My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Today we set out on the spiritual journey of Lent.
And I think, we need to ask ourselves today — and throughout this Lenten journey — some basic questions: What are we looking for in life? What do we want out of life?
These are kind of hard questions for many of us. Because it is hard to think about ourselves. We tend to be really busy and we have so many responsibilities. So it hard for us to find time to really think about what matters to us, to think about what we want out of life. So Lent is a perfect time for us to reflect on this.
And at the end, we will rediscover that we are all looking for love and meaning, for a sense that our lives really matter. That we are looking for God. We want to know his love, to know his mercy. To know that we are forgiven.
During this season of Lent, in the Scripture readings like today, we hear the voice of God. And he does not speak to us in “thunder” or in angry tones. He does not want to punish us. He just wants to talk to us, like a Father.
We heard his words in the first reading from the prophet Joel.
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.
God is inviting us — always, but today especially — to come back to him. To stop running away and to just stay with him. God wants us to accept his love, to say “yes” to his plan for our lives.
And as we know, God is so loving and gracious and merciful. He really wants to be near to us. He wants to be with us.
And we should always remember that God never turns his back on us, never forgets us, never abandons us. He never has, and he never will! That is not God’s nature.
For us —sometimes, sadly, we turn our backs on God. We all know that we do that, sometimes. Sometimes we try to forget him. We try to run away. But God — God will always be faithful to us. We can depend on that. Absolutely
But my brothers and sisters, the point is this: Lent is not about guilt or feeling bad. Jesus tells us today in the Gospel: “Do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.”
Lent is about reminding ourselves — just how much God loves us.
We are sinners, it is true. But we are sinners who are made to be saints! We are created to be holy sons and daughters of God. This is why God made us, this is what he wants for our lives.
God is our Father. And like every good parent, God has a dream of love for his children — for each one of us.
So my dear brothers and sisters, during this Lenten season and always, remember that we all are something special to God — each one of us. There is nobody like you and there is nobody who can replace you in the eyes of God! Let us really try to do his will and let us really try to understand and live — God’s beautiful dream for our lives.
That’s what Lent is all about. It is really a journey of conversion.
St. Paul tells us today in the second reading: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
That’s what Lent is all about — being much more aware of that extraordinary love for each one of us. That beautiful plan that God has for your life and for my life.
This Lent — let us really believe in God’s love for us! Our life truly begins when we know God’s tender mercy — and when we respond to his love and follow his way for our life.
So let us ask for the grace, this Lent, once again to turn to God. And for the grace to rediscover the beautiful meaning for our lives. God loves me — each one of us — with his infinite love, and he is calling me and each one of us to love him and to love others.
And let us ask Our Blessed Mother Mary, the Mother of Mercy, to accompany us in these forty days — and help us to hear the voice of God and his words of love.
1. Readings (Ash Wednesday, Year A): Joel 2:12-18; Ps. 51:3-6, 12-13, 17; 2 Cor. 5:20-6:2; Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18