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I heard a petition at Mass this week that was a profound revelation to me. It asked that the Lenten sacrifices of Christians be a source of conversion for a struggling world.

I had never seen my Lenten sacrifice as an offering for the souls of the world, but rather for my own sinfulness and in gratitude for the pain Christ endured for me. Of course, we do offer our sacrifices for our own sinfulness, but as that petition taught me and Pope Benedict reminded the faithful this week, our sacrifices can transform the world. He said:

Our world needs to be converted by God, it needs His pardon, His love, it needs a new heart.

‘Christ’s call to conversion,’ says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, ‘continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This … is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, clasping sinners to her bosom, is at once holy and always in need of purification, and follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.’ This struggle for conversion is not an exclusively human effort. It is the dynamism of the ‘contrite heart,’ attracted and moved by grace to respond to the mercy of God.

Our profound awareness of our own sinfulness, our surrender of that sinfulness to God, and our witness of that contrition can be the type of faith that turns heads, the Holy Father noted.

With our evangelical testimony, we Christians must be a living message; indeed, in many cases, we are the only Gospel that the men and women of today still read. … One further reason to live Lent properly is to offer a witness of lived faith to a world in difficulty, a world which needs to return to God, a world which needs conversion.

So, in this season of Lent, heed the Holy Father’s advice and offer your sacrifices with sincere contrition, for the sake of the conversions of all you encounter in your days.

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