Joel 2:12-18 (NRSVCE)
Today’s reading is a fitting way to begin the Lenten season. “return to the LORD, your God”, “Spare, O LORD, your people”, and “Then the LORD . . . took pity on his people.” God calls us to Himself, at all times but most especially in this Lenten season He calls us to return to Him from whom we receive everything. We are sinners! We have fallen away from God, from what He calls us to be. We ought to be crying out in anguish “Spare, O LORD, your people”, but instead we are too focused on ourselves. We fill our time with television, with Facebook, with video games, even with writing blog posts, and leave no time in our lives for God. God ought to be first among our priorities, everything we do ought to have God in mind. We are made in the imago dei, the Image of God, and it is to that standard which we are called. Others ought to look on us and see God in us! But instead, they see us and ask “Where is their God?”
Lent is a penitential season. It is a time for the whole Church to stop and realize that we have all failed to cling to God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is a time for us to return to God—through prayer and fasting—to deepen our relationship with Him. In that deepening of our faith, we more fully realize who and what we are. We are sinners, yes, but we are also children of God. As children, we ought to cling to our Father. For our Father knows us better than we know ourselves, and it is only through Him and through our relationship with Him that we can ever learn, not only how to do what we ought to do—this isn’t simply a question of morality or duty—but our very identity. Who we are is children of God, and that is unlike anything else in our lives.
Without Him, we would not exist. There would be no “me” without “Him”, no “you” without “Him”. On Him we wholly depend for our very existence, so it truly seems strange that we need to keep reminding ourselves to return to Him. Our sin quite literally pulls us away from the very source of our being, and too often we revel in it. “Where is their God?” others say. This is why we need Lent. This is why we need penance. In our sin, we stray from our Father, and in so doing we become less and less of what it even means for us to be at all. So, pray. Fast. Repent. Give praises to our God! So that He can look upon us as He did in the beginning and say “it is good.” And so that when others see us, there is no question about where our God is. We are made in the Image of God, and our God dwells within us.