For many of us, today’s first reading resonates deep within us. Like the people of Israel, we have wandered from our first love, trying to find our own solutions to life’s problems. Because we want to look relevant, we try every worldly solution and ignore those proposed by the God of revelation. With each failed experiment, we find ourselves more and more depressed and filled with shame. With each failed experiment, we find ourselves more and more alienated from one another and from our selves. In his book: Nothing to Be Frightened Of, Julian Barnes gave expression to this feeling of alienation, “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.” Throughout his book, Barnes tries to make sense of life and death when there is no divine keystone. As he puts his thoughts in print, he attempts to describe the void at the pit of his being. Try as he may, he cannot fill that void. It is God Who holds life and all its challenges in meaningful tension. Without knowing it, Barnes is struggling with the same issue that Saint Augustine addressed in his Confessions. “Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
The prophet Hosea tells the people that God will heal their defection and manifest His love for all that He has created. Our beings declare the grandeur of God and as long as we seek after anything less, we are overwhelmed by darkness and gloom. The emptiness is intended to awaken us to our true calling--that of praising and serving the one true God, because He is the cause of our joy. The Bible tells us that those who seek the Lord praise Him, because as they seek they find and when they find Him, they are overwhelmed with awe at His majesty. Conversely, those who do not seek Him find themselves consumed by darkness and gloom, grasping for things that can never bring them wholeness and peace. The mystery of divine love is that, in spite of our sinfulness, our hearts still long for God. It is because of God’s compassionate love that we can forget the evils that beset us and come to know Love’s embrace.
As created by God and for God, we human beings are consumed by insatiable longing for truth, beauty and love. We are always striving after something that exceeds our reach. Because we have been created in the image and likeness of almighty God, we will never find our ultimate fulfillment in this world. Lent is a time for us to seek the One we miss. Through prayer and fasting we can open our heart and listen for the voice of Him who is our rock and our salvation. Hearing His voice, let us run towards Him Who first loved us. Let us pray for the grace to love our neighbors well, so that our love may inspire others not only to miss the idea of God, but also to believe in Him.
“Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you. Teach us to offer ourselves to your service and draw us to yourself. Bring us at last to your heavenly city where we shall see you face to face; through Christ our Lord” (Collect from the 1984 Prayer Book, C of E).