“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Those are the words that the priest recites as he marks the ashes on our foreheads in the shape of the cross on Ash Wednesday. The ashes serve to remind us of our sins during the season of repentance. The ashes also symbolize dying and being born again in Christ.

During Lent, we reflect on the temporariness of our earthly lives. Over the course of 40 days, we focus on how we can achieve eternal life. We give up something to open our hearts to God. We challenge ourselves to release our attachment to material possessions, let go of grudges or stop a bad habit.

However, more than typical Lenten sacrifices are needed to strengthen our relationships with God. This spring, I challenge you – and myself – to do more than fast.

Pray for patience. Ask for forgiveness. Devote time to Scripture. Make attending Mass a priority. Give to charity. Spread kindness, not gossip. Remind your family and friends how much you love and appreciate them. Look for the good in every day, even if some days require you to look harder.

Because God has given us the gift of life. He sent His only Son to die for our salvation.

Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God… It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

-1 Peter 3: 18-22