Father Anthony Caruana, St Francis Xavier, Falkirk.

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“The Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15)

Religious people can sometimes be labelled guilt-prone, none more so perhaps in Lent, the sober period of reflection preceding Easter.

After all we do hear John the Baptist’s admonishment to “Repent!” ringing throughout this season.

Yet “repent”, in its original sense of metanoia implies change or transformation rather than an added sense of guilt. Guilt is by definition inward-looking.

When we feel guilty we tend to focus on ourselves, especially our mistakes. It can be quite hard to change and make progress when your only point of reference is yourself.

John the Baptist calls us to repent because he knows there is now someone with authority to forgive: Jesus. When we receive forgiveness – especially divine forgiveness – we are drawn out of ourselves and our limits by the love of whoever is forgiving us. That opens the door to change and progress in our lives.

May this Lent be a moment when we truly repent: by shifting our focus away from our guilt, giving Jesus a chance to forgive us. Let us savour the Lord’s forgiveness and allow that to truly change us.