“Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12), says the Lord. “Be reconciled with God” (2 Corinthians 5:20), begs St. Paul. Indeed, Lent is a homecoming of sorts. It is a time when we need to take the time to be with ourselves, to examine where we have been, and to explore where we are going. Therefore, it is a time when we need to make space for God, in order that we might examine ourselves before God, and ask God for direction in our lives.
When we bring our memories, our hopes, our dreams, our joy and our broken hearts before God we realize, if we think about it for a moment, that these things are all about our relationships. God is not interested in our status in the community, nor our personal wealth, not even how pious we may appear before others. God is only interested in our relationships with one another and with God.
This is not surprising, for how could God, who became a man to dwell amongst us, be interested in anything else but our relationships. The very fact that God chose to relate to us in the same way that we relate to one another underlines the importance God places on our interactions with one another. Indeed, God as Christ showed himself to be, at least in part, just like us. Even going as far as “to make him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Hence, what is most important to God, and what should be most important to us, is the way we treat one another. And in a way, this makes our work over Lent a little easier, at least as far as finding suitable reflection material for the time we set aside to be with God goes. We needn’t look any further than our relationships with our friends, families, loved ones and communities.
Patience, kindness, love. These are just a few of the characteristics that Paul assigns to those who would be servants of God (2 Cor 6:6). Can I fast from being impatient with my children, and when I fail, as I am bound to do, bring this before God in my daily prayer? Can I go out of my way to offer kindness to a stranger, and when I fail, as I am bound to do, search my heart before God, and ask what the stranger that I might best serve looks like, and where I might find him? Can I remember someone I love, bring that memory before God, and ask for healing where there may be pain?
The psalmist tells us, “The Lord remembers that we are but dust; that our days are like the grass; that we flourish like a flower of the field; when the wind goes over it is gone, and its place will be no more”. Yet he hastens to remind us that the Lord’s merciful goodness endures forever, on those who keep his covenant (Ps 103:14-17).
Our relationships with one another are central to who we are, and they outlast us. We continue to be influenced by those closest to us long after they have left us; just as we continue to influence loved ones and others long after we are gone. Our love for one another is important; so much, so that God keeps it for us, as treasure in heaven (Mt. 6:20). May our hearts be with such treasures over Lent, and always.