“Rend your hearts and not your garments, return to the Lord, your God.” Joel 2:12
To rend our hearts is to tear apart, to pierce, or to split. For the community of Israel, the word from the prophet Joel says, God desires your entire being, your whole heart. God desires your joys, brokenness, dreams, anxieties and hopes. God is inviting us to heal the brokenness in our families and communities and to enter into the process of becoming whole.
We are to treat each other with kind speech and serenity of soul. As Joan Chittister puts it, “The degree to which we see the presence of God in all things gauges our real union with God.” And I would add persons. “The degree that we see the presence of God in all persons gauges our real union with God”. Wow!!! That is a meditation in itself.
I remember asking a professor of mine in graduate school, “How could there be a hell? Wouldn’t God want all he has created to be with him?” She said something to the effect, ‘well if you can’t see God in creation here on earth, you may not recognize Him there.’ Immediately, I thought of the street person I find unappealing or even repulsive. What if God presented himself in that manner to me in heaven and I walk right past Him? “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matt. 25
Rend your hearts this Lenten season and pray for the grace to recognize the presence of God in that one person you find to be difficult, repulsive, or disagreeable. Know that you have plenty of company in the struggle for holiness. Isaiah, Paul and Peter all knew themselves to be incomplete, incapable and wholly unacceptable. Isaiah said “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips.” As Paul says of himself, ”I am one born abnormally..I am the least of the apostles, not fit..because I persecuted the church of God.” And then we have Peter who said to Jesus after the miracle of the abundant fish catch, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Each of them imperfect, each of them fearful, each of them sure that they were not up to the job: unable to speak, unfit, and sinful. And yet God used them! When you allow yourself to sink into God and accept his grace, we, too, can bring his life and light to those who need His loving presence, his healing words and his compassionate touch. Rend your hearts.