Fr. James Martin, S.J.: Lent is a time for spiritual renewal

"The Penitent Magdalen" by Georges de La Tour, ca. 1640. (Met Museum)

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How has your Lent been going? Lent and Advent are two times of the year when Catholics really try to rev up their spiritual lives. And often we can get down on ourselves for not maintaining our Lenten sacrifices, or not praying more, or fasting more, or not giving more alms. So Lent ends up not being a time of spiritual renewal but getting down on ourselves. And that can defeat the whole purpose of Lent, which is a spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ in a new way into our lives at Easter, not beating ourselves up or feeling ashamed about our lack of spiritual progress. The deeper purpose is what’s called a “metanoia,” a Greek word used often in the Gospels. That’s often translated as “repentance,” but it’s better translated as a complete change of mind and heart. So it’s not about whether you were able to successfully give up chocolate, but whether your mind and heart are more willing to accept Jesus more fully into your life. And that is a lifelong project. So don’t get too down on yourself if your Lent hasn’t been perfect. Be easy with yourself. But keep taking those steps towards God.     

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