Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
for I am gracious and merciful.
Even now, March 9, 23 days into Lent. Even now, with your shirked resolutions and fading enthusiasm. Even now, at the end of the week, in your rut, with your longing and worry and wondering.
When I heard these words at Mass, they came like a balm to my weary soul. My Lenten zeal having worn down considerably, I’ve been flagging. I went to sleep too late last night. I didn’t journal and pray like I always do—I watched a Netflix documentary instead. This morning, I extricated myself from my beckoning bed in the early hours and shuffled to the chapel, bleary-eyed and stiff from the cold. I sat and stood and knelt as always. And I mulled over those blessed words.
Really, Lord? My whole heart? But what about those specially reserved corners, and what about the stony spots, and what about the strings attached to things of this world?
And are you sure you really want me? What about those broken promises, and muttered insults, and harbored grudges? What about those times I thought of myself first? What about those wasted hours, and bad habits, and graces rejected?
He asked a whole lot today. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” Jesus quoted to the scribe. He wants it all. And now, in my Lenten languishing, I feel I have so little to give. And then I remember. That was never my goal in the first place. It was, simply, to receive His love. And if I’m weary and longing and running on empty, what a wonderful vessel I must make.
Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I’ve managed to slip into that inward-looking mindset this Lent. I’ve been pleased with my commitment to some resolutions, and frustrated by my failure at others. I’ve cut out some bad habits, yes, but new ones have slickly taken their place. I’ve cared more about keeping score, about weighing my merits against my faults. I’ve forgotten my ultimate hope, my prayer, that invitation from Jesus not long ago: receive my love.
When I remember that invitation and pair it with His request to turn to Him with my whole heart, to love Him with all my heart and soul, mind and strength, my worry ceases. No, I don’t feel I have much to offer. Yes, I feel unworthy. No, I haven’t remained faithful. Yes, I’ve forgotten what He asked of me. But…He is gracious and merciful. And His love is all-encompassing and never-ending and perfect. And still He wants me, longs for me, delights in me.
So, today, I’m returning to Him with my whole heart. Even now.
How has your Lent been so far? Wherever you find yourself, I pray these words of Jesus are a balm to you, too.