I love how the first reading begins today: “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart.” It’s those first two words I find intriguing. “Even now”. It’s as if the Lord is saying, “Yes, I get that you go to Mass regularly and that you fast sometimes and that you say your rosary . . . But even now return to me with your whole heart.”
You see you and I are lukewarm. Without merit. Deserving of judgement. And yet we have said something similar to the Lord that he says we shouldn’t say: “[T]hou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev 3: 17-18). Catholic translation: “I fast, I go to Mass, I think the liturgy ought to be celebrated reverently . . .I even subscribe to Magnificat“. And why wouldn’t the Lord say to us in reply (as he did in Revelation) ” [You] knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
Don’t misunderstand me. Fasting, good. Rosary, good. Mass, great! And yet today our Lord says to us, “Even now, return to me with your whole heart.”
In my experience there are usually five things that hold people back from giving themselves entirely to the Lord, five excuses we make:
- I’m just a layperson 2. My sins are too great. 3. I’m not capable of living courageously. 4. My sins are too many and I feel enslaved by them, 5. I’ll have to give up those things that make our lives comfortable.
In response to that first excuse I’m reminded of the words of Dr. Ralph Martin who said (and I’m paraphrasing) “You’re just a lay person? You mean you’re just created in the image and likeness of God? Is that all? You mean you’re just a baptized Christian and so the Blessed Trinity dwells within you? Is that all? You mean you’re just a person for whom the second person of the Blessed Trinity shed his blood?” You and I are called to be saints. As Fr. Larry Richards likes to say, “In the end there is only two options. Become a saint, or go to Hell.”
The next four excuses are answered beautifully by St. Bernard. You might consider printing these words off so that you can meditate upon them in adoration:
“What are you afraid of, you men of little faith? That he will not pardon your sins? But with his own hands he has nailed them to the cross. That you are used to soft living and your tastes are fastidious? But he is aware of our weakness. That a prolonged habit of sinning binds you like a chain? But the Lord loosens the shackles of prisoners. Or perhaps angered by the enormity and frequency of your sins he is slow to extend a helping hand? But where sin abounded, grace became superabundant. Are you worried about clothing and food and other bodily necessities so that you hesitate to give up your possessions? But he knows that you need all these things. What more can you wish? What else is there to hold you back from the way of salvation?” (Click Here to Print)
Regardless of how close or how far you feel from the Lord on this first day of Lent, let these words challenge you. Even now. Even now.
Matt Fradd is an internationally known speaker, the Founder of theporneffect.com, and the Director of the Integrity Restored Network. This week only, you can get the e-book version of Matt’s new book Restored for free!