Five Bible verses for Lent

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Lent is a beautiful season in our Church’s liturgical calendar. It is not a time of gloom, doom, or self-loathing. Rather, Lent is a time when we try to live and think and pray differently. It is a time when we ask God to heal us with his love. 

Here are five Bible verses to help us meditate on the richness of this beautiful season and the ways God wants to show his love for us during these 40 days. Consider learning one by heart and adopting it as your Lenten theme.

“Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they may become white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). 

Once, when I was standing in a line for the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, it occurred to me that forgiveness was inevitable. It was there for the taking; it was waiting for me. I’ll never forget how comforting that felt. In this verse, God is assuring us that forgiveness is inevitable — scarlet and crimson can become white as wool. All we have to do is go to God and ask him to “set things right.”

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“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners” (Luke 5:31–32). 

This verse reminds us that Jesus came for sinners. If we don’t place ourselves in that category, then Jesus did not come for us. But if we consider ourselves sinners, we have a savior — a healing physician — calling us to repentance. Repentance is not just sorrow for sin. It is a turning around, a newness of life. It is a willingness to change our lives. This is why Jesus came for each one of us. The healing he offers will change our lives if we will allow it.

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“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

St. Paul heard these words from Jesus in prayer after asking the Lord three times to remove a painful situation from him. (We don’t know exactly what Paul was experiencing — he called it a “thorn in the flesh.”) Jesus did not remove the pain, but he promised that it would transform Paul. He promised that it would allow Paul to empty himself so that Christ could dwell in him more fully. And so it is for us. In our weakness, Christ is present. In our emptiness, Christ dwells. The power of God is made perfect in us when we have nothing left to hold on to, when we surrender ourselves, when we finally admit how much we need God, when we make a place for Christ in our hearts.

Stained glass depicting the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. Photo: Zvonimir Atletic/Shutterstock

“Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).

Few commands are as sweet or as deep as the command of Jesus to “remain” in him. This is what Lent is all about: dwelling, abiding, remaining in Christ. We strip away other things, we make time for prayer, we repent and hand over our very selves, our sinful selves, so that we may remain in him as he remains in us. We become completely vulnerable before our God, and in response he fills us with his presence so that we “bear fruit.” What is the fruit that we bear? It is something outward, something that shows. It is love for others, rooted in an abiding love for Christ.

“Christ True Vine.” Photo: Public Domain

“No one takes [my life] from  me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again” (John 10:18).

This is one of my favorite verses for Lenten reflection. Lest your Lent become mired in a sad feeling-sorry-for-the-suffering-Christ mood, remember these determined words he speaks. Jesus is indeed a victim, and it is right to feel sorrow in response to his passion and death. But there is so much more to the death of Christ than this. Jesus is a victim, but a willing victim. He walked to Jerusalem, he accepted his “cup” in the Garden of Gethsemane, and he stretched out his arms upon the cross. No one took his life. He laid it down on his own. And he will take it up again. This is the power of Christ our Savior. This is the power of Lent. 

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