Mrs Beeton, in her well-known book on household management, wrote: ‘spring is the usual period set apart for house cleaning and removing all the dust and dirt, which will…accumulate during the winter months…’ A worthwhile spring-clean takes planning, perseverance and hard work. For us Ash Wednesday begins a period when we embark on a spiritual ‘spring-clean’. St John Chrysostom, by way of preparing us for the season of Lent, wrote: “When the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual springtime, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons, and as harvesters sharpen our sickles, and as sailors order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires, and as travellers set out on the journey towards heaven, and as wrestlers strip for contest. For the believer is at once a harvester, a sailor, a soldier, a wrestler and a traveller.’
We know, deep down, that our hearts are given over to a certain hardness and resistance to God and his loving plan for our lives. We need to be renewed and transformed because, in living our lives in the world, we get tired, weary and dirty. We need to be cleansed, purified and healed. As we undertake this spring-clean, we rid ourselves of all the clutter and rubbish in our lives that hinders and prevents us knowing God’s love.
The very goal of the Christian life is to love God. St Augustine once said, ‘In the long run there will be two kinds of people: those who love God and those who do not.’ Loving God is, then, our goal and our raison d’etre. We love God because God loves us: “The reason for loving God is God himself; the measure of loving God is to love him beyond measure’ (St Bernard of Clairvaux).
In order that we may better love the Lord our God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we practise self-denial and acts of penance, and strive to reform our lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In the Bible the heart is understood as the apex or very essence of our being, and it is the heart that needs renewing. As St Benedict Joseph Labre once said: “To love God, you need three hearts: a heart of fire for him, a warm heart towards our neighbour and a heart of bronze towards ourselves.’
‘It is always springtime in the heart that loves God.’ (St John Vianney)
(Taken from Bible Alive for Ash Wednesday. I am grateful to Bible Alive for all their words of wisdom over the years.)
May each one who opens this message have a wonderful lent and as Easter comes close may each one come closer to the Lord in his/her life.