Return to God in 3 Steps
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning
God is always calling us to return to Him. No matter how much we turn away, God turns toward us and holds His hand out to us in an offer to walk with Him. More importantly, He tell us this in Scripture. It's not a guessing game. We don't have to read God's mind to know what He offers to us, because it's right there in written Revelation. So here's what you do:
Rend your heart, not your garments
Repent. Don't wring your hands in worry over your sin and error. Wring your heart in mourning for being apart from God. Sinning is just a symptom of being apart from God, and that apartness causes us great inner sadness. Confession, after all, is really called the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That is, the goal of penance is reconciliation (or restoration) between you and God. God doesn't want you to waste time rending your garments, afraid to approach Him. God wants you with Him, as soon as possible. So the first step in returning to God is turning toward God. On Ash Wednesday, we outwardly show our inward mourning by wearing ashes on our heads. In this way, we make a public acknowledgment that we must turn back toward God.
Fasting is a way for us to exercise intentional self-denial of Earthly pleasures so that we can develop spiritual discipline. God has given us the Earth and everything in it, and it is good. But when we have misplaced affection, or even worship, for the things of this world, that causes a rift between us and God. By practicing bodily mortification in the form of fasting, we reorient ourselves to what truly feeds and nourishes us. We remind ourselves that Earthly things are good, but God is goodness itself. When we are finished fasting, we are hopefully refreshed, focused, and able to see all the goods of this world as ultimately pointing toward God. And that helps keep us pointed toward God.
Part of being faithful to the Gospel is sharing it. Gospel means Good News, and it's meant to be proclaimed to all the Earth. If you receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, be open and honest about what they mean. If asked about your Lenten practice, be frank about your desire to develop spiritual discipline. When we arrive at Easter, be generous with your joy at Christ's resurrection, and all that it signifies for us. Help others turn toward God by announcing that you have, and that you have been warmly received. Don't keep God to yourself. There are a lot more people than you who are suffering the sadness of being apart from God. Help those people by pointing always to the source of your joy.
God bless you, and have a wonderful, fruitful Lent.
Originally posted on 2/18/2015