Cleanliness is Next to Holiness

Lent. It’s that time of year when everyone gives something up in hopes of breaking an addiction they have. Maybe it is to the morning cup of coffee, watching too much t.v. or the daily dive into the strategically hidden bag of chocolate in the bottom right drawer of the fridge. But there are times the caffeine headache is too much to take and the only way to alleviate it is by drinking a caffeine rich soda pop.  The twitches for chocolate when that person who really annoys you enters the room are too much to take.

Your head hurts, stomach groans, you can’t seem to muster up a happy thought. You can’t help it, you have to rub the temples of your head. You have to find some alternative to chocolate. How else will you deal with not being able to find out what happened last night your favorite show or your favorite team? Maybe cheesecake…No!

How can we possibly find joy in the sacrifice in the middle of temptation?! How can we, in the middle of mild yet irritating suffering, not carry out the habit we formed long ago? Is the solution to start a new habit? Perhaps. But not in the way that instead of chocolate when I feel irritated or annoyed I now head straight for a wine bottle. The point of Lent is to offer up something freely to root the bad out, not to fill up with a new ‘stuff’.

Lent is like spring cleaning for our souls.

The point is the deal with the ‘stuff’ of our lives. How cluttered are our souls with unnecessary things? How piled up are all the extra feelings of failure, annoyance, boredom and frustration have we hoarded away against ourselves or those around us? That is what the Lord wants to clean out.

There was a show on t.v. once that had a married couple clean out two rooms in their cluttered house. Once all the belongings were outside, they had four signs out that said, “Keep” “Give Away” “Trash” and “Garage Sale”. The couple would then talk through the various items and decided which one went in front of what sign.

God doesn’t want our chocolate. He wants our soul, our personhood, our time, our attention. He wants a conversation over what has clogged up our souls and thus our lines of communion with Him. With Him we need to figure out what needs to be healed or given to Him to be fixed, what things need to get trashed immediately that are dragging us down, what things we have that we can give to others (this may be volunteering at a parish event, becoming a CCD/PSR teacher, or joining a Bible Study), and what things we need to keep with us to foster and grow.

Yes, Lent is about getting rid of things but it is also about fostering good things. Yes, we are weeding the gardens of our souls but we are also planting new seeds as well as tending to those that have already begun to sprout and that is something to be joyful about.

Reflection: “Ugh, I miss (insert Lenten sacrifice here).” “I can’t wait for these forty days to be over.” “What day are we on? What?! You mean I have 32 days left? Good-ness.” “Can I switch sacrifices?” “Sundays don’t count, right?”–You know you are a Catholic during Lent if any of these phrases have ever entered your mind or exited your mouth. There are times I think that it would be easier to get rid of sins if they were physical. Like, if sin were a king sized mattress stuck in a closet, that I could handle. Sure, it’d be hard to get it down two flights of spiral stairs and out to the garbage. It would take a lot of effort and I’d probably smell pretty nasty once I got it down. Not to mention that I’d be sore all over from doing the most work I had done all year in a day. But in the end, it would be out and done with. Sins are so much harder when they are spiritual. Because the battle is not with an annoying object that’s in my physical way. Instead it is with an invisible reality stuck inside the closet of my soul and the only way to get it out is for me to work at it.

Challenge: Jesus said, we are not to be solemn, moan or groan when we are sacrificing or draw attention to ourselves when we sacrifice. Goal for this week: Have a good week. Every day make a conscience effort to be happy even in the midst of sacrificing for Jesus. And when you find it hard, pause, take a minute and ask Jesus and Mary for help. They always come.

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