"We entreat you not to offer God's grace an ineffectual welcome." Yes, God's grace can fill us this Lent, provided we do not close the doors of our heart. We must be well-disposed, we must really want to change; we cannot play with God's grace.
I don't like to speak of fear, for the Christian is moved by the charity of God, which has been shown to us in Christ and teaches us to love all men and the whole of creation. However, we should speak about being responsible, being serious. "Make no mistake about it; you cannot cheat God," the Apostle Paul warns us.
We must decide. It's wrong to have two candles lighted — one to St Michael and another to the devil. We must snuff out the devil's candle: we must spend our life completely in the service of the Lord. If our desire for holiness is sincere, if we are docile enough to place ourselves in God's hands, everything will go well. For he is always ready to give us his grace, especially at a time like this — grace for a new conversion, a step forward in our lives as Christians.
We cannot regard this Lent as just another liturgical season which has simply happened to come around again. It is a unique time: a divine aid which we should accept. Jesus is passing by and he hopes that we will take a great step forward — today, now.
"Here is the time of pardon; the day of salvation has come already." Once again we hear the voice of the good shepherd calling us tenderly: "I have called you by your name." He calls each of us by our name, the familiar name used only by those who love us. Words cannot describe Jesus' tenderness toward us.
Just think about the wonder of God's love. Our Lord comes out to meet us, he waits for us, he's by the roadside where we cannot but see him, and he calls each of us personally, speaking to us about our own things — which are also his. He stirs us to sorrow, opens our conscience to be generous; he encourages us to want to be faithful, so that we can be called his disciples. When we hear these intimate words of grace, which are by way of an affectionate reproach, we realize at once that our Lord has not forgotten us during all the time in which, through our fault, we did not see him. Christ loves us with all the inexhaustible charity of God's own heart.
Look how he keeps insisting: "I have answered your prayer in a time of pardon, I have brought you help in a day of salvation." Since he promises you glory, his love, and gives it to you at the right time; since he calls us, what are you in turn going to give to the Lord, how are you going to respond, and how will I respond, to this love of Jesus who has come out to meet us?
The day of salvation is here before us. The call of the good shepherd has reached us: "I have called you by your name." Since love repays love, we must reply: "Here I am, for you called me." I have decided not to let this Lent go by like rain on stones, leaving no trace. I will let it soak into me, changing me. I will be converted, I will turn again to the Lord and love him as he wants to be loved.
"You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul and your whole mind." And St Augustine comments: "What is left of your heart for loving yourself? What is left of your soul, of your mind? He says 'the whole.' He who made you requires you to give yourself completely."