“Moses spoke to the people, saying:
‘The priest shall receive the basket from you
and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God.
Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God...
‘Therefore, I have now brought you the firstfruits
of the products of the soil
which you, O LORD, have given me.’
And having set them before the Lord, your God,
you shall bow down in his presence.’”
Lent has begun: ashes on our foreheads, purple vestments, fasting, abstaining from meat on Fridays, giving something up, adding some prayer or reading, preparing for the Easter sacraments, going to confession, and not singing alleluia! These are the familiar marks of this season, but they are not the journey. Our journey through Lent should be more personal and profound. How do we encounter God, grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus, trust more fully in the work of the Holy Spirit? Where will this journey of Lent take us? And where do we start?
The trick is that it doesn’t really start with us. It starts with God. Perhaps it is to remote for us to think about regularly, but our universe was created by the overflowing love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of us were formed in our mother’s wombs by that same love. Everyday, we are held in existence by that same love. That love brought a people out of slavery, formed covenant after covenant with them, brought them back from exile, and prepared them for the birth of a messiah. It is by that love that Jesus was born, called disciples, taught in synagogues, healed the sick, ate with sinners, suffered, died, and was buried. Love even conquered death, brought belief to a doubting Thomas, and gave us all the gift of the Holy Spirit. God has worked and continues to work in history, even as it unfolds each day, this day. His love is poured out for us. That is where it starts.
So, it starts with God. Okay, but how do we respond? Let’s not move too fast. It starts with God. Dwell there for a bit. Look for his action today. Seek his presence in those whom we encounter and in our own hearts. Take some time to be mindful of God’s presence and action. Reflect more on his love for you and me and everybody. Think about his goodness, beauty, truth, mercy, and love. Become more aware of the still small voice and the gift of silence. Recognize the many gifts we have received and the great gift of our own lives. See the love that is all around. It starts with God.
Okay, okay. Now what?
Gratefulness seeps into us through a mindful reflection on God’s love. It is our first response. Thank you, God! It is more than an attitude or a feeling, though. More than words on a page or coming from our mouths. Our gratitude is giving ourselves to the one who has given himself to us. It is love for love, life for life. It is not esoteric or theoretical, but tangible and real. We give our firstfruits, the very best we have to give, to the one who has given us everything: every moment, every ability, every relationship, every opportunity. That gift to God of ourselves is gratitude. That is worship. “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.” Thanks be to God. Start there.