“Come back to me with all your heart!”

That exhortation, from the Lord to His Chosen People of Israel, echoes throughout God’s Holy Word in the Bible.

Think of the truths of that divine invitation: one, we belong to God! He made us, He has a plan and a destiny for us! Two, we often leave Him. While He never departs from us, we can—and do—frequently abandon Him. Three, when we do drift away from Him, He continually encourages us to return to Him.

Lent is the season of the Church’s year when that invitation from God is especially clear.

“Come back to me with all your heart!”

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta often spoke of two gestures of Jesus towards us. The first is as He goes before us on the journey of life, ever curling His finger, facing us, coaxing us to continue travelling with Him towards eternal life.

The second gesture of Jesus happens when we turn our back on Him and begin to walk away. Now He raises His finger to tap us on the back, to turn around and follow Him again.

As Padre Pio preached, “The number of times in life when we turn from the Lord and walk away is not what’s important, as long as the number of times we turn around and start following Him again is one time more than the other number.”

Some saints call this “the dance,” as life become a “two-step,” one step heading away from Him, the other step in the dance correcting our two-step to turn around and return to our “Divine Dance Partner.”

I don’t care how long it’s been that you may be walking the wrong way. He’s waiting, coaxing, inspiring us to reverse ourselves and start following Him again.

Lent classically offers a number of ways to do that:

One, simply and sincerely let Him know we need Him, we trust Him, we love Him, we long to follow Him. That comes in prayer. Just be as basic and plain-spoken as you can, letting Him know in your own childlike vocabulary that you indeed want to “Come back to Him with all your heart!”

The greatest prayer we can utter is our Sunday Mass. Every Mass inserts us into both the Sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and into His Resurrection as God answered His Son’s prayers. The best way to “turn around” and begin to travel again with the Lord is to get back to Sunday Mass!

Two, we let Jesus know we want, with the essential assistance of His power, to leave sin behind. That’s why a good confession is always part of a fruitful Lent.

Three, we “come back” in our love and care for others, especially those in need.

Prayer—Penance, both through acts of self-denial and the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance—and charity, as our prayer and penance shows itself in love of others.

That trifecta—prayer, penance, and charity—is lifelong, but especially lures us during these forty days of Lent, as we travel with Our Lord towards His Cross and Resurrection during Holy Week.

All of life’s woes and frustrations come from us living as if God does not matter. We pursue meaning and purpose in other ways, and they all hurt us and others. Only in God can we find the way, the truth, life.

“Come back to me with all your heart!”

See you on the trip, and I long to be with you with Him forever when the pilgrimage is over!