But what IS repentance? Here, at the beginning of Lent this movement of the soul is a primary focus. Too often, repentance is regarded as an emotionally draining and wrenching experience. Such is not the case. On the contrary, genuine repentance begins with God. As the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to whatever it is that has intruded itself into our lives like a wedge separating us from God, it may actually come as a surprise.
The kind of repentance that Jesus seeks when he announces: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” is no general sort of emotion or expression of sorrow. Rather it is a challenge and a bid for our eagerness to enter the light, experience a transparency — an openness and honesty — that alone admits more light and enables us to grow and mature. It is the response of God to a hunger that He finds in us to come into that place where we will truly be children of the light. It is a hunger for such insight into reality that we will WANT to walk away from all that is destructive, or as the baptismal service puts it “draws us away from the love of God.”
It is not that God ever stops loving us; it is that through many decisions and choices we become insensitive to that love of His that surrounds us continually and aches when it is clear that we are unaware or reject His approach to us and the bountiful provision of gifts He longs to bestow on us if only we had eyes to see as well as hands and hearts ready to receive.
Lent causes us to take a deeper look at ourselves — not to be preoccupied with our own lives — no, just the opposite — but to alert us to habits, attitudes, and insensitivities that blind us to the Lord (prayer) to the needs of others (alms giving) or to the unconscious acceptance of self-indulgence (fasting) that crowd out God’s blessing, rob us of joy, and stunt us.
The season of Lent that assists us in growing in spiritual awareness holds out the promise and hope of a life in Christ we might not dream possible otherwise. Far from the haunts of dreariness, this is the season of Spring and it prepares us for the life that can only come from the Risen Lord. May God grant us all — individually and us a Church — the gift of such repentance.