Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the onset of the Lenten journey for Catholics. It is a time to refocus our minds, choices, and hearts on our relationship to God. When the ashes are placed upon our foreheads and we are told, “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” it is not advice but almost a commissioning for us to really do that in our everyday lives. How do we turn away from sin? How can we stay faithful to the Gospel? What do those two ideas have to do with our character?
As I have taught my students sin is anything that distances us from God. If the choices we make pushes us away from goodness and into hiding from God it is a sin. If the choices we make feel wrong and that voice deep within is muffled because we don’t want to listen to the good, we are sinning. If we choose to turn away from sin, we must listen to the voice. We must choose what we think God would want for us to do. The more we turn away from sin the closer we become to God.
Being faithful to the gospel; the good news of Jesus Christ; the son of God, the salvation of the world, the one who is able to save us from death and open the gates of heaven. How can we stay faithful to the gospel? Well, we need to read it first, understand it, and then live it. Jesus Christ was sent to us so that we could relate to God through the human flesh, an example of how we should live and love one another. We can stay faithful to the gospel by following the will of God the father and the son of God, Jesus Christ, and listen to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Following the gospel is not an easy task in our world today. However, we as Christians are charged with bringing the gospel to the world today. We are not to separate our faith from our everyday life. We need to live the gospel daily through our words, our choices, and our actions.
Character is who we are to become. Many people believe that each action or choice we make is in a vacuum and doesn’t affect anyone but ourselves. As Robert Barron said in a recent video I watched, “In the world today people believe that they are good deep down but that they make bad choices.” Robert Barron claims that every choice we make builds our character. I believe he is correct. As I have taught my students, the more bad choices you make the more conditioned you become to continue making bad choices. The more good choices you make the more conditioned you are to make good, wholesome choices. Every choice and action builds and we are formed by our choices and actions into our character. There is no, “I am good deep down. I just like to…” Every choice and action is changing us into that person.
Today, consider the choices and sins you have been making lately that are taking you away from God. Think about how you live the gospel out, do you selflessly love others, listen, hug, and care for others? Ash Wednesday is about turning away from those bad choices that distance us from God and turning towards the gospel and all that is good that leads us to a deeper relationship with God. All of these choices will make us into the person we will become. It is your choice, will you turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel? Each choice and action will form your character. Who do you want to become? Do your choices and actions reveal that character?