There’s a time in the late afternoon when the spectacular Denver sun streams through the windows of my kitchen, casting an illuminating beam across the expanse of floors and countertops. The light hits at such a precise angle as to expose a blanket of crumbs lurking near the toaster, the layers of dust hidden in a corner under a cabinet and the otherwise invisible stains near the base of our wastebasket. It’s as if nature’s very own high-powered S.W.A.T. searchlight pours into the shadows, revealing the hidden, dirty underbelly of the kitchen. Once in a while, I delight in the chance to wipe out a smattering of crumbs or rub out the trail of sticky spots on my laminate floor.
More often, though, I spy the tiny specks of food, the pockets of dust and the series of smudges and look the other way. I simply ignore it because those clandestine messes overwhelm me. I choose to focus on the tasks that are more obvious and pressing, tackling a stack of dirty dishes or the heaps of countertop clutter. All the while, I’m practically counting the minutes until the light shifts, once again concealing the hot spots so I can continue to live under the illusion of having a deep-cleaned, sanitary kitchen.
In a similar way, I think most of us walk around turning a blind eye to our sins. We’re not that bad. We’re mostly good, right? We haven’t killed or maimed anybody—at least for a few years. We’ve entered the season of Lent, not exactly my favorite time of year. That’s because Lent reminds us, “Yeah, you actually are pretty sinful.” If you do it right, Lent mimics that obtrusive mid-afternoon light, exposing all the problem areas, but it turns its probing brightness on the state of our souls. Needless to say, I’m not exactly thrilled to see all those crumbs! Most days, I walk around assuming everything is pretty tidy, but upon closer examination, I notice serious trouble spots. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the disorder. It’s tempting to look the other way. Nothing to see here! But God calls us to roll up our sleeves and face those dirt devils.
I like what Pope Benedict XVI has to say on this topic:
“Lent is like a long ‘retreat’ during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil One. It is a period of spiritual ‘combat’ which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the word of God and penance. In this way we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our Baptism.”
We all know how much better we feel when our home is in order. Consider the peace of a spiritual deep cleaning. Here are my Top 5 Lenten tricks/tools to help you achieve a more sparkling soul:
This is the perfect antidote to the evils of rushing and worldly noise. Spending quiet time with the Blessed Sacrament will set things right. Instead of carrying on an endless monologue, make an effort to just be receptive and listen. Imagine yourself resting your head on Christ’s chest. Listen to His heartbeat.
2. THE ROSARY & DIVINE MERCY CHAPLET
These prayers are uh-mazing! I credit the rosary for bringing me back to Jesus and the Divine Mercy Chaplet is the perfect salve for any sinner. “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on me and on the whole world.” The perfect Lenten prayer!
3. CONFESSION CONFESSION CONFESSION
Get serious about unloading your sins. Spend time really examining your conscience. How have you offended God? This is the equivalent of a holy car wash. Air Freshener not included. But you’ll walk out gleaming!
4. FAST BETWEEN MEALS
This is so hard for me! I like to graze but every time I reach for a snack, I’m reminded that this is a tiny sacrifice that strengthens my self-discipline.
5. KEEP A SIN JAR
This is just like the old swear jar, but instead of swearing, you track those pesky recurring sins that keep popping up throughout the day. Assign a dollar amount to each sin. Example: Impatience With Your kids- $1, Gossip-$2, Mild Road Rage-$3 Keep a tally and at the end of the day, pay up! After 40 days you should have a decent amount to give to your favorite charity.
While that bright light may feel harsh and critical, exposing all our dark, hidden crevices, remember that one day we will face the Light of Truth on our judgment. Then there will be no chance to do a last minute dash across the floor with a holy Swiffer. Now’s the time to peel back the rug and search out all the filth and grime you can find. Embrace the light this Lenten season.