'But now; declares Yahweh - come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, and mourning.'
Tear your hearts and not your clothes, and come back to Yahweh your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and he relents about inflicting disaster.
Who knows if he will not come back, relent and leave a blessing behind him, a cereal offering and a libation to be presented to Yahweh your God?
This is a section of the first reading from Mass for Ash Wednesday. Joel describes in it how God desires a change of heart and mindset as a way of returning to him, and asks us to hold nothing of ourselves back. I am reminded of the words of St. Francis of Assisi; in his ‘Letter to the Entire Order’ ‘Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that He who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally.’
Lent is a call to generosity and to renewed efforts to see the need in the other person. It is a time par excellence to put the other person first and to see the image of Jesus Christ in others and especially in those who suffer.We are called too to give up something we like in order to make a sacrifice and/or we are also invited to take on something. So this may be a time to consider giving up alcohol or sweet things. It could be a challenge to cut down on social media or television/movie viewing. Some things we give up can have great benefits to a healthier lifestyle. Quitting smoking and cutting down on our food intake can be a great thing to do in Lent and can have positive effect on our health into the future.
But whatever we do, we are invited to do it with a cheerful heart and to keep trying. The most important thing to bear in mind it we do it for God. This changes us on the inside and makes us happier people. And of course as Joel says; “Who knows if God will not leave a blessing for us?”