By Susan Ciancio

The word metanoia means to have a “transformative change of heart.” When it comes to our faith, a transformative change of heart will lead to a deeper relationship with Christ. No matter how close we feel that we are to Him, there is always something more we can learn, something more we can do, or something more we can gift to Him.

Lent begins next week. These weeks of preparation for Easter are filled with an emotional dichotomy—sadness and joy, shame and gratitude, anger and forgiveness. We feel overwhelming sadness because Christ was brutally beaten and killed, yet we feel a joy upon the resurrection. We feel shame because Christ died for our sins and the sins we continually commit. Yet we also feel an immense gratitude, as we could never have opened the door to heaven alone. We feel anger at the injustice done to our Savior, yet because He forgave, so must we.

So, as all these emotions fill our hearts this Lent, let us strive for metanoia. We cannot have that transformative change of heart if we do not experience both the sadness and joy of the season, if we do not walk with Christ on the road to Calvary, and if we do not allow ourselves to grow in wisdom and understanding.  

Yes, we must contemplate the events chronicled in the Sorrowful Mysteries: the agony in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning of thorns, the carrying of the cross, and the suffering and death of Jesus, for in these events we see the depths of God’s love. This was the price that Christ was willing to pay to give us tangible proof of His love. But we must also allow ourselves to experience the joy of anticipation, for we know that we will soon find the empty tomb.

Let us, like Mary, hold all these things in our hearts as they lead us to that joyful Easter Sunday.

Lent is a time to slow down our hectic lives and focus on what is truly important. We’ve all experienced days that fly by and feelings of regret for time that could have been better spent—praying more, quality time with family, or time growing in faith. So, as we approach Lent, let us create a roadmap for how we will transform not just our hearts but our lives.

Often, when we think about Lent, our thoughts immediately go toward what we will give up. Usually that’s piggybacked with a vice or habit we want to curb, and we give up something that will help us lose weight or make us healthier. While it’s important to deprive ourselves of something and to make sacrifices, the actions we take to grow in faith and to strengthen our relationship with God are the things that will truly transform us and that will help us lose the weight of sin.

Think about any relationship you have. It takes work to maintain that relationship and to help it flourish. If it’s a relationship with a spouse or children, we must work every day to strengthen it. So it is with God. He doesn’t just want us one or two hours a week. He wants us all the time. When we devote bits of time throughout our day to Him, we grow in faith, we grow in courage, we grow in hope, and so much more! So, this Lent, let us gift God with what He wants the most—ourselves and our time.

It can be difficult to begin this new way of life and to carve out time for God. Maybe we don’t even know where to start. That’s why American Life League’s Culture of Life Studies Program created a downloadable daily Lenten reflection book to help you walk through each day of Lent. This book uses the gifts of the Holy Spirit to teach you how to transform your heart and your life.

Each day’s entry begins with a Bible verse that discusses one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We then offer a brief reflection of this verse. After that, we provide a short biography of the saint of the day and an explanation of how that saint used the gifts of the Holy Spirit to build a culture of life in his/her life. Following the biography, we give suggestions for how you can use this saint’s example to build a culture of life in your own home or community. Each entry then ends with a suggestion for a short activity to further your understanding or knowledge of Church history or teaching.

Spending time each day reflecting on God’s word, on the lives of saints, and on furthering your understanding of God’s love will not only help you grow in faith but will put you in the right frame of mind to rejoice at that empty tomb.

Christ endured a brutal death because our eternal lives mean something to Him. You and I are worth dying for because we matter to Him. This Lent, let us show God that He matters to us.