Preparing for Lent With Your Whole Heart

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By Sister Lillian Jordan

Lectio Divina is a scriptural prayer form in which a passage is read slowly and reflectively, allowing the words to capture our attention and touch our hearts. The practice is centuries old, and while common among vowed religious, has begun to be known and valued among laywomen and men across the globe. Originally a private prayer, it is more recently being used in small groups of people with great richness in the reverent holding of the heart sharing of each.

Lectio involves reading a scripture in the same reflective way with a posed question to consider at each reading. The first reading simply asks what word or phrase stands out for you. The second reading asks what memory or thought is elicited by reflection on the word or phrase. Finally, the third reading invites us to listen for the way we are challenged to respond.

That is followed by a quiet time of integration, expression of gratitude and a closing prayer.

Lectio calls us to open ourselves to God’s Word in our lives by deep and reverent listening. This in turn leads to a deepening relationship with God who has loved us into existence and has given Godself completely.

With this as prologue and template, I offer the following reflection gleaned from the first Lenten reading from the book of Joel 2:12-18.

“Even now says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart.” In this case, nothing less than everything is enough.

Following the second reading of the same scripture and prompted by the question of what thought or memory does the word or phrase have for you, I thought of how practical a person I am, and how there is a downside to living out of my head rather than taking the risk of fully engaging my heart. “With your whole heart” speaks of a relationship that is empty of selfishness and holds nothing back, a relationship that recognizes the unconditional, ineffable love of God for me and all creation, and compels me to respond in kind.

Lent will begin this year for me with a challenge to live more expansively, to view the wonder of the world with joy and gratitude, while at the same time standing in solidarity with those people in need, and hearing the cries of our earth, our common home.

Of its essence love begets love. The awareness of God’s unconditional love for me in turn prompts my commitment to love others and demonstrate my love in ways that make a difference.

My challenge during this Lenten journey is to integrate prayer, fasting and good works into my life breath. Questions that will guide me are:

  • Am I responding to God’s love “with my whole heart?”
  • Will I live with a heightened consciousness of my actions?
  • Will I offer my whole heart in return for God’s gift of self?
  • Will the place in which I live be a happier place, the people with whom I minister know themselves more valued, the strangers I meet be welcomed, those who depend on me feel secure?
  • Will I have the courage to stand with the marginalized, reach out to those in need, ask forgiveness from those whom I have hurt, treat Earth and all created things with reverence and respect?

The enormity of God’s love for us all through the ages is overwhelming. How can I help but return God’s love with my whole heart? Nothing less than everything is enough.

May the power of God’s Word alive in us bring us to Easter joy!