( A lovely dish towel sold by http://www.catholiccompany.com)
Lent has arrived, full of ashes and beauty.
Ash Wednesday came, and the littles and I went to our weekday parish for Mass. I remember being touched a little deeper as those ashes were placed on my forehead. The ashes to remember that I am a sinner, but also the shape of the cross, that Christ died for not just everyone, but for me. How deep is love is for each of us.
A friend called later that day and asked, “What are you doing for Lent?” The million dollar question. I had to be honest. I told her I was planning to sit down after I talked with her and figure that out during prayer time. I had a few things in mind, but nothing set, as this season came too quickly for me. That happens sometimes, doesn’t it? I want to do things right, but all of a sudden, time has not just slipped away, but feels like it has been ripped away and is racing down the raging river away from you. Definitely time for a retreat. A few days to breathe and be still with the Lord. Oh! but how to create this retreat within the heart? How to rest with Him while still being faithful to our daily work? How to create a little Nazareth for the Child Jesus to play in within the heart and at the same time be present to those around me and tending to their needs? These are the questions that keep me up at night.
Today, now several days into Lent, I came upon something profound. Something I know deeply, and yet, still have to be reminded.
“Our Lenten conversion should consist in a generous determination to become a saint. The desire for sanctity is the mainspring of the spiritual life; the more intense and real this desire is in us, the more it will urge us to pledge ourselves totally. In this first week of Lent, we must try to arouse and strengthen our resolution to become a saint. If other efforts in the past have been unsuccessful or have not entirely reached the goal, this is no reason for discouragement. Nunc coepi – “now I begin”; let us repeat it humbly, and with the experience of our past failures make us place our trust in God alone.”(Divine Intimacy #99)
And there was my answer, right in front of me. Yes, there are specific things I can and should do to shed myself of the attachment I have to this world and its empty promises, and things I can and should do to draw closer to Jesus. And yet, really, what is the goal? It is to become a saint! To be in heaven one day with Him, eternal Love. And so, steps must be taken to know Him more, to love Him more, and to serve Him more. It might mean biting the tongue and only saying what is helpful & necessary (the same advice I give our kids… St. Paul, pray for us!), or choosing a spiritual book to read, or getting up earlier to pray or going to bed earlier, or taking great strides to get rid of a bad habit, or getting back into praying night prayer with the spouse, or working on a particular virtue or fruit of the Holy Spirit, or giving up a particular food, or going to adoration once a week, or taking the time to play that board game or read aloud to the older kids, or even taking time to actually rest, to learn what proper leisure is. Whatever our Lenten goals might be, let them be to grow closer to Jesus, to love Him more, to truly become a saint, so as to be with Him forever in Heaven, wrapped in His Love.
Mother Teresa had a favorite saying: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” How simple, yet how beautiful and true it is. Let us begin. And no matter how many times we fall down, let us reach up and take Jesus’ hand, and let Him pull us up and dust us off, wipe our tears and kiss our scars, and walk hand in hand down this road of life. We may go through valleys or up mountains, but let us never let go of His Hand. Let us love Him with ever fiber of our being, and because of His Love shining through us, help others love Him too. Let us begin.