February 26, 2012 – First Sunday of Lent
These words are a familiar beginning to the Lenten Season. Year after year we hear them in the readings that initiate this season or during Ash Wednesday as the ashes are smeared on our forehead. They offer a gentle reminder of our sinful nature and our need for God’s saving grace. They are, therefore, appropriate to focus on as we enter the season of Lent and prepare to celebrate the greatest mystery of all time, the mystery through which our salvation was made possible — the passion, death, and ultimately the resurrection of our Lord and Savior.
Lent is a time when we focus in a particular way on our sinfulness. We recognize that it is because of the sins of humanity that Jesus had to suffer and die, and we fast and pray in an effort to make reparations for our sins. But we don’t celebrate this season filled with hopelessness and despair because of our sinful state. Rather, we are quite hopeful. We know that Christ did, in fact, die for our sins and then rise from the dead, offering us life everlasting. That’s the gospel message. That’s what we are called to believe. It is full of hope for us.
What’s more, as Paul proclaims in his letter to the Corinthians, Christ pours His life out for us here and now through the Sacraments. Particularly through the Sacrament of baptism, we are washed clean of original sin and brought to newness of life in Christ, given a special character with which we can live a life of faith. Armed with such grace, we are called to live for Christ, to be good stewards of the many gifts He has given us and use them to proclaim the Gospel. We are called to follow Christ’s example of loving service to all and share with the world the good news: Christ died and rose to save us.
That is Christian stewardship. It is our baptismal call. Christ has given us the grave and the strength to live it out as well as innumerable gifts with which to do so. It is our duty, then, to take ownership of that call and to act on it.
It is no secret that our world is wrought with sin. All one has to do is turn on the television or open the newspaper to see evidence of that. And, yet, we have good news for all. Let us take the opportunity this Lent to proclaim the good news, not only with our words but by the way we live our lives. Ours should be lives lived in hope of salvation. Ours should be lives lived in service for others. Ours should be lives through which others see Jesus at work in the world.
A life lived as such is not easy. It is full of heavy responsibility, but it is also full of tremendous grace and other invaluable rewards, not the least of which is bringing others to Christ.
Let’s follow Christ’s example as disciples are supposed to do — living in this world but not of it, proclaiming the gospel to all we meet and encouraging one another to “repent and believe.”