Lent is a period of repentance. Repentance does not mean being sorry for one’s sins. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus tell people they must be sorry for their sins, but he keeps calling people to repentance. Repentance means a change of mind, heart and vision. It is a call to look at everything anew. It is a call to leave the negative behind and take on the positive of God’s newness.
The Monday in the First Week of Lent with the call to act rightly because that is how each of us will be judged sets the tone for the meaning of repentance. The week continues with Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray and also the meaning of prayer and perseverance. He exhorts them to interiorize the law rather than merely observe external observances. This means that the action that one performs must always be an action motivated by love. It also means that even if the action is a holy one namely the offering of sacrifice but is not accompanied by love, then it is not a worthy action. Love must always motivate all actions of the Christian.
The Second Week of Lent begins with the invitation to imitate God who is compassionate. God’s compassion is shown in his reaching out to those in need especially the lowly. This is why the disciples cannot strive for places of honour but must only strive to serve. The greatest in the kingdom is the one who serves. This service is to be shown in action in the care and concern that one expresses towards those who live on the margins of society. Indifference to and ignorance of the needs of others is also rejection of them and will lead to condemnation, just as selfishness shown in wanting to keep all the fruits of the vineyard and not give God and others their due. Yet, God who is Prodigal Father keeps making every attempt to get the wayward to come back to him.
In the Third Week of Lent the teachings of Jesus focus on forgiveness not seven times but as often as is needed. This is how Jesus fulfills the law and invites his disciples to do the same. There is only one commandment, namely the commandment to love God by loving neighbour. If love motivates the actions of a person then prayer will be answered.
In the Fourth and Fifth Weeks, the Gospel readings are all from John and bring out various aspects of the personality of Jesus. Jesus is the one who heals and makes whole, he is one who reaches out to Samaritans and outcasts, who condemns no one including those who condemn others. He is from above and though cannot be fully known will keep revealing himself to those who wish to see and encounter him.
In Holy Week leading to Maundy Thursday, we read about the anointing of Jesus is preparation for his death and burial and also the predictions of his betrayal and denial by his own. Though Jesus knows all that is going to happen to him, he goes to his death willingly so that all of humanity might be saved.