As we begin the Season of Lent we think of the usual Lenten practices and observances. It is a season of renewal and of reconciliation, filled with a desire to develop a deeper relationship with God, and grow in holiness. Ash Wednesday reminded us forcibly of our creation from dust and our utter dependence on God our Creator.
Lenten practices stress the relationship between change and growth. One of the ways to bring about change could start with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This Sacrament is not just about fulfilling the obligation of Church law of receiving the Sacrament at least once a year but it is really about personal relationship with God, creation, community, and self. Another well-known name for the Sacrament of Reconciliation is Confession and what this involves really is a stark disclosure and honest admittance of our failures. Confessing our sins aloud reminds us of our nature as creatures before our loving Creator. Change begins with this honesty and our willingness to turn away from everything that separates us from right relations with God, creation, community and self. The Greek word metanoia literally means “to turn around”. When we embark on a change of lifestyle and move away from unhealthy relationships we embark on conversion of heart.
The Season of Lent is filled with opportunities to help us in the change we desire as weak mortal beings. The traditional Lenten practice of fasting, alms-giving and prayer is a readymade call to give completely of ourselves for the good of others. The goal of Lent is to reconcile with God, creation, community and self.
Throughout the history of the Church, community has played an important role in the sacramental structure of the Church. It is in community that we exist and experience God’s salvation.
Pope John Paul II once said “The sin of this age is the loss of the sense of sin… and in a sense a loss of the sense of God”. With the secularism that embraces this age, the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be an effective way to promote community and unity within the body of Christ, the Church.
Pope Benedict XVI in his Lenten message says, “…by immersing ourselves into the death and resurrection of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are moved to free our hearts every day from the burden of material things, from a self-centered relationship with the ‘world’ that impoverishes us and prevents us from being available and open to God and our neighbour… Through the traditional practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, which are an expression of our commitment to conversion, Lent teaches us how to live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way.”
God’s mercy is limitless.