It is helpful for us to remember that in the northern hemisphere, these are springtime days, and the word “Lent” in Old English, means “springtime.” Here, down-under, signs of autumn are appearing so it’s difficult to imagine the hope of springtime.
The invitation of these Lenten weeks is to become (in the words of today’s first reading) reconciled to God
And that’s our simple aim in Lent: to become aware of any way in which we do not feel at peace with God, since these are the thoughts, attitudes, patterns of behaviour, fears and actions that are preventing us from living happily and abundantly.
Lenten prayer and fasting (note the two are always spoken of together) serve to focus the mind and heart on the one on whom we are dependant for everything, indeed every breath is a gift that is given to us.
While we might try to savour our successes in silent prayer, it is our weakness, fear and failure that keeps breaking into our consciousness. This difficult awareness is a healthy fruit of true prayer since God continues to offer us abundant life and we reject this gift settling for survival as sinners. CS Lewis put it vividly:
“it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased”. The Weight of Glory, CS Lewis, 1941
So it’s no surprise then that when we sit to hear the scriptures at an Ash Wednesday Mass that the first words we hear are “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart” (Joel 1). It is our sinfulness that renders us “half-hearted creatures” and calling someone half-hearted is no compliment.
These Lenten weeks are a time of spring-cleaning, letting go of all that clutters our minds and hearts distracting us from Christ who is the one whom every human heart whole-heartedly seeks.