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.
Joel 2:12-13As an aid to become perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, a way to grow in discipleship, and as preparation to celebrate the great Paschal Mysteries come Holy Week, the Church carves from her liturgical calendar each year a time to meditate upon the salvific action of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection.
Whether we hear the reminder of our mortality or the call to repentance when the Sign of the Cross is traced upon our foreheads with ashes today, we should recall a rather stark reality. While being made in the image and likeness of God and called to be His adopted children, we should realize first and foremost we are creatures totally dependent on the Creator. Because we have sinned and wandered far away from His love, we are in need of His redemption and sanctification. Because we were given free will, we have the ability to receive and utilize His grace as much as reject and scorn it.
With this backdrop, we begin to shape our preparation for the next "forty days". How will we our prayers rise like incense? What excess can be removed from our lives? How do we recognize the needs of our neighbor and respond to them? We know what planks are in our eyes, what stumbling blocks are ahead of us, what things we have covered with Pharisaical white. True conversion is a life-long process; this provides us with a chance to focus.
May whatever seeds planted this Lent bear a fruitful harvest this Easter.