by Pope Benedict XVI.
"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." [This formula which accompanies the distributing of ashes], this call to conversion, is a word to be understood in its extraordinary gravity, grasping the surprising newness it releases.
The appeal to conversion, in fact, lays bare and denounces the facile superficiality that all too often marks our lives. To repent [or convert] is to change direction in the journey of life: not however by means of a small adjustment, but with a true and proper turnabout.
Conversion means swimming against the tide, where the "tide" is the superficial lifestyle, inconsistent and deceptive, that often sweeps us along, overwhelms us, and makes us slaves to evil or at any rate prisoners of moral mediocrity.
With conversion, … we entrust ourselves to the living and personal Gospel, which is Jesus Christ.
He is our final goal and the profound meaning of conversion. He is the path on which we are called to walk through life, letting ourselves be illumined by his light and sustained by his power which moves our steps.
In this way, conversion expresses his most splendid and fascinating Face: it is not a mere moral decision that rectifies our conduct in life, but rather a choice of faith that wholly involves us in close communion with Jesus as a real and living Person.
To repent and believe in the Gospel are not two different things or in some way only juxtaposed. No, they express the same reality.
Repentance is the total "yes" of those who consign their whole life to the Gospel, responding freely to Christ who first offers himself to humankind as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, as the only One who sets us free and saves us.
—Excerpted from a catechesis at a general audience on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2010
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