We began our Lenten observance on Ash Wednesday, hearing the powerful appeal of the prophet Joel: “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. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing.”
The reason for Lent is to bring to mind the journey of our life, to take time and reflect whether we are on the right path. Our journey home involves a deep relationship with God on whom everything depends. Traditionally we may make small sacrifices during the Lenten observance to recall our human weaknesses. Pope Francis says to go further, asking, where are our hearts directed? “Where is my life’s navigation system taking me—towards myself? Do I live to please the Lord, or to be noticed, praised, put at the head of line? Do I have a ‘wobbly’ heart, which takes a step forwards and then one backwards? Do I love the Lord a bit and the world a bit, or is my heart steadfast in God? Am I content with my hypocrisies, or do I work to free my heart from the duplicity and falsehood that tie it down?”
"The reason for Lent is to bring to mind the journey of our life, to take time and reflect whether we are on the right path."
The reality of life is that we are here for a short time and then gone. We are dust and to dust we return. Yet on that short journey we find inexpressible joy in returning to God, with heartfelt wonder that he never gives up on us. If we return to him with our whole heart. It is as easy as that, yet so complicated by our human willfulness. I ask myself, where am I this year, compared to the last? Am I moving forward, am I closer to you, Lord? It is can be an uneasy conversation. I can change, I can be better, there is hope. Conversion is our joy.
"Am I moving forward, am I closer to you, Lord? "
Jesus came to us in utter poverty, out of the womb of a virgin in the hidden town of Bethlehem. He was born into dark times, to eat and walk with sinners. Jesus left us likewise in utter poverty, betrayed by friends and left hanging on a cross. Are we poor enough to return to him, to find him where he lives now, in the poverty of our hearts? Can we change our hearts to let him in?
This Lenten period is a unique and unrepeatable opportunity. Given what has happened over the past two years with the pandemic, and what is going on now on the world scene with war in the Ukraine, unrest in the Middle and Far East, social, and civil division in our land and stress on our families, we are called into repentance. Our prayer, fasting and alms giving is needed now more than ever. Where there is conversion, there is hope. If I say that conversion begins with me, then my conversion becomes part of God’s plan. My conversion will make me a new creation in Jesus, and I will share in his Resurrection at Easter. The road to grace is open!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo