Skip to content

A Lenten Reflection On Repentance

By F. K. Bartels
3/1/2011 (6 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 (6 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.


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'

Copyright 2018 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for JANUARY 2018
Religious Minorities in Asia.
That Christians, and other religious minorities in Asian countries, may be able to practise their faith in full freedom.


More Lent & Easter

'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead'

Luke 24:46

Lent Event


Ash Wednesday

February 14, 2018

Image of Ash Wednesday Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting... continue reading

Palm Sunday

March 25, 2018

Image of Palm Sunday Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels... continue reading

Holy Week

March 25-31, 2018

Image of Holy Week On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by... continue reading

Holy Thursday

March 29, 2018

Image of Holy Thursday Holy Thursday is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover... continue reading

Good Friday

March 30, 2018

Image of Good Friday On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week... continue reading

Easter Sunday

April 1, 2018

Image of Easter Sunday Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I calls it the greatest feast, and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter... continue reading

Stations of the Cross

Every Friday

Image of Stations of the Cross Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion... continue reading

Fasting and Abstinence

Every Friday

Image of Fasting and Abstinence For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the... continue reading

Image of What did you give up for Lent? From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year... continue reading

Ascension of Our Lord

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Image of Ascension of Our Lord The Ascension of Our Lord, a Holy Day of Obligation, celebrates the day that Christ, in the presence of His apostles, ascended bodily into Heaven. The Ascension occurred on the 40th day of Easter, a Thursday... continue reading


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Image of Pentecost Pentecost Sunday is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, celebrated early enough to be mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (20:16) and Corinthians (16:8)... continue reading

Image of Lent FAQ's Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple... continue reading

Mardi Gras

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Image of Mardi Gras In France, the people feasted on foods that would be given up during the forty days of Lent. Meats, eggs, and milk were finished off in one day, giving the holiday its French title of 'Mardi Gras' which means Fat Tuesday... continue reading

Image of Transformed by Easter The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community... continue reading

Image of Appearances He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. - Matthew 28:6. Learn more about the Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus Christ... continue reading

Image of Easter Gifts offers a variety of Easter gifts & Easter treats for all ages! Choose a gift for someone special and celebrate the joy of Easter... continue reading

Easter / Lent News

Inspire: Easter Beyond the Octave. Why Do We Celebrate for Fifty Days?

Image of Christ my hope is risen, and he goes before you into Galilee.

While Easter is a Solemnity and an octave feast, it is also a 50 day season until Pentecost.The Season of Easter is not just about His ... continue reading

Reflecting on the Resurrection: Why did Jesus Rise with Wounds?

Image of The empty tomb and the neatly folded burial cloths point to us that Jesus is physically alive.  His crucified body has been transformed.  What lesson is he teaching us by keeping his wounds intact?

What lesson is the Lord teaching us by keeping his wounds intact? Perhaps we can better answer this question by turning to our own wounds. ... continue reading

I Am Dismas and This Is My Story

Image of

As a teenager I ran into someone who introduced me to the finer points of the occupation. We fell into the tried and proven method of ... continue reading

HOLY SATURDAY: The Whole Earth Keeps Silence Watch

Image of The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep.

Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence ... continue reading

On the Friday We Call Good, the Whole World Stands Still Watch

Image of

Today as we contemplate the Passion we also plumb the mystery and meaning of the Church. We are members of His Body. She was born ... continue reading

The Lent and Easter Season... by

Never Miss any Updates!

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

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.