Wednesday, February 06, 2008

“Here I Am!” - The Lenten Response

Today is Ash Wednesday, and the start of the season of Lent.*

To mark this important day, I’d like to share two reflections. The first is an Ash Wednesday reflection by Maria Hill, CSJ. It’s from Springtime of the Soul, a Lenten guide published by the Congregation of St. Joseph.

As the starting point for her reflection, Hill uses two verses from the Book of Joel:

It is the Lord who speaks, “Come back to me with all your heart. . . . Come back to the Lord your God, for [I am] all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness.” - Joel 2:12-13

What a personal invitation to intimacy! God speaks to each of us individually on this Ash Wednesday and asks for our whole heart, not just part of it, not just all of it sometimes, but all the time.

We know that the entire person of Jesus is totally given to us in the sign of unconditional love that is the cross. The life of Jesus manifests his compassion to all who come to him in need. He always forgave those who sincerely expressed sorrow for their wayward ways. God desires an intimate relationship with us, that together we might create the oneness that would satisfy every human heart and bring unity to a world in need of peace and healing.

If our response is indifference, he waits. If our response is weakness in the face of temptation and we succumb, he forgives. If our response is, “Don’t jar me out of my comfort zone!”, he continues to invite, so great is his love.

Maria Hill’s beautiful words remind me of the lyrics to the Emmylou Harris song, “Here I Am” (from her 2003 album, Stumble Into Grace). I like the idea of God’s voice sounding like Emmylou Harris’! And the fact that it’s left up to the listener to decide if the song’s simple chorus of, “Here I am,” is part of her call or the response she’s longing to hear.

It’s a beautiful song, and a very appropriate source of reflection for this season of Lent, this time of responding to God’s call; of “starting over;” and, in the words of Carol Crepeau, CSJ, of “trying for a full graced life again.”

I am standing by the river,
I will be standing here forever.
Tho you’re on the other side,
My face you still can see,
Why won’t you look at me?
Here I am.

I am searching thru the canyons,
It is your name that I am calling.
Tho you’re so far away,
I know you hear my plea,
Why won't you answer me?
Here I am.

I am in the blood of your heart,
The breath of your lung,
Why do you run for cover?
You are from the dirt of the earth,
And the kiss of my mouth.
You have always been my lover.
Here I am.

I am the promise never broken,
And my arms are ever open.
In this harbor calm and still,
I will wait until,
Until you come to me.
Here I am.

* The traditions of Lent come from the season’s origins as a time when the church prepared candidates, or “catechumens,” for their baptism into the Body of Christ. It eventually became a season of preparation not only for catechumens but also for the whole congregation. Examination of conscience, study, prayer, and works of love are disciplines historically associated with Lent. Conversion - literally the “turning around” or reorientation of our lives towards God - is the theme of Lent. Both as individuals and as a community, we look inward and reflect on our readiness to follow Jesus in his journey towards the cross. The forty days of Lent correspond to the forty-day temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and the forty-year journey of Israel from slavery to a new community.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Lenten Journey
The Onward Call

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