Lent: A Dialogue With The Divine
“Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.... Return to the Lord, your God” (Joel 2:12-13)
On Ash Wednesday in 1998 Pope Saint John Paul the Great delivered a short, yet powerful, homily in the Basicilica of Saint Sabina (a church on the Aventine Hill in Rome, Italy).
Even though the homily’s short, I worked through it slowly because each paragraph packed so much wisdom from one of my favorite saints. (Here is the full homily of John Paul II for Ash Wednesday February 25, 1998)
Here’s my favorite line from the homily:
“Faced with the sin that defiles the human heart, the Lord bends over his creature to renew the saving dialogue and to open for him new prospects of life and hope.”
The idea of having a dialogue with God stuck out to me. You don’t have a dialogue with a God who is distant and impersonal. Saint John Paul is depicting God differently. Our God is very personal and close to us.
If God is trying to engage us in a “saving dialogue”, what is He trying to say?
It’s not easy to “hear” God in our day-to-day lives. The busyness and noise can naturally lead us away from spending time praying and conversing with God. Slowly our relationship with God becomes less of a priority and eventually we might struggle to recognize His voice.
For many of us, our deafness leads to indifference. As Lent comes around we can find our hearts so filled sin that we don’t even know if it’s worth trying again. We might think to ourselves that God is too disappointed, ashamed, and disinterested to even want us back.
But in Jesus we hear God’s definitive Word to us: His life, death, and resurrection speaks directly to what He thinks of us.
That’s why Saint John Paul refers to Lent a “season of grace and spiritual rebirth.” Lent is when we get to start again.
We are never too sinful, too broken, or too distant to receive this new life.
In the “saving dialogue”, a loving God is trying to convince us that we can still have hope.
As John Paul puts it, “To the sinner who wonders about his situation and whether he can still obtain God’s mercy, today’s liturgy replies with the Apostle’s words from the Second Letter to the Corinthians: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (5:21) In Christ, the heavenly Father’s boundless love for each person is proclaimed and offered to believers.”
The crucifix is God’s direct protest to anyone who believes they are too lost to be loved by God.
My prayer for all of you is the same at Saint John Paul’s: “We pray that hearts will be prepared for the dialogue with God. For each individual he has a special word of forgiveness and salvation. May every heart willingly listen to God, to rediscover in his words the reasons for the hope that does not disappoint.”
Until next time - Esto Vir!