"Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart ..." (Joel 2:12) This Scripture begins the first reading on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 21, and sets the tone for the entire season of Lent.
To reconcile with God is the function of the sacrament of reconciliation. According to the Rite of Penance, "It is therefore fitting to have several penitential celebrations during Lent, so that all the faithful may have an opportunity to be reconciled with God and their neighbor and so be able to celebrate the paschal mystery in the Easter Triduum with renewed hearts." (No. 13)
Father Norbert Rappold, pastor of St. Agnes Church in Mena, said Lent has always taken on a penitential theme.
"Originally it was tied very much into RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults)," he said. "It was a time in which they really examined their lives and began to really seriously turn away from their sinful ways and embrace Scripture, embrace the Gospel, embrace this new way of life."
As the Church evolved and people were growing up in the faith and there was less of a need for adult conversion, "this season of Lent was found to be more beneficial still as a season to stop and seriously reflect on 'where am I in my life? Am I turning away from sin? And am I turning toward God?'" he said. "Confession just very naturally fits into the season of Lent and the penitential season that it was always meant to be."
Msgr. David LeSieur, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers, said the connection of confession with Lent is related to baptism.
"We are either preparing during Lent to recommit ourselves to our baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil, or we are preparing to be baptized," he said. "Lent is a season of reflection on and repentance for sin. Reconciliation, like Lent, is tied into our fidelity to the meaning of baptism in Christ - dying and rising with him.
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