Return to me with your whole heart

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The First Reading from today’s Mass is from the Prophecy of Joel:

Joel 2:12-18: “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.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, ‘Spare, O LORD, your people,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?”

Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land
and took pity on his people.”

(Via USCCB.)

Lent is a time of repentance and of preparation for the Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection. These are the things that we are expected to believe in as Catholic Christians and apply to our own lives. We accept all suffering that comes into our lives a sign our willingness to “be like Christ” who suffered for us. We should die to the world and reject its transitory and false teachings and values. And if we do these things, we will at the end of the world be resurrected and live forever with God in Heaven.

Lent foreshadows this and is the time we spend in contemplative reflection, examining our consciences and ridding ourselves of faults and defects that separate us from God. It is one of my favorite times of the year as it was probably the first season of the Church’s liturgical year that I started to closely identify Church spirituality with the 12 Steps of AA. A number of AA’s Steps deal with “examination of conscience” and ridding oneself of “character defects.” Lent is a great time to apply this mix of Catholic spirituality and 12 Step practice.

So, starting today, “rend your hearts”, and “fast” from worldly attractions and “mourn and weep” over past separation from God that these attractions have caused. God is “gracious and merciful” and will take “pity on His people”, which is us, His adopted children.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"