Prioress Sister Nicole Kunze shares this Ash Wednesday reflection
In the first reading at Mass today from the prophet Joel, the Lord encourages us to return to Him with our whole heart. This call to return to God is the call to a conversion that is whole-hearted, one that includes fasting, weeping, mourning, and a total change of heart. Each and every Lent, our loving God calls us back, to let go of ways, habits, and actions that are keeping us away from His mercy and care for us.
In this returning, we are called from where we are at this moment, today, not who or where we were last year on Ash Wednesday or ten or fifty Ash Wednesdays ago. We are called to enter into this season of Lent open to being transformed and to receiving the grace God wishes to give us. We have to start right where we are. The effort and work of Lent is day by day, bit by bit. Any type of change or transformation does not happen immediately. It takes time. Returning to the Lord also calls us to let go of our need to fully control where we will go during this season. God is guiding us. Can we sit still and be the passenger rather than the pilot? We are active participants in the process that requires something from us, but can we let God set the course?
I wish to draw your attention to the three pillars of our Lenten tradition – prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Almsgiving, giving to those in need, whether it is our time, talent or treasure, is to be an act of charity for another. I encourage you to find a way that you can assist the poor, whether near or far. Almsgiving is not limited to monetary gifts. I encourage each of us to consider what we can do for someone in our daily lives, whether it is giving a kind word or withholding a critical word, doing some small task, or giving our full attention to another.
With fasting, we often think of giving up a favorite food or drink or refraining from eating between meals. Is there an item or task that you could fast from doing that may provide you with time or attention to give to your relationship with God or someone else? For myself, I intend to fast from time spent on the internet looking at news and sports headlines or watching videos and use that time for spiritual enrichment or cultivating a relationship with another.
With prayer, you know that there is much to pray for at this time in our lives and world. We need time and space to listen to God and what He is offering us. Make more times for silence in your life by turning off the radio or TV and spending time with God. By giving more time to prayer during Lent, may your relationship with God, who loves you very much, grow and deepen.
May this season of Lent and the practices you choose to do assist you in returning to the Lord with your whole heart. May God grant you every grace and blessing you need to grow in faith, hope, and love these forty days of Lent. Amen.