Time for Spring Cleaning
It is around this time of year, when the sun starts hanging around a little later in the evening, that, after having spent a winter in the quiet and comfort of our homes, we start to turn our gaze back to the outside. You might go out to the garage to find the golf clubs or the mountain bike that has been sitting in storage only to realize what a lot of junk gets accumulated throughout the year. It sometimes gets hard to walk between it let alone find a place to park your car.
It’s for this reason that the annual tradition of Spring Cleaning takes place. We gather our family and take a day out of the weekend and we scrub and shine and sort out all the stuff we don’t need and either set it aside for the garbage or a garage sale. In the Church year we have a very similar season which we celebrate the beginning of today. It is the season of Lent. Lent offers us the opportunity to look inside our hearts and to clean out the junk and the cobwebs that have accumulated there, all those things that keep us from truly appreciating God’s love for us before the great feast of Easter arrives. Like the Family cleaning day we gather today as a faith community and pray for insight into the state of our lives and in gratitude for God’s forgiveness. But the reflective nature of Lent is also very well suited to a personal, more individual approach. Through traditional practices such as fasting and abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, by doing good works and perhaps giving up something that we like in order to keep the season at the front of our minds we allow the Spirit room to be at home in our hearts.
In the gospel today Jesus speaks to his disciples about the proper way to pray, to fast and to give alms; they should be done quietly and without fanfare. These things aren’t done to draw attention to ourselves but are a sign from us to God that we are trying to fill our hearts with God’s love and forgiveness.
Now, cleaning out the junk from a well used garage can be a bit of a challenge and might seem like a tremendous chore if we focus on everything at once. Likewise looking inside our hearts at the sin and the guilt that has grown there over time can be quite daunting. For some it is not just difficult but its frightening to think of dredging up some very difficult issues and bringing them to the sacrament of reconciliation. And that fear can be a real obstacle to us feeling forgiven. The words from the prophet Joel in the first reading today remind that we need not fear God’s anger. God is just waiting for us to return so that he can fill us with his mercy. Can we take the time during this season of Lent to open ourselves up to that mercy?
Today we will receive the external sign of ashes on our foreheads. As we look around the church we will be reminded by this sign on our neighbors foreheads that we are brothers and sisters in a community of faith and that together we share that very special gift of baptism. The journey of this season invites you each to let that external sign to become a sign on your heart. A sign which will allow your baptismal call to bear abundant fruit.