Are You Ready for Spring Cleaning?

 In Articles, Pastor's Notes, Pastor's Notes-Fr. Ritche

When I was assigned at St. Justin Parish, I was introduced to the city’s “spring cleaning.” Every year, during springtime, the City of Santa Clara encourages its residents to clean up their houses and dispose of items that are no longer needed. The people look forward to this opportunity to clean out the garage, closets – basically the whole house, make changes, and perhaps create room for something new.

Spring cleaning has its origin in the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleaning the home in anticipation of the springtime festival known as Passover. This feast is special to the Jewish people because it is a reminder of their flight from Egypt and wandering in the desert for forty years as they made their way to the promise land. The Jews refrain from anything leavened, thus the annual cleaning is a way to rid the home of any remnants of leavened food.

I believe spring cleaning is connected to Lent. First, Lent typically occurs near/or in the springtime. Secondly, it is our preparation for the feast of the Christian Passover, Jesus’ passing over from death to life -the paschal mystery. Thirdly, Lent is our invitation to declutter our spiritual lives, so we are ready for the new life offered to us at Easter.

The Church and the gospel for Ash Wednesday offer three ways to assist in our spiritual spring cleaning – Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.

Prayer. St. John of Damascus once said that to pray is to raise our minds and our hearts to God. Beautiful, isn’t it? Simple but a good definition of prayer. Let us face it, we focus so much on things, people, and events of this world. Now, there is nothing wrong with that because we live in this world. Lent reminds us that we should consciously raise our minds and our hearts to God. We think about God and feel God’s presence and more importantly we speak to God. Talk with God, just like talking with a friend.

Fast. This is probably what we know best about Lent. Thomas Merton, a great spiritual writer, once said that fasting allows the deeper hunger of our life to emerge. Merton said there are other things that dominate our lives; thus, we fail to recognize for what we truly long. When we fast, we come to know our hungers – the hunger for meaning, purpose, real value, friendship, justice and ultimately, the hunger for God. Lent invites us to rid ourselves of what is unnecessary. In doing so, we become aware of our real hungers.

Almsgiving. This means giving of our substance to help those who are less fortunate. Almsgiving is more than the giving of money. It is an act of love that incorporates both prayer and fasting that manifests itself in caring for “the neighbor” in need. Almsgiving is rooted in Christ’s words in Matthew’s gospel, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do it to me.”

These three Lenten disciplines serve as a guide in our spiritual spring cleaning. If we can intentionally accomplish these, our Lenten journey will certainly be full of meaning, joy, hope and love.

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