What is it?
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning,… return to the lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful,… gather the people. (Joel 2.13-18)
Joel exhorts the whole people to return to the Lord God. The call to repentance, to conversion goes out not only to individuals but also to the whole people. We are in this together. The support of a group is valuable, powerful even, in times of mourning, of celebration, in moments of competition and of working toward our goals.
In Christian churches, during 40 days, we are invited to pray, to fast and to practice self-giving in preparation for the celebration of Easter – beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending at Easter.
In many areas of life we train, we prepare ourselves to attain our goals, our desires. The celebration of an event requires some sort of preparation, even throughout difficult and hard moments. The Jewish people spent 40 years on their journey toward the Promised Land. This journey was an apprenticeship to living fully the life God called them to live. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert preparing himself for his public ministry. . . . These “40s” are moments of purification, of formation, of “re-turning” to one’s true roots, one’s true self when we seem to have lost our focus.
So let us joyfully enter into this “prep time”, opening our hearts to God’s infinite love and mercy.
Lent starts on Ash Wednesday.