"Repent and believe in the Gospel."
These are the words the priest uttered as he placed the ashes on my forehead during mass this morning. ** He alternated between those words and "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return" as he marked the cross on the foreheads of myself and my fellow worshipers.
Both statements are powerful reminders, but my heart has stayed fixed today on the words I received: Repent and believe in the Gospel.
Repent. Why? Because we are hopeless, helpless beings. We know the right thing, and we choose the wrong. As Paul said, we do what we don't want to do, and what we want to do, we don't do. If we say we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves. We must acknowledge our state of absolute inadequacy and our immeasurable need for redemption. We must repent.
Believe. What a deceptively simple word this is. Believing is defined as "having confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so." That is no easy task. Though God has surrounded us with evidence of Himself, His love, and the truth of His lordship, we are also bombarded with doubts and lies. It is no simple thing to stand firm in a belief when what we see, hear, and often feel, tells us we are wrong to do so. But believe we must.
In the Gospel. Believing is important, but what we believe in is paramount. Most people will tell you they believe in God. Or a Higher Being. That is not the Gospel. The Gospel is our only hope. It is Christ's atonement. We can believe in a god of our own making, but ultimately, the object of our belief determines the result, not the belief itself. As Bill D. always said, you can believe that a pond is frozen solid or not. It doesn't really matter how strongly you believe it is frozen; if it's not, you will fall through. Conversely, even if you don't really believe it will hold you, if it it frozen, it will. We must believe in the right thing.
The Gospel: Christ crucified. Christ resurrected. People redeemed.
Let us beginning this season of Lent, the remembrance of our Savior's sacrifice, with one goal always in mind. Repent. And believe. In the Gospel.
**No I have not become a Catholic. I do, however, attend Mass on most holy days, because the church I attend does not observe many of them nor does it follow a liturgical calendar. I personally find that my spirit is fed through the observation of liturgical seasons, so I have made them part of my journey.