We are a marked people. We bear the sign of the cross on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday but we also have it carved on our hearts every day we choose to follow the Beloved. The readings of the day show a God who does not give up on us. This slow-angering, merciful God keeps showing up even when we do not. Such is the indelible mark on our souls.
Joel lets God speak of enduring love in the First Reading:
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.
God coaxes us back, hoping to win our hearts. Return to me with your whole heart. There is no half-hearted commitment when we follow God. A single-heartedness is required. The Gospel of Matthew explains that God sees our secret deeds and repays us for them. When we act, fast, and pray, God is paying attention to these hearts of ours. God knows our motivations. You cannot fool the Creator. As we begin the Lenten journey through the desert, we can only con ourselves. God is hoping that you are all in this Lent. Whatever you give up or take up, do it wholeheartedly. Let it change your life. Choose something that scares you. Select a wound that needs healing or a habit that needs breaking. Transform a part of you that needs rending.
My father had cataract surgery yesterday. Today the eye patch was taken off and he was astounded by how well he could now see the numbers on the call display and the digits on the clock across the room. Lent can be like that if we peel off the film that prevents us from seeing clearly. We can be astonished by the clear vision we can gain during these 40 days in the desert.
Now is an acceptable time, we hear in 2 Corinthians 5, to cry out for a change of heart. God will hear and will help. I had the pleasure tonight of being with three people at mass tonight who have not been in awhile. I teased one of them afterwards, singing Come back to me. God can give our hearts exactly what is needed but we must make the effort to at least turn in the right direction. Come back to us, I sang out to the young man as we began to part ways. God sings that to each of us who wander from community. Will you consider returning this Lent?
How does the indelible mark on your heart change you?
What do you need to see more clearly this Lent?
You whisper with love and longing–come back to Me. Our hearts are marked God’s. May we know this without a doubt. May we return to you as we journey through the desert this Lent, fasting, weeping and mourning. May we be astonished by a clear vision that reveals that now is an acceptable time. Thank you, Creator, for hearing us. Amen.