As I write this reflection, the weather report is predicting 3 to 5 inches of snow for the Darien, Illinois area. Just a few days ago, it was over 50 degrees Fahrenheit and beautiful, with early spring plants starting to show themselves. Now everything will be covered in snow! Some people might be frustrated while others are breathing a sigh of relief. The snow will cover the mess of fallen twigs and branches, flower beds that need tending, and fall leaves around bushes or the corners of house that need cleaning. All that work is postponed for another time. Let’s hear it for the snow!
What happens with a snowfall can also be part of life. So many things happen during a day and be used to distract from the need of dealing with our personal mess that needs change, reconciliation and conversion.
Is it any wonder that Lent begins with the prophet Joel using a harsh word to shake up the lives of those who hear him? “Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord your God” (Joel 2:13). In Hebrew the word rend means to tear to pieces or tear away. To rend means to tear away the false front or mask carefully created that leads others, even ourselves, a stray from knowing the truth of weakness and sin, much like the snow that covers a mess calling out to be cleaned. It is a way to protect ourselves from showing others the dark side of our lives and the possibility we might be rejected. Yet, Joel wants people to be real when they stand before God.
Besides meaning to tear away the false mask, to rend can also mean to open, widen and express sorrow. “To rend your hearts” implies that we make space for God, who desires to heal, forgive, and make new. But His desire can only be accomplished with an individual who is willing to trust and open him or herself to the Lord. Implied here is the need for humility which means accepting the truth about ourselves, what we have done or failed to do and the need we have of conversion and returning to the Lord.
That is the basic call of Lent. That is the reason ashes are used today to show that people have begun to rend their hearts as they truly acknowledge their need and desire for the grace of Christ to live life differently based on His life, His Gospel and the faith of His Church. The journey during Lent is long but is marked with Scripture of people who did rend their hearts and not their garments. They put aide much in that action but received so much more from Jesus. They were different because they widen their lives to receive Him. Are you willing to do the same and receive the life of Christ in abundance?