How is your Lent going? Reflecting upon the “Ah Ha” moments in life

God's invitation to come back to him is always open -- it includes responding to sisters and brothers in need, says Marilyn Jackson.

[This article is part of a “Fuel-Up Friday” series in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon]

By Marilyn Jackson, Director of Ministry Services

I was fortunate at the beginning of Lent this year to participate in a retreat led by the Verbum Dei Missionaries, Sr. Marta Piano and Sr. Malou Tibayan . The theme of the retreat was “Come back to me with all your heart.” I was challenged to think about the areas in my life that need restoration, healing, re-strengthening, re-ordering or decluttering.

In my parish, after communion on Sundays, we say the following prayer together: “Jesus I love you; all I have is yours – yours I am and yours I want to be, do with me whatever you will.”

“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning: rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” – Joel 2:12-13

Marilyn Jackson is the Director of Ministry Services in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. (Submitted photo)

When I read Joel 2:12-13, what jumped out at me was “rend your hearts.” What had to change in my heart so that I can completely surrender myself to Jesus? What had to be broken in my heart so that I can live out the prayer I pray every Sunday in my faith community? That started me down the path of contemplating significant turning points in my life.

Growing up Catholic, my generation didn’t talk about having a personal relationship with Christ, My faith journey was all about earning my way to heaven. I was more concerned about what I was doing for God, not so much about what he had done for me.

I got married in the Church, my husband became a Catholic, we had four beautiful children and we never missed Sunday Mass. We were active parishioners, the perfect Catholic family. I often thought that God must be pretty pleased with us.

When we experienced a teen pregnancy in our family, I felt like my perfect world had been broken. I learned that it wasn’t actually my heart that was broken, but the arrogance that lived there had been shattered. That experience helped to make me more humble for a few years. If I hadn’t surrendered to God, I wouldn’t have been able to care for the abortion-vulnerable women I met through the pregnancy care ministry.

Fifteen years later, we got another big dose of humility when my husband got laid off after 35 years in the mining industry. We were scared and I felt completely helpless. I surrendered to God, trusting that he would take care of us. He not only took care of us, but showed me that he has a sense of humour! I was so worried about not being able to stay in my beautiful house. God answered my prayers for a job by putting me to work at a homeless shelter– no credentials, just a broken heart, to raise money for the homeless.

So, what does this all mean for me today? Sometimes when we find ourselves in leadership roles, it’s too easy to let the arrogance creep back in. Sometimes we just get too busy to see the need right in front of us. That is what I was reminded of in the retreat – how to restore my heart back to a place of humility.

God helps me “do better” by just putting people in my path that I can’t ignore.

I got seven phone calls in one day from people who didn’t have any groceries. Coincidence? It was a huge:   “Hey, you desire a better Lent? Here are your brothers and sisters, now do something!”

The opportunity was before me to declutter, to stop what I was doing and feed those who were hungry. God’s invitation to come back to him is always open – everyday!


Marilyn Jackson is the Director of Ministry Services for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon – subscribe to her weekly “Fuel-Up Friday” mailout of updates and inspiration by e-mailing