The Holy Season of Lent arrives once more with its invitation to “repent and believe the Good News.” Those very words are used as ashes are imposed upon our foreheads to mark the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Both parts of the liturgical directive refer to an active, continuing disposition of heart and soul, not a “one shot deal.” Lent is time of conversion which is always a process. Conversion recognizes something in our lives that needs to change, that we make a commitment to change and that we, indeed, change. Perhaps that something is “sin” — evil that we know as evil and, yet, will to do; perhaps it is something that leads to sin or makes sin easier; perhaps it is an attitude that is contrary to or inconsistent with good humanity or Christian values; perhaps it is something we fail to do.
Conversion takes account of all these things and invites change, real change, permanent change. That is what the Holy Season of Lent intends and provides in real time, even with some urgency.
Because Lent occurs annually, there may be a temptation to take it for granted. Don’t give into that temptation. Take Lent seriously as an obligation of faith. When the Church asks us to pray, do it. When the Church requires fast and abstinence, do it. When the Church invites confession of sin, do it. When the Church urges charity and almsgiving, do it. When the Church says “repent and believe the Good News,” do it. It is all about conversion of heart, conversion of life.
Each one of us knows when we are drawing closer to the Lord or drifting away. As Bishop, I invite all Catholics to think about that as Lent begins and ask yourselves, “Forty days from now, where do I want to be? Closer or drifting away? When I stand before the Lord, where do I want to be?”
Repent and believe the Good News.
Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M.
Bishop of Trenton