“My Heart is Ready O God, My Heart is Ready” – Entering Lent with Purpose February 14, 2024

These are the words which begin morning prayer on Ash Wednesday. The opening Psalm of Lent invites us to approach God with a prayerful readiness to become more like God. So, what is our heart ready for this Lent? This is a question that God asks us as disciples on our journey of faith. Are we ready to love more? Are we ready to pray more? Are we ready to forgive more? Are we ready to move away from the false idols that have crept into our lives? At the beginning of Lent, we are invited to acknowledge our sins as we seek God’s forgiveness and desire to live a more holy life.

The first movement of Lent is to repent from our sins as we turn back to God. During Lent, Christians are reminded that all of us are sinners who need God’s grace and forgiveness. This is not meant to shame Christians or lay a guilt trip, but to remind Christians that sin is a fundamental dimension of humanity – but sin need not have the last word. After Pope Francis was elected pope in 2013, he gave an extraordinary interview. When he was asked by the interviewer who is Jorge Bergoglio – he paused in reflection and then said, “I am a sinner.” This was not for show but rather a humble and deep recognition that before God, we are all beggars and sinners in need of forgiveness. The call to conversion of heart – metanoia – is always in season as we seek to become more like God.

Connected to the movement of repentance from sin, is the desire to live a holy life. God meets our desire with abundant grace. The Second Vatican Council affirmed the universal call to holiness – all of God’s people are called by God to seek holiness – to seek a life pleasing to the Lord. For years, some Catholics believed that holiness was more realistically applied to the life of priests and religious. Have you spent considerable time among priests and religious – we struggle living holy lives as much as any Catholic in the Church. Rather, God calls all his children to holiness because God knows that this is where true happiness is found. When our lives reflect the goodness of God, we experience greater freedom and light – and faith becomes more attractive to others, because of the authenticity of our witness.

As a priest, there is no liturgy more moving to me than Ash Wednesday. We often see more Catholics in attendance on Ash Wednesday than holy days of obligation throughout the year. I am moved by the sincere desire for repentance on the faces of those gathered. There is a personal and collective sense of our need for God and our desire to turn away from sin. The outward manifestation of the death of Christ in the ashes placed on our foreheads not only reminds us of our own mortality, but also reminds us that, through the cross and resurrection of Christ, we pass from death to new life. In Lent, we are invited into the depths of Jesus’s Paschal Mystery – his life, passion, and death, as we wait with hope for the promise of new life which we celebrate with joy at Easter.

The readings on this First Sunday of Lent attest to God’s patience with us and God’s desire to renew the covenant with His people. For Christians, God enters into a covenantal relationship with us at baptism. Our covenant with God is strengthened through the sacramental life, but most especially thorough the Eucharist we celebrate, as we seek to become more like the one whom we receive. Today’s Gospel on the First Sunday of Lent is the familiar story of the Temptation of Jesus by Satan in the desert. Our Lenten journey mirrors the forty days Jesus spent in the desert as he resisted the temptations of the world and was strengthened inwardly for his redemptive mission. Christians are called to continue the saving mission of Jesus in the world, which requires less attachment to this world and greater union with God.

To foster these twin goals, the Church calls us to embrace prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent and throughout our lives as disciples. Each of these Lenten practices is a discipline that allows us to become more holy and less attached to the world. These practices also move us beyond ourselves to a deeper union with God and more compassionate love of our neighbor. Prayer lifts our hearts beyond self-preoccupation to the God who made us and calls us to enter into a deeper union with the Trinity. Fasting invites us to move beyond earthly desires in a way that unites our small sacrifice to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. Almsgiving moves us beyond ourselves to the good and needs of our neighbor – especially those who suffer on the margins and in whom Jesus himself is sublimely present.

Lent is a journey – a journey from the desert, to the garden, to the empty tomb. What will our lives look like on Easter Sunday? This Lenten season invites us to embrace deep metanoia as we die and rise with Christ and experience new life that awaits those who follow God.


Fr. Daniel