From the beginning it seems that Lent was a time for penitence. This word penitence troubles some evangelicals because they are reminded of the errors and bad teaching of the sixteenth century Catholic opponents of the Reformers. But the word penitence comes from the Latin word paenitentia, which referred to an attitude of repentance. Repentance, from the Greek word metanoia in the New Testament, meant to change one’s mind and thus the direction of one’s life. Very early in the development of dogma the practice of penitence did not have the idea of something that we could do to earn our salvation by doing works of penance. Modern Catholicism does not teach penance in this way either, even though it still clearly retains the idea that penance is a sacrament, known as the sacrament of reconciliation.
Some years ago I heard my friend Scott Hahn give two lectures in a Saturday seminar in a local Catholic parish in the