Thousands of Catholics will hear these words today. It is a call to humility. I am reading On Conscience by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). This collection of essays echoes the call to humility. While one is obligated to follow one’s conscience, the proper formation of the conscience does not depend on subjective personal feelings, but rather on objective truth.
So we begin these forty days as an exercise in surrender to God’s will, not our own. Through fasting and sacrifice we will detach ourselves form the worldly and seek that which is eternal. Through prayer and study we will seek the Wisdom of God over the wisdom of men.
Today we make our first steps on the Journey to Easter. Like any journey, there is excitement and anticipation. It is an adventure! Remember these feelings. In a few days or weeks we may very well sound like tired children whining, “Are we there yet?” How do we sustain our focus? How do we implement our intentions?
With Grace! It is not through our own efforts that we will arrive at the Resurrection. Rather, by joining each step of our journey with the steps of Christ as he carried his Cross, we will find the strength to keep going. By participating in the Sacrifice of the Mass, we will gain the sustenance of His Perfect Sacrifice in the Eucharist. Through prayer we will find the steadying hand of the Holy Spirit guiding us on the right path. With true contrition and humility, we confess our sins and receive the grace of God’s mercy. We do not renew ourselves. It is by the Grace of God that we will find ourselves converted and reborn on Easter morning.
Reflect on the words of today’s Responsorial Psalm:
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
It is not up to us to design a new and improved model of ourselves. Rather we must simply surrender to God’s will and let Him fashion us for His purpose.