Among the many reasons for this trend was the understandable desire for the warmth and security that can only be found beside one's hearth and in one's home. But being at home has its challenges. For example, the more we're at home, the more we observe how much needs to be done - a fresh coat of paint in the bedroom, repairs on a leaky faucet, etc. Sitting at home, we can also start envisioning major construction projects, such as a new kitchen or a family room.
I mention this, not because I intend to offer you tips on home renovation but rather because Lent is approaching. And Lent is the right season for us to do some very significant interior renovations - renovations of the soul.
So before you head to Home Depot, first take a tour of your own inner house to assess what renovations and changes are needed. Of course, I can't presume to tell you what those precise needs are. But I can offer you some pointers on how to go about renovating one's mind, heart, and soul during Lent.
First, before we renovate a home, we must determine whether or not we own it. In the case of our individual lives, we aren't the owners. As Saint Paul has written, "Both in life and in death, we are the Lord's!" Our lives and our faith are God's gift to us. You might say that He has given us a long-term lease - not a mere 99-year lease, but an eternal lease. And the terms of the lease are simple: only that we make the interior of our leased residences beautiful by genuine holiness acquired by loving God above all else and our neighbors as ourselves.
If those are the terms of the lease, then we should be serious about cleanup and renovation. The question is, "Where do we start?"
Well, when we renovate a house or any other building, we don't usually begin with details like crown molding or wallpaper. Instead, we start with the basics. We make sure that foundations are solid, that the superstructure is sturdy, that the roof doesn't leak and that the building is free of hazards. Sometimes house renovations begin very simply - by cleaning out an attic or a basement crawl space.
Something similar happens when we renovate our souls. We go to the Owner (the Triune God) and ask for the specs to our interior lives (the Scriptures, the teachings of the Church, etc). Then, with the Owner's help, we inspect the premises. How strong is our faith? Do we know our faith and accept with mind, heart, and soul what the Church believes and teaches? Or do we "pick and choose" from among those teachings - omitting here and there beams and struts that support the structure of our interior lives? We also need to look for flaws that undermine the soundness of our interior lives, those vices that alienate us from God and one another: sloth, cowardice, dishonesty, malice, anger, lust, greed, lust, gluttony, covetousness, pride, and prejudice, to name a few. These and other vices can cause our interior lives to collapse in self-centered misery.
And while we're at it, we need to check for hazards which we so readily stash in the hidden corners and crawl spaces of our hearts - things we used to call "near occasions of sin." These must be cleared out before serious expansion and redecoration can begin.
All this is hard work. And we can't do it alone. So during Lent, we need to approach the Owner by making a good and complete sacramental confession. My advice to you and to myself is that this confession not be pro forma, but rather the graced result of a long and honest look at our lives in the light of the Gospel. And then we must seek God's help each day in overcoming our sins and vices and in strengthening the foundations of our spiritual lives.
As we consult with the Owner, we may be surprised to learn that He wants us to undertake an expansion - perhaps a new wing or a solarium. We are even more surprised to learn that He will also supply the only building material we shall need - His own love. As God's love takes root in our hearts, they are enlarged by kindness to those in need. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and comfort the afflicted, our capacity for divine and human love is expanded. The Owner, after all, doesn't merely want a house - He wants us to be a mansion! Repaired, cleaned, and enlarged, our hearts are then ready to be decorated. Once again, we don't have to purchase the decorations - they're the Owner's gift to us. They include the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation (wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, and fear of the Lord). They also include the fruits of the Holy Spirit (charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity).
Yes, Lent is a time for serious interior renovations. If we open our hearts to the Lord by prayer, fasting, and generous service to those in need, we shall indeed shine with the inner beauty of holiness - and we may just cause the whole neighborhood to improve!
A blessed Lent to all of you!
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