Today's fist reading from the Book of Sirach is the perfect prelude to Lent.
To the penitent God provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope and has chosen for them the lot of truth. Return to him and give up sin, pray to the LORD and make your offenses few.
In these last two days it is time for us to do a serious examination of conscience. We must look deep and acknowledge, not just the superficial sins, but the deeper more pervasive sins in our lives: prejudice, envy, an unwillingness to truly forgive, our judging of others. Often there are sins that are so deeply ingrained in us that we deny their existence or tell ourselves that these feelings are not sinful.
Sirach is realistic and knows that in this life none of us are going to live sin free, but we can all strive to "make [our] offenses few." Step one, however, is a willingness to call sin, sin. We must turn the light of truth on our own actions and our minds and most importantly our hearts.
With God there is always a way back, but in order to find our way back we must know where we are. We must acknowledge how far we have strayed. When we arrive in Church on Ash Wednesday, we should arrive with a true spirit of contrition. We should enter Lent with a concrete sense of our sins. Perhaps the four categories in the confiteor are helpful: thoughts, words, what I have done, what I have failed to do. God already knows our sins, but do we?