Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By F. K. Bartels

3/1/2011 (4 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Repentance os a path ot authentic human freedom

St. Maximus the Confessor once wrote: 'God's will is to save us, and nothing please him more than our coming back to Him in true repentance'

The most profound call to repentance is experienced as we go before the Cross this Lenten season, as we kneel there along with our Blessed Mother, as we gaze upon our loving Savior who gave entirely of himself for love of us-even though we are sinners.

The most profound call to repentance is experienced as we go before the Cross this Lenten season, as we kneel there along with our Blessed Mother, as we gaze upon our loving Savior who gave entirely of himself for love of us-even though we are sinners.


By F. K. Bartels

Catholic Online (

3/1/2011 (4 years ago)

Published in Lent / Easter

Keywords: Repentance, Fred Bartels, lent, Christian, penance, sin, forgiveness, freedom

GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online) - As Catholics recite the daytime prayer midmorning antiphon in the Liturgy of the Hours, "The time of penance has come, the time to atone for our sins and seek our salvation," the Lenten call which beckons our return to the Lord is voiced from the lips of the faithful within the Catholic Church. Lent is a season which invites Catholics and other Christians around the world to kneel before the base of the Cross, meditate upon the sins we have committed which caused our Savior´s suffering, and enter into a period of profound conversion and change. For this reason, Lent is a time of atonement and penance, a period in which we acknowledge our sinfulness, turn away from our past life toward a life with Christ, and embrace the call to holiness. In order to fully enter into such a call, fervent repentance is necessary. However, in what is often a materialist culture whose secular doctrine persistently encourages the practice of overindulgence in pleasures, entertainment and worldly comforts, the true meaning of repentance is often distorted, watered-down or all together lost. Further, atonement for one´s sins and penance—which are integral and necessary aspects of repentance—are often deemed "unnecessary and burdensome practices of the past" in which only the "unenlightened" participate. Perhaps such an attitude is due, in part, to the fact that these penitential practices involve a measure of voluntary suffering—which is something quite unwelcome in our contemporary world. Thus it is rather easy to give in to the temptation which tells us there is no merit in these sacrificial acts of repentance. But what does it mean to truly repent? The Greek word for repentance that is used in the Gospel is metanoia, which literally means "to change one´s mind." This "change" of "mind" necessarily entails a profound interior conversion in which we firmly turn from worldly darkness, and embrace a new way of life as Christ´s disciples. Thus repentance is not merely to know of Christ, nor is it a matter of picking and choosing—with an intellectual arrogance—some aspects of our Lord´s teaching while coldly rejecting others; rather, it is a union of mind, heart and soul to the Person of Christ. To repent is to die to Christ, discarding our former way of life in favor of the Way, Truth, and Life that is Christ himself. In the Old Testament, the prophets continually called the People Israel to repentance in order that the barriers of sin might be removed, allowing God´s blessings to flow forth. The prophets exhorted Israel to real, heart-felt interior conversion whereby one´s whole being would again be focused on God´s will. "Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit" (Ez. 18:31). The Lord contrasts repentance or the lack of it with life and death: "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God. Return and live!" (18:32). In the New Testament, when John the Baptist began preaching in the desert of Judea, he immediately and with urgency went about exclaiming: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Mt. 3:2). In accordance with the prophets who came before him, John reminds us that true repentance will be evidenced by increased virtue: "Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance" (3:9); and, as a warning against those who would ignore the call to conversion, John proclaimed: "Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees" (3:10). After Jesus´ temptation in the desert he "returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit" (Lk. 4:14), and from that time on "began to preach and say, ´Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.´" (Mt. 4:17). Our Lord warns us of the serious need for complete, life-changing repentance: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:13 -14). St. Maximus the Confessor wrote, "God´s will is to save us, and nothing pleases him more than our coming back to him with true repentance." Christ gave of himself in an indescribably radical way upon the Cross in order that we might begin to understand the depths of God´s love for us, turn back to him with our whole heart, and accept the salvation he offers. Our Lord has unquestionably demonstrated his love. Yet there is a question of love that remains for each of us: "Do I love Christ with my whole being?" Do I radically love God as he radically loves me? Love must be proven out in action. St. Theresa of Avila wrote, "Christ does not force our will, He takes only what we give Him. But He does not give Himself entirely until He sees we give ourselves entirely to Him." To repent is to give ourselves entirely to the Lord; it is to return from those dark paths we have walked for so many years, setting off on a journey toward a new horizon, one which glows with eternal Light. "Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God" (Joel 2:12). When we return to God with our whole heart, we weep and mourn; for we see with stark clarity those numerous times—those times of sin—when we failed to love God. The rending of our heart drives us toward a desire to do penance; for we see our lowliness in the divine light of fervent conversion, which clearly reveals all our attachment to sin. St. Jerome lived an ascetic and holy life, a life of deep interior conversion in which his understanding of the reality of sin was illuminated in the divine light of the Holy Spirit. As a result, he made this somewhat disturbing comment regarding the general judgement at Christ´s second coming: "Whether I eat or drink, or whatever else I do, the dreadful trumpet of the last day seems always sounding in my ears: ´Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment!´" Yet the most profound call to repentance is experienced as we go before the Cross this Lenten season, as we kneel there along with our Blessed Mother, as we gaze upon our loving Savior who gave entirely of himself for love of us—even though we are sinners. See our Redeemer there, crucified at the Place of the Skull; battered, bloodied and dying; the weight of his body harshly pulling on those terrible, cold spikes driven through his innocent, sacred flesh. Though the pain was excruciating, Jesus received no consolation from the crowd who surrounded him; rather, they shouted and mocked: "He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel!" (Mt. 27:42). Do we also refuse our Lord consolation by withholding from him a truly repentant and loving heart? Before repentance is possible, we must journey to the well of prayer, and seek life-giving water. We must humble ourselves before our All-Holy and gracious Creator who has loved us even before we were conceived in our mother´s womb. Let us seek to know the gift of God. "If you knew the gift of God!" The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. (CCC No. 2560). What does our loving Savior say to us in the midst of his immense Passion, fastened in a most cruel way to the wood of the Cross? "I thirst" (Jn. 19:28). It might seem Christ is speaking of physical thirst only. However, from his divine and human lips he utters a profound statement of unfathomable dimension far beyond the physical. Our Lord thirsts for us. The meaning of the Cross is God´s incomprehensible thirst for love. Filled with an unexplainable and radical love for you and me, Jesus Christ thirsts for our repentance, conversion and prayer; he thirsts for our soul. -----
F. K. Bartels believes his Catholic faith is one of the greatest gifts God has ever given him. He is managing editor of, and a contributing writer for Catholic Online.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copyright 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2016
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Evangelization: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.


