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

Yesterday’s Ash Wednesday Mass took its first reading from the prophet Joel (2:12-18).  Scholars have not come to a consensus on when this book was written.  No matter.  The message is timeless and applies to us as much today as to Joel’s immediately intended hearers.

Joel begins by relaying God’s message to His people “return to me with your whole heart” (v. 12).  This is a compelling message to begin Lent.  We are provided a wonderful opportunity over forty days to make special preparations for the Easter Triduum.  We should reflect on those ways in which we are away from Jesus, through sin and distraction, so that we can return to Him, through repentance and fasting, while awaiting His return from death.

Further on, in verse 17, the prophet says “Spare your people, LORD!”  I immediately think of the culture of depravity and death in our society and so many others in the world today.  Spare us!  Convert us!  May our hearts be rended (v. 13) so that we will be open to returning to you by reforming our lives and our culture.  But then I am reminded that this begins with me.  I need to be an exemplar of conversion and Christian living so as to draw others to the Lord.

The headline of this post gives the concluding words of this excerpt from Joel.  It is a message of hope and mercy, particularly appropriate for this jubilee year.  God longs to bring us back to Him if only we open ourselves up to His graces.  Let us not neglect to take advantage of this Lenten season to bring the Lord fully back into our lives and thus begin to bring Him back into a society that desperately needs the Light of the World (Jn 8:12).

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