Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Ash Wednesday: God wants your heart, not your chocolate

"Rend your hearts, not your garments, 
and return to the Lord, your God." - Joel 2:13 

Friends, God wants your heart. Not your chocolate.

Happy Ash Wednesday. (Yes, if you're looking at timestamps, I'm posting this on Tuesday evening... taking the opportunity to post this while I can!)

I'm not suggesting that giving up chocolate, or other material pleasures, for the duration of Lent is in any way a bad thing... using such exercises in an effort to learn greater self-control is definitely a good. But, I do think we should be careful to focus our Lenten efforts on more than the physical - let's be cognizant of what these things are meant to help us accomplish, spiritually.

Ultimately, "giving something up" for Lent is about removing obstacles from our lives in order to clear our path to God. Exercises in self-control can certainly form an aspect of this, and again, I'm not suggesting such things are bad. Maybe, though, it's good to consider this in other terms, too.

If you go to Mass today, you'll hear in the first reading, "Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God." ... pretty powerful words, right? Well, yeah.

Read them again. "Rend your hearts, not your garments." 

Put in words we're a little more familiar with: "Tear apart your hearts, not your garments."

The Lord wants your heart, and wants it torn open. The Lord doesn't want, or need, your material goods.

Rend your hearts.

Why? Because God wants to put your heart back together - to heal it of all its ills and pains.

And ultimately, God wants your heart to look like God's heart... so it can love like God's heart.

So for Lent, and for life, can we give up our... 

- Rush to judgment?
- Inclination to assume the worst of each other?
- Knee-jerk reaction to label someone, or their opinions, as "wrong" and dismiss them as such?

Instead of all these things, can we exercise compassion and empathy, realizing we don't know what it takes for others to even get out of bed in the morning, much less interact with the world in any functional way, and we don't know what experiences have formed their hearts?

I know.
Tall order.
Get ready to fail... but unless we choose to begin, we can't even say we've tried. 

Rend your hearts.

And can we engage honestly with our own pain and fear, and seek healing - clear out those obstacles, too, opening the way for the loving touch of God's mercy? This kind of honest engagement can be downright penitential, let's be real. It can mean swallowing our pride and ceding our need to be in control - can call us to deep vulnerability - and can call us not only into greater communion with God, but with one another.

Rend your hearts.

There are as many ways to observe Lent as there are people, but the ultimate goal - drawing closer to the Divine - is universal.

Look inside your heart. Seek out as many moments of silence as you're able today, and inquire of yourself and the Lord: what is yours to do in this holy season? 

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