Today begins my Lenten reflection series. A Most Blessed Ash Wednesday and Lent to all.
Today we will hear these or similar words: “turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel”. I hear these words anew each year and they mark for so many of us a time of new beginning. As an adult convert, I hear many of my contemporaries and people much older than I am who believe that we should not focus much or any of our attention on sin. Their experience is that this was an unpalatable part of their Catholic upbringing, and it’s what makes the Catholic Church antiquated and out of touch: that we focus on sin too much. That’s not my experience of the Catholic Christian Church at all. In fact having lived my life by no religion and even hostile to Christianity for some of it; I am indeed glad that I am reminded to “turn away from sin” and given an alternative – Jesus Christ!
We are sinners, but loved sinners. We are sinners who must stay close in relationship to our Redeemer; there’s no other way. Where and when this became a distasteful thing, I have no idea. As a man who lived for himself for many years, I can assure you I have searched for something better and never found it. The Gospel is the Way, the Truth and I can assure you that Life flows from it. As a spiritual director (and as a Vocation Director too), I have always encouraged a regular practice of confession, not to move anyone to scrupulosity but rather so that our sins and weakness clearly have no dominion over us and we can pick ourselves up and get on with the best part of what it means to be Christian: Discipleship and living the mission!
I love Lent; it renews us as Christians. Even the best of us get caught up in the busyness of life and through the forty days as we journey again with our Lord to the Cross are reminded of the essence of what real love, sacrifice, perseverance; and real triumph is all about. Our sense of contrition and desire to amend comes from a recognition of the great things others have done for us; namely Christ.
Our Gospel today reminds us that this is not about making a show of things, that is definitely not what Lent is about, but we must give witness. We must seek to become day by day better people, better Christians. We must seek to reserve judgment against others, instil kindness, love, compassion, generosity, faith and a sense of hope. These things by the way we give witness will help encourage others to follow the Lord. And then we will be doing our jobs; of getting ourselves to heaven and bringing as many with us as we can.