To ‘turn’ and to ‘be’

By Frank Wessling

“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

We may have heard those words as the Ash Wednesday ashes were smeared on our foreheads to mark us with a cross at the beginning of Lent. They were meant to penetrate, as the symbolic ashes are meant to penetrate us, not simply remain on the surface.

Turning away from sin, from a habit that is part of who we are but doesn’t fit in the preaching and life of Jesus, can feel like death, like ashes. Without a faith, who would deliberately go through such a feeling? For us, what makes it possible, even attractive, is faith in the Gospel.

Those Ash Wednesday words are a reversible equation. Being faithful to the Gospel draws us out of sin; turning away from sin allows us to be shaped like Jesus, who is Gospel, the good news of humanity loved into fulfillment.


Focus on the Gospel for Lent. Get to know Jesus. Practice some of what you discover in him about the meaning of love. Start new habits. Take a leap in the dark. The light that we call grace is in it.

Here is one thing to think about for Lent 2012, taken from an examination of conscience proposed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and slightly expanded for a national election year:

Do I recognize the face of Christ reflected in all others around me whatever their race, class, age, abilities or politics?

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