“I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.” (Hosea 2 16b)
It is a beautiful reminder that in this season of Lent God has an intimate invitation for me.
Over and over again the readings of Lent speak of life, of living, of commitment, of sacred relationship. Lenten readings remind us of God’s faithful presence, pure justice and gentle mercy. We recall the invitation to love our neighbor. To love ourselves. To love God above all. We are assured that God’s steadfast love will lead to glorious joy. But also, the readings catch us up in the struggles – very human struggles. How could it be that this loving God would ask a loving parent, Abraham, to sacrifice his son, Isaac, his “only one, whom you love?” We stand with Joseph as he listens, hears and responds to the messenger and takes Mary as his wife, rather than turn her over to the law. We witness the child Jesus mesmerized by the teachings, forgetful of his family and staying behind in the temple. We are invited to participate in the celebration of the Last Supper when Jesus reminds us to do this in His memory – to heal the sick, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, to laugh and rejoice together, to pray and to listen, to break bread and eat together in His name. We are invited to kneel with Jesus prayerfully weeping in solidarity with him and with those over whom he weeps: the poor, the outcast, the orphaned, the sick and the dying, and all who feel alone, desperate and forgotten. We are being invited to continue his gentle, loving ministries. Each one of us is invited into the struggle of identity and commitment. We have witnessed a God who quenches thirst and satisfies hunger. We have heard of God who destroys and builds up. We have witnessed the gentle Jesus in conversation with the Samaritan woman. The just and merciful Jesus in dealing with lost and forgotten. The stories are endless and we are being invited to listen on a deeper more personally intimate level and to respond. The stories are stark reminders of the peace that follows surrender, of the freedom that comes with commitment, of love that flows from faithfulness. They are about relationship and invitation.
Today, as I walk the busy city streets, meander country villages and farmers’ fields, visit the sick or imprisoned, nurse my infant or feed an enfeebled elder, or sit at the foot of the cross I might pray:
“If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart.” (Psalm 95)
In these final hours of Lent, what is it that I have heard whispered in my heart these past few weeks? What tender, loving, caressing words meant only for me?
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