“A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit. Do not drive me from before your face, nor take from me your holy spirit. Restore to me the gladness of your salvation; uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12-14)
The season of Lent is the time to get our spiritual house in order. I think of it as a spring cleaning of the heart, mind, and soul; a time to clear away the clutter of temptation, doubt, and confusion to make a proper dwelling place for our Lord. While we may not look forward to cleaning house, we look forward to the end result of being refreshed and renewed.
This period of cleansing through the practice of penance also reminds us of what we should be doing every day. Which is to deepen our commitment to God by actively participating in our Lord’s work of redemption through our faith, hope, and love. In other words, focus on living less for ourselves and more for God so that our Lord, by way of the Holy Spirit, can live within us and through us each day, enabling us to experience and share the joy of salvation!
Open to God’s Grace
To keep our spiritual house in order, we need help. We need the grace of God, otherwise we easily fall into disarray. Remember Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Temptation stirred up confusion and doubt. Instead of relying on God’s loving help, they fell to the devil’s manipulation. How willing are we to fully accept and rely on God’s grace? That is something to ponder.
For guidance, let us turn to the one human being who was born without sin, filled with grace, and fervently committed to God. The “house” of the Blessed Virgin Mary was truly in order and open to accept all that God had to give. The grace and love of God protected Mary, clearing away any speck of hesitation, confusion, or doubt from entering her body and soul.
Mary was the new Eve with her obedience of faith, freely giving her consent at the Annunciation to open the way for our Savior to be born. Mary is the Cause of Our Joy by delivering Jesus into the world and sharing Him with those in search of salvation. “The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it” (CCC 1999). Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s love and the joy of our salvation, is the new Adam.
Whereas the first Adam succumbed to temptation in the Garden of Eden, Jesus rebuffed temptation in the desert, giving us the hope and strength we need to face our challenges as we are called to unite with the mystery of Christ in the desert during our 40 days of Lent. Christ’s victory over the devil in the desert was a prelude to His victory at the Passion — “the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father” (CCC 539) for the sake of our salvation. All of which was made possible by Mary’s openness and acceptance of God’s grace.
Therefore, let us ask for Mary’s intercession during Lent to help us open our heart, mind, and soul to the graces God wants us to have to live according to His will. Through our obedience of faith, we can be living instruments of God’s love bringing hope to those in need.
In Union with Christ
Keep in mind that reaching out to Mary during Lent will by no means diminish our effort to unite ourselves with Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary. Coming down from Heaven, Christ entered the world through Mary to unite with us. Therefore, it stands to reason that we ask for Mary’s intercession to help us enter the House of God by uniting with Christ during our earthly existence. To become holy children of God, our Blessed Mother gently draws us into a loving bond with her Son who leads us to the Father by way of the Holy Spirit.
Together, with Mary’s Immaculate Heart united with the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the work of our redemption, we can strive to be clean of heart, mind, and soul. United with Jesus, in Mary’s company, enables us to conform to Christ in all that we say and do and to see Christ in others. Through our acts of charity, sacrifice, repentance, and prayer, our faith, hope, and love deepen, becoming the mainstay of our daily lives and obedience to God even in our darkest hour.
Striving for such perfection may seem impossible. However, it’s a state of being our Lord wants for each of us — “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” said Jesus Christ [Matthew 5:48]. Let our hearts not be troubled. One look at Mary, and we know that we can become better human beings. One prayer for her motherly intercession and we know that because she is without sin, we can become less sinful, clearing the way for our Lord to dwell within each of us. Let us believe as Mary believed that with God, nothing will be impossible.
Remain Steadfast and Rejoice!
I have to admit that for years the Season of Lent used to be rather annoying to me and provided little lasting effect, probably because I tend to revert to my familiar habits after Easter. Inevitably, the same old doubts, worries, fears, anxieties, and temptations make their way back into my heart, mind, and soul, creating once again a cluttered dwelling place for our Lord.
However, as my relationship with Mary grows in union with our Lord, I realize that commitment to God through faith, hope, and love enables us to experience God’s loving devotion to save each of us so that we may have eternal life in the glory of Heaven. His devotion gives us the greatest joy we will ever know — one that our Blessed Mother wants us to embrace — if we are open and willing to accept the daily responsibility for a lifetime that comes with the grace of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Let us ponder: God gave Adam and Eve the responsibility to tend and care for God’s paradise on earth. Tempted by the devil, they disobeyed their Father’s will. Thankfully, Mary and Jesus remained obedient to God for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of the world. By their own lives they teach us how to live — with the obedience of faith, hope, and love.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” said St. Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:58). So now, let us fulfill our Lenten promises to provide and maintain the proper dwelling place for our Lord so we can exclaim as Mary did:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” (Luke: 1:46-47)