Spring cleaning for the soul
Just by looking around the house, I can tell that things around the parish have been busy lately. The recycling bins are pretty full -- indicating that it’s been a while since I’ve taken things to the local recycling center. By the looks of my closet, there are some clothes that should be taken to a local charity so that they can be re-used. Stepping into my study, I can see that the bookshelves could really use some straightening and rearranging, too. March is here and it’s time for a good spring cleaning.
Lent is also here, and it’s time for a good spring cleaning of our spiritual dwelling places – with the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation. Reconciliation, or confession, offers the perfect opportunity for each of us to search out those dark corners inside, where things tend to accumulate over time. Left alone long enough, those dark places begin to look like those recycling bins at home – lots of stuff just waiting to be hauled out and gotten rid of. Praying with the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes or the spiritual or corporal works of mercy can be like taking a flashlight and shining it into the places we may normally overlook--or those places into which we seldom wish to look.
Preparing for the sacrament of reconciliation requires some work on our part. It also requires the sacrifice of some of our time. We need to set aside adequate time for prayer and preparation and for the examination of conscience, and then we actually need to make the trip to church. Each step requires deliberate action on our part.
I also know that this particular sacrament is not a favorite for many-- just like most of us never really looked forward to sweeping out the garage when we were kids. There are lots of reasons for this: Perhaps the last time we went to reconciliation the priest was unable to give helpful advice or seemed a little hurried in the course of the celebration. Perhaps we find it difficult to actually say out loud what has been hiding inside for too long. Perhaps we think that the priest will somehow remember what was confessed and then choose to hold that against us or think less of us outside of the celebration of the sacrament. The list could go on and on. The ultimate problem with that list is that it focuses too much on the humanity of the priest who is there to represent both Christ and the Church, while focusing too little on the goodness and mercy of God that is at work in the sacrament.
I know it will take some time to deal with the recycling bins, the clothes closet and my bookshelves at home. I also know that after I convince myself to undertake the work and to expend the time, I will be pleased with the results. So it is with the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s not always easy to walk into the sacrament and admit out loud that there are things in our past that need to be hauled out to the curb. I also know that I feel better when I hear the words of the prayer of absolution.
Lent is here and it offers us a God-given opportunity to do a little spiritual housekeeping. I hope all of us will find the time and make the sacrifice to receive this sacrament of God’s mercy as a way to prepare for Easter. How much better our individual “homes” will be, and how much better we will feel, when we hear those words each of us longs to hear: “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.” And so, our journey in FAITH continues.