I don’t know about you, but I find this passage from The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen an excellent reflection to begin Lent with:
“This is the great mystery of our faith. We do not choose God, God chooses us. From all eternity we are hidden ‘in the shadow of God’s hand’ and ‘engraved in his palm.’ Before any human being touches us, God ‘forms us in secret’ and ‘textures us ‘ in the depth of the earth, and before any human being decides about us, God ‘knits us together in our mother’s womb.’ God loves us before any human person can show love to us. He loves us with a ‘first’ love, an unconditional love, wants us to be his beloved children, and tells us to become as loving as himself…
God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not ‘How am I to find God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be found by Him?’ The question is not ‘How am I to know God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be known by him?’ And finally, the question is not ‘How am I to love God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be loved by Him?’”
From the unformed embryo to the elderly grandparent, whether we are healthy, disabled or terminally ill, we are the Lord’s. He loves us and wants us to share in His love. Surprisingly, often the greatest challenge of the spiritual life is not to love God, but to allow ourselves to be loved by Him. This can be especially hard during Lent when we spend more time than usual reflecting on all the times we have distanced ourselves from Him by our sin. But even this should not discourage us, for the Lenten season is preparation for the greatest Act of forgiveness and proof of God’s great love for each one of us, even in our sinfulness.
For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly…God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6, 8 )
This Lent, let us not become discouraged by the recognition of our faults and failings, but humbly accept the limits of our human nature, let go of our sins and allow ourselves to be forgiven and transformed by God’s love and mercy.