The English word “Lent” derives from the Anglo-Saxon word “lencten” meaning to lengthen, and is associated with the seasonal transition from Winter to Spring as the daylight hours lengthen. The word brings to mind renewal and new life. But springtime also brings to mind the often dreaded task of spring cleaning. Like spring, Lent is a time of renewal and new life, as well as a time to do some spiritual spring cleaning. It’s a perfect opportunity to take a spiritual inventory and clean out those things that clutter our lives and get in the way of our relationship with God.
The greatest tool we have for this spiritual spring cleaning is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s in sacramental Confession that we can come to God openly and honestly, as we uncover our sins and receive his mercy. It’s also in Confession that we are healed, just as springtime transforms the drab of winter into a rainbow of colour.
Lent begins with a symbol of repentance: the imposition of ashes on our foreheads. But there’s so much more to Lent than wearing a dark smudge on our foreheads for a day. There is so much more even, than our acts of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. There is God’s work in us, his power to transform us as we turn away from sin and turn towards him. Lent is not just about giving things up or confessing our sins; it’s about being changed into the likeness and image of Our Lord himself. The people who knew Jesus asked for a sign that he was the Messiah. Our Lord said the only sign they would receive was the “sign of Jonah,” which was the repentance and conversion that happened when Jonah preached to the Ninevites. Our repentance and conversion can be a sign to the world as well. If we take full advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent, then we will be changed. We will show the people around us that God really does have the power to heal and transform.