by Emily Lopez
February is the month of celebrating love.
Stores have been gearing up for Valentine’s Day for weeks. Red and pink, hearts and chocolate — it is impossible to miss the array of goodies available to express your feelings for another person on this holiday. Just one week after Valentine’s Day, we begin Lent.
Ash Wednesday falls on Feb. 22 this year. I always have high hopes for Lent — the unofficial season of (New Year do-over) resolutions for Catholics — as an opportunity for a spiritual mini-makeover.
Specifically, we are offered these weeks preceding Easter to enter into a spirit of repentance and self-discipline. So, we carefully plan out what we can do without — or what extra we can take on — for the six weeks of Lent.
Do we need to be more intentional in our prayer life? Do we spend less time on social media? Or maybe we just live six weeks with no sweets in our day?
While all of these are good practices of self-discipline, it is possible to miss the act of repentance. Repentance comes from the Greek word “metanoia,” meaning “to change your mind.” The Hebrew version of this word is “tshuva,” meaning “to return.”
Considered together, this can seem like conflicting definitions — to change your mind should mean a new direction versus something you have experienced.
However, taken in the context of our journey of faith, this is the perfect combination as we ponder Lent.
When we consider “metanoia” to be a transformation or conversion, we recognize the value of creating space for the ongoing process. More than a turning away from things unhealthy or unholy, faithful repentance requires an intentional turning toward God. We recognize the need to imitate Christ’s detachment from this world to focus on the kingdom of God.
Jesus had no misconceptions about the value of possessions, the misuse of time or the attachment to unhealthy habits. But he chose to guide in ministry 12 men that lived all of these very human desires.
In calling each of his disciples, Jesus saw the potential of their hearts to a greater love. He didn’t call them for what they were, but what he knew they could become with his guidance. Their response was a moment of “metanoia,” a decision to change their plans and the immediate directions of their lives.
In accepting Christ’s invitation, they had no idea where their “yes’” would ultimately lead them. Scripture reflects their very human struggles with repentance and self-discipline, yet they continued to return to him.
In accepting his invitation, they learned a love beyond flowers and candy — a love that ultimately carried a cross to death. This Lent, may you experience return to Christ and a deeper conversion of love.