Summary: The growth mindset, by contrast, believes that there is no limit to our ability to learn, grow and change for the better.

Thursday after Ash Wednesday 2018


Now what? We have received our ashes, symbol of our turning back or turning more faithfully to God. We have begun our Lenten journey, forty days and a triduum toward the destination of Christ’s Resurrection. What do we do now?

Our study for the past six months has been the sixteenth century upheavals we call the revolution and reformation. We can recall that the young Martin Luther worked out his problems with sin and conscience by denying that we need to do anything for salvation. Salvation is the gift of God won on the cross. That’s very true. But Jesus Himself was pretty clear about our responsibility. Here the Book of Deuteronomy tells us that we have a free choice: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him.” The verb is the same used to describe the relationship of spouses–cleave, hold tight. It is an action empowered by only the grace of God, for sure, but an action freely chosen by us, and acted on, as we heard yesterday, through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Jesus ups the ante for us, His disciples: “If any [one] would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

Our adherence to Jesus Christ is measured, in the spiritual sense, by our attitude toward suffering, and our response to it. In education, we talk about two mindsets. The fixed mindset believes that there is a limit to our ability to learn, and that we should avoid challenges of learning that might be too much for us. The growth mindset, by contrast, believes that there is no limit to our ability to learn, grow and change for the better. Learners like that seek out challenges, take the tough courses and push beyond arbitrary limits so they can attain their full potential. And when they fail, they fail courageously and learn from the mistakes they made.

There’s a similar reality in the spiritual life. The fixed spirit does the minimum needed to gain entry to heaven. Such a spirit is more interested in avoiding mortal sin than in attaining virtue. The growing spirit looks for new ways to exhibit faith, hope and charity in this world. The growing spirit is always looking for opportunities to serve, to pray, to discipline self.

So that’s the challenge of this season of Lent–to commit ourselves to growth in knowledge, in service, in hope, and in charity. Let’s pray that all Christians of whatever tradition accept that challenge and bring the word of God to fruition in our day.

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