What is it about the hope of warm breezes and sunshine right around the corner promising to warm our winter-chilled bones and to pop up an array of colorful delicate spring flowers from the once-frozen earth that motivates us to delve into cleaning and organizing projects? It's a feeling akin to the "nesting" instinct that surfaces for an expectant mother before the birth of her baby. One senses the urgency of doing and then experiences the satisfaction that a cleaned out pantry, an organized closet, or a fresh coat of paint on the kitchen walls brings along with it. It's just the right time for it — spring brings it forth from us. It's no wonder that I am in that organizing and cleaning frame of mind. I think I've been bit by a spring cleaning bug!
Spring is similarly a time for fresh new hope that warms our souls because of the Easter Resurrection. We've trodden the path of our penitential Lenten journeys and now we have been blessed with our Savior's promise of new life for us after He selflessly and lovingly shed His Blood. "Jesus, who himself died on the Cross, brought something totally different: an encounter with the Lord of all lords, an encounter with the living God and thus an encounter with a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within" (Pope Benedict, XVI, Spe Salvi).
Along with the miracle of the Resurrection and the gift of new hope, we experience the bright rays of morning sunlight, birds entertaining us with their happy melodies, and the promise of fragrant lilacs, bright yellow forsythia, butterflies and hummingbirds. Such rebirth swells our heart with thanksgiving. We are filled with hope of what is to come.
If we are inclined to do a bit of spring cleaning, perhaps as we are sorting through our homes, offices, backpacks, and handbags, we'll think about what we can do to organize our hearts and souls. How does our interior life measure up to the fresh picture of hope set before us? We can take some time out to pause, ponder, and pray with hopeful hearts asking our Lord to help us clear out the clutter in our minds, hearts, and souls. We can give it all to Him and He will transform our hearts.
We know that the absence of clutter on countertops, desks, or in closets, for instance, exudes a cleaner, crisper, and even calmer feeling. We may feel less stress and a sense of relief when not having to deal with too much stuff in the workplace and at home. What can we sort through, give away, recycle, or toss out? Having fewer things frees up our time, enabling us to be involved with more worthwhile endeavors.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta saw a great need in living simply. First and foremost, she wanted the Missionaries of Charity to live exactly as the poorest of the poor so that they would understand the plight of poverty precisely. With the absence of material things and embracing poverty, the sisters became free, free to love and serve God more completely and with much less distraction. Their lives were centered on the Eucharist and Holy Mass. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament feeding them His Body and Blood, soul and divinity gave them life, the strength to serve the poorest of the poor and the light to see Jesus living in each of them. Jesus, simply Jesus, was the answer to everything for them. They also knew another route to Him was by beseeching His holy Mother Mary through the rosary and prayer.
Most of us reading this reflection are not sisters and do not live in a convent, but we can learn from the simple and direct manner the sisters lived, focused on Jesus their Eucharistic Lord. They received Him into their hearts purely and simply and then went out and served Him in others without the distraction of things. I think we allow too many things to get in our way of doing God's will. If we have too many things to care for, worry about, or maintain, our energies will be wasted on the material, while the human hearts our Lord has placed around us are starving for love.
Pope Benedict told us in his encyclical, Spe Salvi, "Let us say once again: we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope. God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is 'truly' life."
Let's use this hopeful springtime gift of rebirth and Easter blessings wisely by asking our Lord to help us focus on what is essential and holy, go deeper into our Catholic faith, and use us to bring hope and love to others around us.