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If you are wondering and perhaps even fretting about what you should “do” this Lent, grab your cup of coffee. Pull up a chair.
Let’s talk about the next forty days.
What comes to mind when you think of Lent?
Do you like the sacrificial aspect of this time of preparation?
As I look back on past Lents, it was almost like a countdown to Easter. In fact, as I think about it, I made Lent sort of like “Whole30,” a time of discipline that I’d just have to “get through.”
So I got through it.
Well, on Ash Wednesday I was invited to something deeper. The invitation was issued by my pastor, Fr. Matthew Marney at Church of the Holy Spirit. And always, messages expand as we share them, so I wanted to take today and share his message with you, knowing that as I type and podcast about this, the invitation will configure deeper into my own heart, mind and soul.
The first reading on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, was from the teeny, tiny Book of Joel. Here’s a portion of what was read:
“Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.” Joel 2: 12-13.
Rend your heart, not your garments.
What do you think of when you read or hear that line?
Whenever I hear the word “rend” I imagine someone (from the time of Jesus) dramatically ripping open their garment, signifying an extremely strong emotion.
Father brought up that same imagery as he referred to the high priest Caiaphas tearing his garment when he felt like Jesus was blaspheming the name of God. That scene was in The Passion of the Christ. (Which made me want to watch that movie again!)
Yet that wasn’t the only time something was torn during that movie. Think back. When was something else torn wide open? Yep, at the Crucifixion; the veil covering the inner portion of the temple was ripped into two.
“...Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.” Matthew 27:50-51.
To get a better understanding of this, Father explained how the Ark of the Covenant was held for many years in the temple. And only the High Priest was allowed to enter into the “Holy of Holies.” (And only once a year, on the Day of Atonement.)
If the High Priest said or did something wrong while in the inner sanctuary, it was basically thought that he’d be struck dead right then and there. Well, who would rush in and get him outta there? I don’t think there would be a long list of volunteers, you know? So, they tied a rope around his waist or ankle, just in case they needed to pull out his dead body.
Can you imagine the intensity of that?
So there was this thick veil between the people and the Word of God.
When Jesus died, that veil was TORN in two. Was that just a strange coincidence? Did it just happen to get torn as the temple was shaken up?
Nope. Jesus’ death ANNIHILATED the veil between GOD and us.
As I was thinking about that, Father Marney issued this “little” invitation: Rend your heart. Tear it wide open. And let God in. Let Him into all of those places that you hide from others. Let Him in. Let Him love you as you are.
I've been wanting a different type of Lent. In fact, I've been praying to the Holy Spirit to lead me to MORE this Lent. I don't want it to be something I just "get through."
REND YOUR HEART, LORI.
Take your hands. Place them in your heart. And give it a big ol' rip. Do not fear. Open. Make room.
Then offer the invitation:
COME IN, HOLY ONE. Come into my inner sanctuary. Come Live Here.
Okay, something cool then happened. I was sitting in my pew, envisioning my heart and soul torn open in love, thinking that was the final point, when Father Marney did what he does best. He pushed the envelope just a bit more.
He asked this simple question to all of us at Mass, “Does God love you?”
He was standing near the grade schoolers and they all nodded vigorously.
“Yep, God loves you. In fact, never in the history of all the great loves out there, has anyone ever loved another the way that God loves you.”
Oh my. I think Father said that for the adults in the house. I don't know. But it hit me. Hard.
I thought of all of the love stories I’ve seen, heard and read over the years. Images came to me.
There have been some GREAT love stories, you know? It’s easy to get sort of jelly about those love stories.
In the heart of every single one of us is the desire to be loved. To be seen. To be known.
NEVER. In the history of mankind. Has ANYONE. Ever been loved. As much. As YOU are loved by God.
I believed him.
What a great way to start Lent. May the next forty days not be something we just “get through” in fear and sluggishness and hunger pains.
May we awaken to the truth. Jesus' death tore down the veil between God and us.
May we take the time TODAY and tear down everything we've erected around our hearts.
Then let's rip them open.
Yep. Let’s Render Our Hearts.
Let Love In.
If we can do that for REAL, it’s gonna be a different kind of Lent.