After a winter like we’ve had here in the upper Midwest, spring is a most welcome guest. After many years of living here I finally understand why Minnesotans throw on their flip flops and shorts and start drinking coffee on patios of coffee shops when the mercury rises to 45. (Not that I am doing that. I just understand it!)
This week, there are signs of hope that the snow may be behind us. Weather in the 40’s and 50’s has revealed more and more of the mucky brown stuff that is supposedly our lawns. As the birds began chirping and the sun began shining this week, I was reminded of a part of spring I had forgotten: it’s kind of gross. There is a reason we trade our snow boots for our rain boots in April. If you want your kids to enjoy the beautiful weather, you have to wade through muddy water to get to the park. And, once the grass is revealed, the neighborhood will be reminded that we didn’t’ quite get that last raking in before winter descended. Much of that beautiful weather is spent raking slimy black debris into soaking, heavy lawn bags. The other thing I was reminded about spring this week: it’s a lot of work.
Lent is considered a springtime in the Church, and it’s a great analogy. It’s a time for us to melt our icy hearts and minds and to get to the bottom of the muck in our lives. Sometimes our lives look as pristine as a snowfall, but there are really vices, fears or unforgiveness neatly tucked under the white stuff. We manage, when the snow starts looking a little raggedy, to pile on some more to preserve appearances. Sometimes, like we’ve seen this winter, it can really be laid on thick! Lent, then, is an invitation from God to let him melt all of the appearances away so we can deal with the slimy debris underneath. It’s not pretty and it takes a lot of work, but unlike my yard, God is willing to do most of it if we can handle the cooperation part.
If we don’t take this yearly thaw seriously, our lives will become like Narnia: always winter, never Christmas. We become cold, hardened people and nothing new can grow. Hopefully, once we’ve been in the habit of virtue, we won’t need to thaw so dramatically every year. But even the best kept houses need a spring cleaning to stay well maintained. Such is it with our souls.
I am also struck by John Paul II’s labeling of our time in history as a “new springtime of evangelization”. This has always seemed to me one of those lovely phrases that vaguely means things are getting better. But this soon0to-be-blessed didn’t choose words lightly. I think he thoroughly meant what he said when he assigned that label to our modern age. Yes, lots of things are melting, but there’s lots of junk underneath and it’s going to talk lots of work to get the place dried up and ready to bear great fruit again.
What are our tasks in this springtime of the Church, then? Well, first we take the cultivation of our own lives seriously. Then, once the debris has been removed, the soil of the faith needs to be fertilized and seeds planted and watered. Practically speaking, in our culture, that means framing the teachings the Church has always held in a manner that answers the questions of modern humanity. It means witnessing that there is another way to live. It means speaking truth gently and with great love. This is the great work of the springtime of this age.
All the mud and standing water and hard work of early spring is worth it. It’s the reason why we love this season. It places hope on the horizon that our flower beds will again be filled with color and our gardens with food. It brings to mind the light of summer evenings spent outdoors with the kids by the lake. In short, spring is pregnant with the promise of new life. Let’s make it so in our spiritual lives and in our Church as well.
Copyright 2011 Libby DuPont