as we continue to wear mask and practice social distancing.
These forty days are meant to be a joyful preparation. This is not an ordeal, rather Lent is a season to anticipate that something great is about to happen. Let us be filled with excitement and be open as to what God wants to give us this holy season.
As the lyrics of the song Hosea says: “Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart! Long have I waited for your coming, home to me and living deeply our new lives!” Happy and blessed Lent to all of you!