Today’s readings find a common theme in redemption and its call to turn away from sin and to seek forgiveness.

In the Book of Ezekiel, God shares with us what is needed to be saved from our wretchedness: “If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” God reassures us that no sin is remembered – what beautiful and encouraging motivation to seek out His forgiveness through the Sacrament of Confession!

But God also reminds us that the continual act of seeking forgiveness is a virtue and must be lived out: “He shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.”

Without this conscientious-effort, the good you do in this world will not matter. The person labeled as virtuous who does not seek to better himself or herself is no better than the person who openly accepts sin as part of his or her life.

“And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does, can he do this and still live?”

At face value, you may be known as a good and virtuous person in your community, school or church – maybe you volunteer, participate in weekly events, etc., – but when no one is looking, are you truly living out the call to sainthood, or are you partying on the weekends, hooking up with random people and indulging in worldly-pleasures without boundaries? We must always order our lives, publicly and privately, to God, even when it requires sacrifices. That’s what He means by practicing virtue.

We read a similar message in the Gospel of Matthew. The Pharisees were known to be hypocrites – they preached one message but lived a completely different one. All of us, at some point in our lives, can relate to the Pharisees. How often do we act or say something virtuous but not practice it ourselves? Jesus shares something profound, “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”

If our actions and words spewed out for others to hear are not practiced ourselves, we have failed in our call to be saints in this life. We must strive for righteousness in our words and deeds, even when no one is looking. And that action begins with the virtue of forgiveness.

Today’s Lenten reflection: Is how I live, when no one is watching, virtuous?

Luke Faulkner is the Social Media Director of Human Life Action, the official national pro-life grassroots organization of the U.S. Catholic bishops. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Media Communication from Colorado State University.
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