Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. It is easy to limit such an important season to the superficial: Ashes on the forehead, giving up chocolate, etc. Bible Alive’s reflection is helpful in getting to grips with its deeper dimension.
Lent can be understood as a season of divine therapy — a time to detoxify our souls, renew our energy and be refreshed in spirit. Lent is like a long ‘retreat’, during which we can turn into ourselves and listen to the voice of God in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil One. It is a period of spiritual ‘combat’, which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the Word of God and penance. In this way we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our baptism.
During Lent we are invited to fast and deny ourselves; we receive the call to pray more and give to those who are in need (almsgiving). In all these ways we give of ourselves, but it is also a season to receive. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: ‘As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst… “Repent and believe” Jesus tells us. What are we to repent of? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — he knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.’
Lent then is a time of conversion, of change, of repentance, of turning back to God. The problem is that we often find it much easier to identify and point out how others may need to repent and change than to focus on ourselves and our own shortcomings. Self-knowledge is a gift of the Spirit which we can ask the Lord to give us. As we grow in spiritual insight into our own behaviour and attitudes, we become aware of our need to seek out what the Church calls ‘the second conversion’, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church unreservedly teaches is an ongoing process in the Christian life: ‘Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, `clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal” (para. 1428).
Lord Jesus, during Lent may your Spirit so work in me that my heart may be drawn and moved by the merciful love of God. Help me to recognize my need to return to you.