- Be willing to change -- not in the sense of progressives who see everything in flux and value nothing as substantial -- but to be malleable like the clay in the potter's hand. We must open every part of our being to God's grace, even the deepest recesses where we nurture and protect those things we really don't want to change, the little vices we love and to which we are so attached. It is this willingness to change every part of ourselves to conform to the will of God that is the essential beginning of transformation.
- Be contrite -- All who have reached the age of reason have sinned. The only human creature who never did is Mary, "Our tainted nature's solitary boast." Recognizing our sinfulness before God without minimizing or excusing it draws us to humility, and only humble people can be transformed. We all tend to forget our past sins with the sense that, "Well, that was then and we'll just forget all that and move on." But periodically examining our entire life and our pattern of sins helps us recognize how much we owe God for his mercy and His never-failing love. I remember a story about a man who sat in the church for hours gazing at the crucifix. When the priest asked him what he did there, the man replied, "I look at Him and He looks at me." What do we see when we set our gaze on Christ and His wounds? Do I see the depth of His love, a love willing to suffer torture and death for ME? Do we see the consequences of our sins? My sins put the nail marks in His hands and feet. My sins were the force that sent the spear into His side. My sins were the thorns penetrating the Sacred Head. Reflecting on our sins and what they did to Jesus invites us to deep penitence, and deep penitence is a prerequisite to a transformed heart.
- Know yourself -- To truly know ourselves we must put ourselves in direct self-confrontation before God. "Who are you and who am I?" Von Hildebrand reminds us of St. Augustine's statement, "Could I but know Thee, I should know myself." As we move into the light of Christ we see ourselves more clearly. Christ shows us all our sins, faults, and shortcomings, even those we may subconsciously hide from ourselves. Knowledge of ourselves in the light of the desire to change and "become a new man in Christ" represents not a source of depression and despair over our vileness, but an invitation. "We must appreciate it as a great gift of grace from God when He opens our eyes to the actual danger, and shows us where the battle has to be fought." Instead of "tilting at windmills" we put serious effort into fighting our real enemies. Those who foster illusions about themselves focus on inconsequentials. They never achieve the real change they seek. Knowing oneself is not easy and the seeker of truth must constantly pray, "Cleanse me of my hidden weaknesses."
Let's prepare for Sunday Mass by resolving to begin the journey to transformation in Christ by a deep desire to change, contrition for our sins, and a determination to know ourselves in the light of Our Loving Lord.