A Reflection on Lent by Sister Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH
Have you recently received an invitation from a friend or relative to attend a get-together? The invitation may have been to a dinner party, a birthday or anniversary celebration, a wedding, a baptism or some other special event. Whatever the occasion, it is clear that the host wants friends and loved ones to share in a celebration. At the bottom of the invitation you may have seen the words “regrets only.” Your optimistic host seems to assume that most people will want to come, so she asks only those few who cannot attend to let her know. What seems at first a perfunctory postscript belies a welcoming, hospitable stance.
Can you imagine receiving such an invitation from God? In this case, God invites you to get together over the 40 days of Lent to renew and deepen your mutual love and friendship, to ponder what it means to be in relationship with God, and with all of God’s creation. How do you feel about receiving such an invitation? Do you immediately put the dates on your calendar and look forward to them with eager anticipation? Or does this invitation fill you with doubt or guilt, or even fear and dread? Is it just one more thing to schedule into an already overloaded calendar? Are you tempted to send your “regrets?”
“Even now,” says the Lord, “return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.” These words of today’s Gospel acclamation, taken from Joel, assure us of God’s desire that we put aside whatever is holding us back from accepting God’s invitation to greater love and intimacy. Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, our loving God stands ready to forgive, to mend rifts, and to embrace us as cherished members of the family. All we are required to do is show up with an open mind and heart.
Remember that “prayer” is conversation with God. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to involve stilted, formal language. Sometimes, as with good friends or a couple who has been together for many years, it does not have to involve words at all – just a profound “being with” the other. But if you need some help to get started, a list of Lenten prayer resources is found below.
Blessings on your Lenten journey from the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.
Selected Lenten prayer resources:
Creighton University Lenten Prayer Resources: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/
Moved to Greater Love: (9 week Lenten/Easter prayer experience produced by the Jesuits) http://www.jesuits.org/story?TN=PROJECT-20140128033207
Pray As You Go Lenten Retreat: http://pray-as-you-go.org/prayer-resources/lent-retreat/
Sacred Space Retreat for Lent: http://retreats.sacredspace.ie/