LENT — Repentance in preparation for Salvation

The first reading for the Ash Wednesday Mass is from Joel 2:12-18. The Old Testament prophetic book is just three chapters long. Because Israel had suffered a long drought and a multitude of pestilences, the prophet Joel called on the people to return to the Lord with fasting, weeping, and mourning. He pleaded for them to make it personal and rend their hearts, not their garments.

Joel not only called for individual conversions, but for a return of the whole nation—as a people. So, they were not only asked to pray and fast on their own but were called to return as a nation, with the blowing of the trumpet. Joel believed if the people turned back to God, he would bring blessing upon them and their nation and end the calamities.

What about us? Lent is upon us. This is the time that we reflect on how we have fallen away from God—have not put him first in our lives—and plan to repent (change)! Look how far our nation has fallen—many want to remove the religious language from our Constitution. What about our personal lives? Do we like the religious language in our government, but don’t really apply it to our lives?

Could COVID and the unemployment it has caused be a punishment from the Lord? What about this week-long freezing weather? Rather than a punishment, I like to view these occurrences as God’s way of calling us back to him. He’s giving us a chance to return to him.

As St. Paul says in the second reading, “Behold, now is a very acceptable time”—to return to the Lord. This is th