“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” These are the words most often used as we are signed with ashes. It is a call to conversion, a call to follow Christ, a call to change our lives. Today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew gives us the three pillars of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These are at the heart of the Gospel’s message. No one heard this call and followed it more devotedly than St. Francis of Assisi.
Francis took a literal approach to the Gospel. He began with the most basic interpretation of a text, but he didn’t stop there. He began by throwing aside his tunic, shoes, and walking staff, but over time discovered the many ways in which possessions can keep us from seeking God. He began by carrying stones and fitting them into the crumbling walls of Assisi’s churches, but over time he inspired his followers to reinvigorate the Church with the undimmed power of the Gospel.
—from the book Lent with St. Francis: Daily Reflections by Diane M. Houdek