It’s that time of year, again, when the Church asks us to look at our lives and, in the words of St. Peter, “put to death in the flesh” those habits, those weaknesses, those little annoying (to everyone else) things that hinder our Christlikeness and lead us away from God. The question before us right now is, “What needs to change to better reflect the person of Christ?”
Ash Wednesday is very similar to New Years Day in many respects. On the calendar, it represents the beginning of a new time period that is separate and different from the past. It also has associated with it a freshness, an opportunity to start over, to begin anew, putting aside what in the past has held us back. It also generates resolutions and commitments to do better, to improve myself and make a change in my life that will make a difference for the rest of my life.
Unfortunately, just as with New Years resolutions, our resolve to grow closer to God and become more Christlike in our habits too often diminishes when the struggles seem to outweigh the benefits or when we do not see results quickly. “If only I had Faith the size of a mustard seed…” (cf. Mt. 17:20, Lk. 17:6) we say to ourselves as we begin to doubt not only our own capabilities but our trust in God as well.
Two things. First, the devil is in the details. It’s often the tiny, little things that can make a real difference. Pick one small habit or one constant un-virtuous thought to change through daily Lenten sacrifice. Second, remind God everyday (as if He doesn’t know) through prayer, about it and ask for His Grace, not just to rise above my human weakness and overcome it, but to be aware of it a moment before this “thing” once again leads me away from Him. Every little thing in the flesh that I put to death moves me closer to God.