Lent Calls Us To Reorient Our Lives

Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. – Joel 2:12-13

What are you giving up for Lent?  It’s a question that we often hear this time of year.  But I think it may be the wrong question. Traditionally Lent is a 40-day season of spiritual reawakening prior to our celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection at Easter.  Historically it has been a time for fasting, for penitence, and for doing good works.  All of this stems from the Lenten call to conversion which means to turn our lives around.  Lent calls us to turn back to God, to reorient ourselves towards God.  God speaking in the writing of the prophet Joel calls out to us on this Ash Wednesday – “return to me with all your heart”.  God is saying I love you, come back to me.

That’s what this holy season is all about.  Despite the fact that “giving up” something or fasting from something can be a good reminder to us of our dependence upon God, sometimes we have a tendency to want to make Lent be about us.  I need to eat less chocolate, less snacks. I need to drink less.  I’ll give up those things. Lent then becomes our season of spiritual self-help.  Fasting from something is good, but let’s do it for the right reason.  The right reason is that we want to turn ourselves around – so that our lives are oriented towards God and not self-oriented.

“Rend your hearts and not your clothing” is the reminder that is sticking with me this Ash Wednesday.  Joel is speaking about the Hebrew tradition of wearing torn clothing to signify mourning.  Wearing ashes was another such symbol.  Joel encourages us today to not just be outwardly fasting during this Holy Season, but to literally take these practices to heart.  We are to fast, to do penance, and to do good works in order to open up our hearts – free up space there once again for the one who created us, who loves us, and who has saved us.  This Lent God calls to each of us – turn around, come back, return home to me.  Perhaps the question for us during these 40 days is not so much what are you giving up, but rather how will you answer God’s call?

Fr. Chas Marks is a Senior Advisor for Community & Church Relations with The Saint Francis Foundation.  He is also the Rector (Pastor) of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri.

Picture of Beth Cormack
Beth Cormack

Beth is the project manager for the Saint Francis Ministries Marketing and Communications team.

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