By Sister Angelina Mitre

Today we begin the Season of Lent. It is a time for a tune-up in all aspects of our lives: our motivations, the meaning of our lives and our personal attitudes. The situations in our lives are a call to this change of personal attitude that is founded in the commandment to love.

These situations touch the mercy that resides in us. The woman who asks for help to buy the ingredients for the arepas that she can sell to get food for her children. The teenager who has left his country and now is isolated, living in a crime-filled city neighborhood. Before, he lived in the country with family and made bracelets and delivered firewood to get some money; he had lots of friends. Now, he’s trying to find his place in the reality of the new country.

The people who feel, with the current financial situation, that there is no future for them. The migrants who cling to their faith in the God who provides.

The destruction of forests, the scarcity of water for communities to consume. The corruption that is common in our countries, the feeling of insecurity, the impunity, the silence of so many, the struggle to survive—all are situations that call us to change our attitude.

The prophet Joel tells us:

Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful.

Before the plague of locusts pounding the fields, the prophet asks the people to take a journey of fasting and penitence to pray for divine compassion.

The psalms speak to us of the human condition, of failing to be faithful to our covenant with God:

Why do you recite my commandments and profess my covenant with your mouth? You hate discipline; you cast my words behind you!

Facing this rebuke from God, the psalmist expresses the repentance of the sinner who recognizes his sin and begs:

Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me.

A clean heart create in me, God;

Renew within me a steadfast spirit.

Restore to me the gladness of your salvation; uphold me with a willing spirit.

Returning to the Lord so that He can create a pure heart in us, give us a new spirit, maintain a generous soul and we can rejoice.

St. Paul calls us to not throw God’s grace in a ripped bag—now is the time for salvation, for action, for practicing the works of piety, prayer and fasting. It is time to reconcile, to rebuild peace among people, with our Mother Earth; it is the realization of the biblical shalom that implies fullness of life and living together.  It is God’s yearning for a new humanity.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, the Master insists on attending to the intentions of one’s heart, committing ourselves to growing and maturing in our relationship with our Father in Heaven and not looking out for personal interests or image. True conversion to God is manifested in a generous and unbiased openness to works of mercy, an openness to community.

Pope Francis reminds us that Lent is re-discovering that we are made for the fire that always burns, not for the ashes that go out right away.

May our fire burn bright in our hearts, purified by the God of mercy and our practice of the works of mercy.