When I was a child, I thought of Lent as a gloomy time. This was partly because where I grew up, the weather at that time of year was dark and dreary. Nearly every day, the clouds would hang low to the ground, emitting a misty drizzle that would coat my eyelashes. More than once, I would arrive at my classroom with my yellow raincoat and plaid jumper caked in mud after I slipped off the wet granite stepping stones marking the path to the school. Perhaps my perception of Lent as gloomy was also rooted in my focus on Jesus’ Death, forgetting in my youthfulness that death does not have the final say.
When, sometime later, I learned that root of the word Lent refers to the “lengthening” of days or “springtime,” my perception of this liturgical season changed. We need the chartreuse newness of springtime. We need the fragrant blossoms adorning the earth. We need the restorative warmth of the sun in the same way that we need for the Lenten journey not to end at Jesus’ Crucifixion. And so this year, I’m embracing Lent anew. I’m going to do some gardening in the garden of my heart.
Tilling the Soil
We ask the Holy Spirit to be with us as we dig deeper into the place where our relationship with Jesus grows.
When we till the soil, we break through the hard surface layer, break up the clumps of soil, and remove the rocks and old roots. What has hardened my heart? What clumps block the way when I try to open my heart to Jesus? What stones am I coming across?
What old roots am I getting tangled up in as I try to grow my relationship with Jesus? Are there any bad habits that have taken root within me? Are there places where I need forgiveness or healing? Am I holding fast to any untrue beliefs that I need to discard, such as God doesn’t care; I could never be forgiven for…; or I’m not deserving of forgiveness?
How can I nourish the seed of the Word of God in my heart? Perhaps I need to acknowledge that I need God’s help to soften the hardness and get rid of the stones and clumps that block growth. Maybe I need to be intentional about reserving the time in my busy schedule to be silent and talk with Jesus. Perhaps I need to revisit the Sacrament of Reconciliation or talk with a spiritual friend or spiritual director. Maybe some spiritual reading would be helpful.
Talk with Jesus
If you cultivate the garden of your own heart with similar reflections, imagine yourself sitting and talking with Jesus about your answers. Try to be as honest as you would with your best friend or someone who truly and completely loves you. If what you’re feeling seems unpleasant, do not be afraid of offending Jesus. You can be brutally honest and completely confident that Jesus will remain, listening to you and loving you, no matter what.
Notice any emotions that arise as you reflect on these questions. St. Ignatius believed that emotions could reveal where God is leading us. These are places where God wants to heal, encourage, or direct us. As you notice your emotions, talk with Jesus about them.
If you are not feeling much at all, that’s OK. Ask Jesus if there’s anything he would like to reveal to you that you might be holding deep inside that is not serving you well. If you’re feeling distracted, don’t judge yourself; just talk about that. This prayer time is all about honesty in the dialogue.
Now, listen. What do you hear in response?