Lent, a season particularly focused on renewal and conversion, begins today.
Flip through the pages of most current home and garden magazines and you will easily find articles with tips for spring-cleaning. I recently found an article titled, “Spring Clean Your Finances.” The first paragraph read, “Spring is the season of renewal — the time to get out the gardening tools, begin a new exercise program, or tackle the dirt that’s accumulated in the house.”
Let’s focus on that first line: Spring is the season of renewal.
What a great reminder that the season of Lent is also a season of renewal for Christians. As we approach the Easter season, it’ also a perfect time to think about spring-cleaning and renewing our hearts.
Today’s Mass reading from the Book of Joel makes God’s call to us very clear, “Return to me with your whole heart with fasting, and weeping, and morning; rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord, Your God.”
The psalmist encourages us to go humbly before God as we seek His will: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Give me back the joy of your salvation and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise” (Psalm 51:12, 14, 17).
And as the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
We are called to fully open our hearts and allow whatever experience Christ has in store for us to infiltrate our entire existence. And once we open and cleanse our hearts, and allow God to bestow His graces within us, we can celebrate this season more fully.
This reminds me of a story about Saint Teresa of Avila.
It has been written that after she participated in the sacrament of reconciliation, she would stand outside the confessional and wait for all the sisters in her convent to also finish their individual confessions. And as the sisters came out, she would greet each one, put her hands on their shoulders, look them in the eye and say,“Begin again . . . begin again!”
Jesus wants that from all of us, especially today as we are marked with ashes. An ancient symbol of repentance, the ashes are to remind us of our mortality and that one day we will stand before God and be judged. May we all experience Lent this year as an opportunity, a responsibility, to return our hearts to the Lord and truly Begin Again.
This post is linked up to Catholic Blog Day. Head over there and read more posts about Ash Wednesday and penance.