Again Lent is coming, and I have been thinking about the words that we hear year after year on Ash Wednesday: “Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return.”
We are earthly creatures, descended from Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, who the Bible tells us were formed out of the dust of the earth.
But we are born to be children of God, renewed in the image of Jesus Christ, “the last Adam,” who came down from heaven to show us the face of God and the true image of our humanity.
There is a great need in our times to understand our existence in “supernatural” or “heavenly” terms. We live in a society run by mechanisms and technologies, and our thinking tends to become finite and earthbound, determined by what we can see and sense, confined to material things.
But human life is so much more. There is a natural world and also a spiritual world that is “above.” The earthly is open to the heavenly, the visible to the invisible.
In these 40 days of Lent, I want to call us — myself first of all — to deepen our sense of the mystery of our lives in Christ. I want us to try to go deeper in our personal conversion, deeper into the heart of the Gospels and the New Testament writings.
During these days of Lent, I want to return to the figure of Jesus.
We need to reclaim the Incarnation as the way and the truth for our lives. We know that Jesus, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, became human for our sake and for our salvation.
But when we think about it, God could have saved us in many ways. Some spiritual writers say that just one drop of Christ’s precious blood was all it would have taken.
Instead, Jesus chose to enter into this world and to live through the moments of human life, from its beginnings in a mother’s womb until its ending when the body is laid in a tomb.
By doing this, Jesus sanctified our earthly existence, making it a pathway to heaven. Because he humbled himself to share in our humanity, we can now share in his divinity through our own humanity, through our ordinary human lives.
Over and over in the Gospels, in many different ways, Jesus said, “Follow me.” His life is meant to be the form and pattern of our lives.
Saint Paul said that we are called to be “conformed to the image of his Son.” The saints and great spiritual writers remind us always of this truth: Our heavenly Father wants to see Jesus in each of his sons and daughters. He wants to see the image of his only begotten Son in you and in me.
Baptism restores us to the likeness of God, which was lost in the original sin of Adam and Eve.
But baptism is only the beginning, the start of the road. Baptism is meant to set our lives on a path of continual reform in the image of Jesus Christ.
In the language of the New Testament writers, he has left us an example, calling us to follow in his footsteps, calling us to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, to put on a new nature, to be changed into his likeness.
In practical terms, that means becoming more like Jesus in what we think about and in what we desire, in how we make decisions, and in how we act. We are called to an interior renewal that expresses itself in a new attitude and direction for our lives.
How do we do that? We begin by reflecting and praying about the life of Jesus. So, that is what I want to try to do in my columns during Lent.
I want to reflect on important aspects of our Lord’s human personality and how we can learn from his humility, his tender mercy and forgiveness, his zeal for souls, his loving service of others, his work of friendship, his way of prayer, and his love expressed as self-sacrifice.
We cannot change the world or change our lives in 40 days, but we can make a good beginning. So let us make this Lent a time of growing deeper in our friendship with Jesus, reforming our lives by conforming our lives more closely to his.
As we begin this holy season of reform and renewal, pray for me. And I will be praying for you.
And let us walk this Lent also with our Blessed Mother Mary. Her last recorded words in Scripture were at the wedding feast of Cana, when she said, “Do whatever he tells you.” Through her intercession, may we take her words to heart and reform our lives after the image of her Son.