Lent: The Journey of Reconciliation

This is the invitation that the liturgy addresses to us at the beginning of Lent, urging us to be aware of the gift of salvation offered, in Christ, to everyone.
by John Paul II | Source:
Lenten Message
John Paul II

"Be reconciled to God.... Behold, now is the acceptable time" (2 Corinthians 5: 20; 6: 2).

This is the invitation that the liturgy addresses to us at the beginning of Lent, urging us to be aware of the gift of salvation offered, in Christ, to everyone.

In speaking of the "acceptable time", the Apostle Paul refers to the "fullness of time" (Galatians 4: 4), that is, the time when God, through Jesus, "answered" and "helped" his people, completely fulfilling the promises of the prophets (Isaiah 49: 8). In Christ the time of mercy and pardon, the time of joy and salvation, is accomplished.

From the historical standpoint, the "acceptable time" is the time when the Gospel is proclaimed by the Church to people of every race and culture so that they will repent and open themselves to the gift of redemption. Life is then deeply transformed.

"Behold, now is the acceptable time".

Lent, which begins today, is certainly an "acceptable time" in the liturgical year for receiving the grace of God with greater openness. Precisely for this reason it is called the "sacramental sign of our conversion" (Opening Prayer, First Sunday of Lent, Italian Missal): the sign and effective instrument of that radical change of life that calls for constant renewal in believers. The source of this extraordinary divine gift is the paschal mystery, the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, the source of redemption for every person, for history and for the entire universe.

In a certain way the imposition of ashes, illustrated by the words that accompany it: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1: 15), refers to this mystery of suffering and love. Even the fast we observe today refers to this same mystery, so that we might begin a journey of true conversion in which union with the passion of Christ enables us to face and to win the struggle against the spirit of evil (Opening Prayer, Ash Wednesday).

"Behold, now is the acceptable time".

With this in mind, we begin our Lenten journey, taking up the spirit of the Great Jubilee that marked an extraordinary time of repentance and reconciliation for the entire Church. It was a year of intense spiritual fervor, in which God's mercy was poured abundantly on the world. In order for this treasure of grace to continue spiritually enriching the Christian people, I offered concrete guidelines in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte on how to begin this new phase in the Church's history.

Here I would like to recall several of those guidelines which are well suited to the special characteristics of Lent. First of all, contemplation of the face of the Lord: a face that appears in Lent as "a face of sorrow". In the liturgy, in the Lenten Stationes and in the devout practice of the Via Crucis, contemplative prayer prompts us to unite ourselves with the mystery of the One whom, though he knew no sin, God made to be sin for our sake (2 Corinthians 5: 21). In the school of the saints, every baptized person is called to follow Jesus more closely: as he was going up to Jerusalem and foresaw his passion, he confided to the disciples: "I have a baptism to be baptized with" (Luke 12: 50). The Lenten journey thus becomes for us a docile following of the Son of God, who became an obedient Servant.

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