Lent 2006: Penance and Conversion!

Posted by Christine Nusse on Feb 16, 2006 | Categories: Seasons of the Spirit

“Come back to me, with all your heart” Jl 2:13

What do you give up for Lent? It’s funny that the first thing we think about with Lent is penance. I am planning to give up drinking wine, but that decision comes dangerously close to my goal of loosing 20 pounds before the spring. (2 points with Weight Watchers for each glass of wine!)
Why do I want to shed pounds? To look and feel better. The way others see me enters a lot in my dieting decision. First and foremost how my partner sees me and how I see myself. Indeed I can see clearly a connection between dieting and my relationship with her, with myself.
But where is the connection between God and penance? What difference does it make in God’s scheme of things if I drink wine or not during Lent? Jesus himself was not great on penance!
I do not like this emphasis on sin during Lent. As if my giving up wine or candies would somehow pay for my sins. A sort of expiation!
Don’t we put the cart before the ox?
My partner would say: “What’s the point of looking thinner and better, even bringing me flowers on Valentine’s Day, if you do not take the time for us to sit and talk, if I am of no importance in your plans, in your life?”
Indeed, the first word of Lent is not penance, but conversion. To convert, that is to turn the direction of our heart. Lent is the time where we are called to re-kindle our intimacy with God. It’s a special trip just for the two of us, a time of re-discovery, a time to re-commit, a time of spiritual exploration. Fasting and other Lent resolutions have their place, as signs of our intention, but they are certainly neither the goal nor the end of it.

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