“Now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” – Lk. 15:32

As we settle into Lent, now reaching the end of the second full week, today's readings invite us to be aware of our own sin, but even more to recall the blessings of God, especially when we were most in need of that blessing. It may be that, as you read this, you are in the midst of blessing and peace in your life or, perhaps, in the midst of some pain or struggle.

Lent is about penance, not punishment. The way forward is not to punish ourselves back to God, but to “turn from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” Difficulty, perhaps even suffering, marks the journey home, but so does the joy that Micah and the younger son encounter when they remember who and whose they are. Any benefit I have found in Christian life has been found in turning from sin, and never from when I've tried to punish myself back to God. The road back may be punishing, but punishment is not the road back.

Lent is our invitation to the hard work of homecoming. In this work, we are not alone. As we journey, we accompany others, making their own journey. We support each other when the way is hard, and remind each other of the joy and goodness of home when it feels too far away. In the rearview mirror, we surely can recall some memory, some moment, where we were moved by “wonderful signs.” Even though it’s Lent, “we must celebrate and rejoice” for all the lost things in our lives that have been found. Let us stay strong in fasting so that we might better learn to feast.

1) What is my image of the place where God once shepherded and nourished me? How can I remain in that grace?

2) What is the “shiny object” in my life that promises joy, satisfaction, or fulfillment, but always disappoints? What Lenten practice can help me see it for what it is?

Jason Coito

Photo Credit: Ian Sane - The Road Home