Call a solemn assembly; gather the people… assemble the aged; gather the children… —Joel 2:15b-16
Hopefully, after living through two years of the covid pandemic, we no longer take public gatherings for granted. Most of us didn’t go to Ash Wednesday services last year because there weren’t many in-person services then. Of course, God kept working in the world for those 40 days. And yes, you can start this Lenten season at home this year, too, without being marked by actual ashes on your forehead.
But if you can get to church for that ritual today (at any church: it doesn’t have to be your parish), hopefully, it will mean something more because now you had lived through a time when churches shuttered. In today’s first reading, God told Joel to gather all the people together, not because they couldn’t pray on their own, but because there is a special power in praying with others. After so much isolation these last two years, do we need more proof that we are social beings? Do whatever you can to gather with a faith community so that you don’t have to begin your Lenten season alone. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make it to a church today. Sign yourself on your forehead with the sign of the cross and ask God to guide you through this Lenten season.
For Action: Who can you journey together with this season? Can you go to Mass with the community more often? Can you make a plan to talk to a friend in faith regularly? Do you want to find a spiritual director? Ponder who God might be putting in your life as a companion now and accept the invitation.
To Pray: Lord, show me who I can walk with through this Lenten season so I don’t have to make the journey alone.