Lenten season provides opportunity to ‘dust off’ our spiritual lives
By Sister Joanne Marie Schutz, SSCM
There are so many images we can use when we think about Lent.
We can think of it as a journey or a retreat with the community or as a season of spiritual growth. I like to think of it as a time of "dusting." To be totally honest, I hate to dust because it is so time-consuming. And, once I do it I notice the dust begins collecting again. Dusting involves picking up items, passing the duster over the articles and then setting it back in place. Dusting causes me to sometimes change a placement of an article or put it away. When it is done well the place looks good and I feel good about the accomplished task!
This Lenten season also involves "dusting." It causes us to look into the corners of our hearts where our attitudes affect our behaviors. As disciples of Jesus, sometimes we have to rearrange what we think and that changes how we behave towards others.
This Lenten dusting opportunity allows us to brush off the dust that has collected in our spiritual lives. All that we do, good or evil begins in our hearts and our thinking. Sometimes that means seeing ourselves as good from the inside.
To understand Jesus' attitude and behavior, it can be helpful to imagine that throughout his entire life time God, our Father, kept whispering in his ear, "You are my beloved, my blessed one, my son and in you I am well pleased."
Those words formed the consciousness of Jesus. When Jesus looked at the poor, the hungry, and the weak, he saw them as blessed. He heard God's voice inside reminding him that God is seeing others in the world in that way. We need to hear God's words to us, "You are my beloved (daughter, son), in whom I am well pleased!"
There is a Sufi parable that helps us to understand this idea.
One day the Buddha badly overweight, was sitting under a tree. A young soldier trim and handsome, came along, and looked at the Buddha, and said, "You look like a pig!" The Buddha replied, "You look like a god!"
"Why would you say?" asked the rather surprised soldier. "Well", replied the Buddha, "we see what's inside of us. I think about God all day and when I look out that is what I see. You obviously must think about other things!"
All that we do begins in our hearts. Jesus invites us to journey during Lent towards a change of heart. We need each other. We need to read and examine the Scriptures, to pray together, to take some quiet time so that we can re-examine our lives and ask for what we need individually and as a community of faith.
It can be a grace filled time for us, but we have "dust."
The ashes we received on Ash Wednesday are dusty and will gradually fall off our foreheads. If we come to this day but are not willing to look into our hearts and do some dusting, then we may be wasting the grace that God is offering us this Lent.
In the Book of Joel, God pleads with us to return to him with our whole hearts. He pleads with us to return home to the understanding that we are loved. God patiently watches over us as we wander and lose our way. He waits for us. God always believes in us and our goodness, which is a good thing, because too often we lose faith in our own goodness. We forget that the kingdom of God is within us!
Michel Quoist, priest, theologian and writer, said, "I am not God. I am made in the image and likeness of God and it is my task to discover that image and set it free."
Prayer provides time to experience God's love, to discover God's image within us and to be affirmed by the words: "You are my beloved in whom I am well pleased!"
If we are believers and realize this love, then our actions toward others in our lives matter too.
It matters whether we take that drink. It matters whether we cheat on our income tax. It matters whether we risk telling the truth. It matters if we gossip among ourselves. It matters whether we go out of our way to help another.
The day to day state of our soul matters. It matters because we are loved.
Let's all do some serious "dusting off" of our understanding and realization of how much we are loved by God!
Sister Joanne Marie Schutz, Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius, is the pastoral associate at St. Mary Parish in Crown Point.