Getting to Know Me
Appropriate for the season of Lent is the adage, "If you were able to give a swift kick in the pants to the person who was responsible for most of your troubles, you would not be able to sit down for a week." Examination of one's conscience is a convoluted journey traversing both smooth and potholed pathways. As in life itself, good and evil co-exist within the character of the human being. Among the goals of Lent should be the enhancement of a personal knowledge of just where the good and bad qualities reside in one's personality. Through such understanding, a person can pursue the happy result of being able to control the influence of the good over the evil, the beneficial over the harmful, and the contribution over the detriment.
Our work – my work – consists in taming, subduing, evangelizing, and angelizing [sic] the evil self; and in restoring harmony with the good self. Salvation lies in abandoning the evil self in principle, and in taking refuge with the other, the divine self – in accepting with courage and prayer the task of living with one's own demon, and making it into a less and less rebellious instrument of good.
Henri Frederic Amiel
How can this self-discipline shed light on the human condition and lead it toward the Christian treasure? This accomplishment requires the involvement of the intellect in seeking and knowing God's Truth along with an act of the will in putting into practice the dictates of that truth. Once, sitting on a bench in a Mall while waiting for a friend, I began reflecting on the variety of stores and the many individuals working in them. There were people at their posts in department stores, restaurants, specialty shops, grooming establishments, jewelry stores, and little stands that sold everything from soaps to popcorn. Because it was not a typically busy time of the day, they mostly were standing around waiting for customers. I wonder what they were thinking and if they thought, in their waiting, of the passing of the limited time of their lives. What a great opportunity for meditating on their existence and how they can improve the quality of their daily life; what a possibility to pray and to grow; and when, at last, a customer does arrive, how their demeanor and their interest in serving their customer might find a greater expression. Whether it is an employee waiting at the entrance of a store at a Mall or it is a tourist sipping an island specialty drink while seated at a teak table under a canopy of Balinese silk at a café on some South Sea isle, the same opportunity for spiritual reflection presents itself. What divine gifts await the seeker and upon their discovery what amplitude of grace would bless their world.
Forty days are given to us each year within which we can open ourselves for inspection and weigh the state of our soul. To face our sinfulness and to admit to our self-deception would prove too unnerving a process if not for the assurance of the love and mercy of God. This desire of God to welcome the repentant sinner and to unceasingly wish reconciliation with him evokes the necessary hope in the individual to press on. For the non-believer this activity would be masochistic, unproductive, and a waste of valuable time. For the person of faith the time of Lent provides the incitement to better one's self in ways that improve the significance of the impact of their being toward both their spiritual and to their secular life. In particular, Lent includes an analysis not only of the major experiences of being alive, but also the daily experiences of lesser import that constitute the greater portion of our length of days. The importance of the prosaic and mundane events of the average day is ignored to our peril. Attention paid to the molding of our attitudes and of our goals in interacting with those with whom we live each day has the ability to transform us as well as to transform others for the better.
Peace is not something which can be bought. It is something to be sought patiently, to be crafted through the actions, great and small, of our everyday life.
Pope Francis I
Getting to know the "me" in you, in my opinion, is a good way to consider the work of Lent and, indeed, the work of a lifetime. To say that you understand yourself and that you grasp the work to be done in molding that awareness into the holiest and best person that you can present to the world is worth the meritorious crown of which Saint Paul wrote. Blaise Pascal said, "Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair." During these days of Lent, I pray that we can know the "me" that makes you who you are and that we invite Jesus to enter of expand that "me" into the good and faithful servant that God hopes for in us.