Spring is upon us, that is of course if you are reading this in the Northern Hemisphere. Spring has become a traditional time to clean. Spring cleaning, as we call it, is a time to get rid of the clutter. Which area of your home do you know needs to be cleaned? Most of us have messy closets; junk filled drawers or garages and basements in chaos. Have you been avoiding cleaning up these areas? Over time clutter collects and gets in the way. Are there also messy areas of your soul that you avoid cleaning? Is there clutter there too? Perhaps we need to use this time of Lent to do some spiritual spring cleaning.
At my parish this past weekend in the Gospel reading, Jesus was also doing some “spring cleaning.” Jn 2:13-25 “Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
In this passage we see that the temple of God had been turned into something it was not meant to be. It had become littered with distractions. These distractions were keeping God’s people from a deeper relationship with Him. My friends, we too are temples of God. Jesus lives in us…..sadly however; we have become disordered with sin as well. What does Jesus need to drive out of us?
We all need to ask ourselves, is God first in our lives or do we worship other things? We need to find out what is distracting us from holiness and throw those things away. We saw Jesus grow angry at the conditions in the temple, how does He feel about the conditions of our bodily temples?
Two weeks ago in my 4thdayletter MAY I KILL IT, I quoted C.S. Lewis’s line from the Great Divorce “may I kill it” when the angel confronted the ghost about his sin of lust. This week we have a slight twist. Is Jesus perhaps asking us now as we prepare for Easter, “MAY I CLEAN IT?” Are some of your sins like a favorite old pair of jeans; you just can’t part with them? At least with jeans it is the jeans themselves that get tattered and torn, with sin it is us that become tattered and torn.
Thomas à Kempis, author of The Imitation of Christ, leaves us this quote: “Who has a stronger conflict than he who strives to overcome himself?” We must overcome the forces within us that fill us with junk and prevent God from occupying our entire soul. With all this trash and sin in our lives is there even room for God at all?
In the Parable of the Broken Door I wrote about our need to clean up our house so that others can see Christ in us.
Isaiah 1:16 tell us: “Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil”
Matthew 23:25-26 says this: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”
We read in 2 Corinthians 7:1 “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”
Finally Mark 2:22 gives us this: “Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.” Jesus is the wine for our soul and we need to become like new wineskins so that His wine is not contaminated but what was in the old wineskin.
Doesn’t it seem as though cleaning is an important part of not only life but nature as well? We pressure wash our houses, we wash our cars, in nature plants must be pruned to develop new growth, and of course personal hygiene requires we keep our bodies clean daily. If we don’t cleanse our bodies daily we become stinky. If we don’t clean our soul it can become stinky too.
Lent is clearly a time to reflect on the life of Jesus. It should be a time when we also take a close look into our own lives. It’s a time to make an honest assessment of where we are in relationship to where God wants us to be. We need to asses our beliefs, and values, and look for recurring sinful patterns in our lives.
Some families when they hear that unexpected guests are about to stop over for a visit, scurry around the house quickly grabbing any and everything that is out of place, and stuff it in the closets and sweep the dirt under the rug. Has our soul in the same way become the place where all the junk is stashed? There is a popular TV commercial that asks “what’s in your wallet.” Jesus is perhaps asking us “what’s in your closet.” You see, in our spiritual closets we hide all kinds of “stuff”. This clutter in our closet and the dirt under our rugs are the things that we usually don’t want anyone else to know about. My friends, God wants us to become vulnerable and admit that we have these hidden areas in need of cleaning. Let’s go to Him in prayer, and ask Him to help us do some deep cleaning today.
So where do we go from here? First make time for a good self-inventory; prayer and fasting can help with this. Next, your thorough cleaning can begin. Finally with the clutter removed you can make room for Jesus in your heart. If you do, His presence in the world might just be seen in you today. Keep in mind that as important as spring cleaning is, it only has a temporary impact on our worldly surroundings; on the other hand, SPIRITUAL SPRING CLEANING can have an eternal impact on our soul.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”