More Lent / Easter

Can you answer these four challenging questions about Lent?

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Take our Lent quiz! See how much you know about the tradition of Lent! Take our Lent quiz, then challenge your friends. See how much you know about this special season in the Liturgical year. The quiz has just a few questions, but will certainly provide a quick ... continue reading

Take this thought provoking Stations of the Cross survey

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

How familiar are you with the Stations of the Cross? Take the Catholic Online survey now to share your answers to our questions. Your responses will help us serve you better by tailoring content that suits your needs. The survey is short and should take just 1 minute ... continue reading

'God hasn't forsaken me': Church of England to release short films addressing serious topics for Lent and Easter Watch

Image of The Church of England plans to launch a JustPray campaign throughout Lent, with its final video released on Easter Sunday (Shutterstock).


The Church of England is set to launch its latest campaign called the "Psalm 22 project," which will feature stories of former homeless and ex drug addicts who tackled some of life's most difficult trials. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Psalm 22 refers to the ... continue reading

10 important things to consider during Lent Watch

Image of What are our options during Lent? (Shutterstock)


Every year we give something up for Lent. Sometimes picking what to give up is hard and other times we consider doing something extra to really immerse ourselves in what God has for us - but what are our options? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Lent isn't just ... continue reading

5 little-known facts about Lent you need to learn this Ash Wednesday Watch

Image of Lent is more than just fasting (Rhoy Cobilla,


Everyone knows that Mardi Gras kicks off the upcoming 40-day Lent, which honors the time Jesus fasted in the wilderness, but did you know there is more to it? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Recently the Independent released their list of "5 things you might not ... continue reading

Ash Wednesday: 'Seek To Experience God's Presence Within' Watch

Image of

By F. K. Bartels

"You may ask me: 'But, does God exist? And if he exists does he really concern himself with us? Can we reach him?' It is, indeed, true that we cannot place God on the table, we cannot touch him or pick him up like an ordinary object. We must rediscover our capacity to ... continue reading

POPE'S MASS: Ash Wednesday (FULL TEXT: English) Watch

Image of

By Pope Francis, Libreria Editrice Vaticana

The unofficial English translation to Pope Francis' prepared homily for the 2016 Ash Wednesday Mass: The Word of God, the beginning of the Lenten journey, addressed to the Church and to each of us invitations.The first is that of St. Paul: " Be reconciled to God " ( ... continue reading

Pope Francis' special Ash Wednesday message for 'Keep Lent' initiative Watch

Image of


Pope Francis sent out his first audio message for "Keep Lent" over social media. 'Keep Lent' is an initiative of the Prelature of the Pontifical Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii's youth ministry office. According to the Vatican Radio, "The initiative begins on Ash ... continue reading

Fat Tuesday - Mardi Gras Meant to Be More than a Party Watch

Image of Some have tried to argue that this term meant that people should discard their moral faith commitments and for the night and just

By Fr. Randy Sly

One could call this celebration the last gasp of Ordinary time as the Church anticipates the penitential Season of the forty days of Lent. Rich foods are consumed as pilgrims prepare for times of fasting, abstinence, confession and penance. Ironically, carnival ... continue reading

Missing The Point of Easter Watch

Image of Alex Basile is the Religion Department chair at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, NY. He has written nine books for Saint Pauls/Alba House.

By Alex Basile

Author Alex Basile reflects of the true meaning of the Resurrection of Christ and how many Christians overlook the real joy of Easter. In the haziness of the first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene made her way to tomb of her friend and teacher. Fighting back tears and ... continue reading

All Lent / Easter News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Deuteronomy 30:15-20
15 'Look, today I am offering you life and prosperity, death and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
1 How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked and does not ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:22-25
22 He said, 'The Son of man is destined to suffer grievously, to be ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 11th, 2016 Image

St. Paschal
February 11: Paschal was the son of Bonosus, a Roman. He ... Read More