Penance, conversion are key to Lent

| February 14, 2013
Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

Those who put themselves forward as public leaders, whether in the Church or in society, are expected to act in ways that befit the dignity of their office and the inherent trust that is placed in them by those whom they serve.

But we know from experience that the human person is ever so susceptible to the Evil One who clearly watches for defenses to fall and temptation to effect its damage.

Seeking forgiveness

Jesus came among us to save us from our sins. His message was clearly directed to this point: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15).

That is what makes the Gospel, “Good News,” which is to say that finally, in the long history of mankind, there is a way to have our sins forgiven. It is a call to our minds, our hearts and especially to our wills so that we might change, and so that we may be more perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48).

The beloved apostle, St. John, in his first epistle, reminds us straightforwardly that none of us are free of sin. He writes:

“If we say, ‘We are free of the guilt of sin,’ we deceive ourselves; the truth is not to be found in us. But if we acknowledge our sins, he who is just can be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrong. If we say, ‘We have never sinned,’ we make him a liar and his word finds no place in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

This week marks the beginning of Lent 2013. It consists of 40 days during which the whole Church goes on retreat.

Originally, Lent was designed as the final stage in the process of conversion on the part of those who hope to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. This is still true of the many catechumens and candidates for full admission to the Church who are enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults in our parish communities.

But the Church in her wisdom invites all of us to join those preparing for baptism in the exercise of penance and in seeking greater “metanoia” or conversion in our lives.

We do so by participating in the areas of 1) increased prayer or intimacy with God, 2) in almsgiving, that is, giving practical attention to the needs of the poor and vulnerable in our midst, and 3) in fasting or abstaining from the pleasures of this world to concentrate on the good that awaits us in the Kingdom.

While these three activities are external, they are meant to call forth a result that is internal to the believer. I heartily recommend each of us making a specific resolution in each of these areas this Lent.

Of course, our Lenten works should by their very nature lead us to celebrate the sacrament of penance/reconciliation wherein we confess our sins out loud and then hear the words of Christ’s forgiveness.

Time of renewal

In his Lenten message, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “The Lenten period is a favorable time to recognize our weakness and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing Grace of the Sacrament of Penance and walk resolutely towards Christ.”

This time of renewal also should lead us to a more dedicated resolve to reach out to the poor, the sick and the stranger in our midst. The love of God when personally experienced flows over into the love of neighbor.

My dear friends, let us plan to make this Lent the best one yet. Let us take Jesus at his word when he says, “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners” (Luke 5:32).

Let us swallow our pride in order to hear that call and then let us roll up our sleeves to begin anew on the road to conversion, the road to Easter, the road to the Kingdom.

God bless you!

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Category: That They May All Be One

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