I’ve heard Fr. Barron give a great response to that question: “Lent is the time when we remove all that is not God from the center of our lives so that He alone may sit there.” It is a time of purging and detaching, so that only the King may sit on the throne of our hearts. So we abandon ourselves to Him, to let Him put His life within us.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, / and put a new and right spirit within me. / Cast me not away from your presence, / and take not your holy Spirit from me. / Restore to me the joy of your salvation, / and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12)
Therefore (oddly enough) it is a time to be made whole, to be made happier, to receive life more abundantly. BUT! It is not just a time for interior, self-focused navel gazing! We are never made holy (i.e. ‘set apart’) to then just sit content, rest on our laurels and wait for death. We are ‘set apart’ so we can be sent (paraphrasing Pope Benedict XVI)! And so the very next verses of this penitential psalm read thus:
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, / and sinners will return to you. / Deliver me from bloodguilt [death], O God, / O God of my salvation, / and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. (Psalm 51:13-14)
As we are cleanse and cleaned, renewed and converted, we abide more radically in the will of our Father, who “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (CCC 2822, 1 Tim 2:3-4).
What is the point of Lent? Conversion and mission. With conversion, comes mission – always. They are the two strands of a double helix that is the foundational building block for Lent, for the way of a disciple and for life itself.