“Rend your hearts not your garments” the prophet Joel long ago directed.
The same theme is directed to us this Ash Wednesday: “Open up your hearts.” Let’s not waste our time on superficial Lenten practices that fail to touch our hearts. Let’s take on and carry out those practices, penances, and deeds in a way that opens up our hearts in three directions – to ourselves, to one another and to our God. The script: pray, sacrifice and help. Why those three? They open our hearts in three ways: prayer – to God; sacrifice – to ourselves; helping – to others. The script is tried and true, and at least for myself, too often unfulfilled.
This Lent, I suggest placing before God one or more of those things that are troubling us – personally or communally. This provides a context that roots our practices in the reality of our lives. We do Lent, not as ethereally beings, but as real live humans walking this earth every day. Our Lenten practices are in the context of our lives, not apart from them. Lenten practices offer us the chance to break the rhythm and pace of our very often hectic and distracting lives to gain a deeper perspective on our reality, to clarify our vision, and decide the steps to better ourselves and those around us.