Every year when we begin the Season of Lent with Ash Wednesday, many parish communities will sing the hymn ‘Hosea’ which begins with these words Come back to me with all your heart… These words truly echo the sentiments of the season that we are entering. Traditionally we have been used to hearing words like repentance, penance, fasting, charity and almsgiving during this time. We have heard this… year in year out that sometimes it may lose its efficacy. We need to seriously ask ourselves if there has been anything different in us since Lent last year. For most of us, we would like to change ourselves instantaneously for we live in a world of instant solutions. How wonderful it would be if the priest, on Ash Wednesday, instead of imposing ashes on us, had a magic wand that when touched to our foreheads, we would be transformed and all our weaknesses gone forever.
The call to repentance must permeate our daily lives. Most of our failures have to do with relationships. It is either our relationship with God or with those around us. Lent is therefore a time to mend “broken” relationships. The secret to transforming ourselves is to work on little things that will help mend these relationships. Far too often we try to take drastic steps to change ourselves and only to find that we are unable to succeed and we then give up trying. If we take on little steps (actions) and find ourselves succeeding, then we feel encouraged to go a step further. The challenge for us than is to set out minds to make that little step. Sometimes we are afraid to take that little step and we end up not doing anything during the 40 day period.
Repentance is not the only goal of Lent. “The two elements which are especially characteristic of Lent – the recalling of baptism and penance – should be given greater emphasis in the liturgy and in liturgical catechesis. It is by means of them that the Church prepares the faithful for the celebration of Easter…” (Vat II, Sacred Liturgy n. 109). What this means is that the objective of Lent is the preparation towards the celebration of Easter, the foundation on which our faith grows. Far too often, we have overly focussed on the need to repent from our sins at the expense of not reminding ourselves to renew our faith and to prepare to celebrate joyfully the resurrection of our Lord. Let our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving lead us to deepen our following Jesus who by His life, death and resurrection gives us the grace to take the little steps that will transform and renew us