Recently, I joined an online group called Flylady.com to help combat the clutter that so often accompanies the raising of children. One of the most useful tips in the initial offering included giving two minutes each day to “hot spots” in the house where clutter had become so acceptable that it had become invisible. I was stunned at how many “hot spots” I could find in a single room alone during the first week and wondered how I could have become so blinded to their existence. Just a few minutes of work vastly improved the overall quality of each room where it was tried.
This past week in the Gospel, Saint John the Baptist is demanding that we do the same sort of scrutiny to our spiritual lives as I was applying to the natural chaos of my home. It took only a moment to recognize I had hot spots I had willfully ignored, untidy aspects of the soul that continued to collect, just as interest compounds debt or piles of books and papers attract more books and papers. “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” Saint John warned. How often do we engage in the ritualized rationalization of those actions that if we paused and reflected for even a moment, we know are creating barriers to a stronger better relationship with God? The “Hot spots” on the soul are just as invisible prior to being given scrutiny as the clutter hubs were in my home.
For just as chaos and clutter attract more chaos and clutter, so also sin attracts more sin. Sloth about scheduling allows one to then come up with a reason for skipping mass which then happens. Absence from one’s obligations as an active seeker of a deeper faith atrophies one’s connection with Christ and deadens the soul to the experience of the sacred and allows for deeper flaws to be exploited; sneering at the faithful, smugness at one’s own understanding and practice of the faith, cynicism at the tenets of the Faith itself, leading eventually to either a joyless experience of the traditions of our Church or abandonment of one’s faith life altogether; under the guise of having an evolved sensibility about Christ that isn’t dependent upon the Church, it’s princes or it’s teachings.
It is a slow pernicious process that is as chaos bringing as the clutter spots in my house; systemic neglect of either eliminates part of the peace that should be ever present in both a home and the heart. Given our modern sensibilities, it is easy to discern how a sinful action is understandable; which we therefore erroneously then consider “less dangerous” or less morally wrong. We mistakenly apply forgiveness prior to actual contrition, negating the sin as a sin itself when true forgiveness is clemency from God for sinful acts, not the declaration that an action or inaction is not sinful.
So while the world views this season prior to Christmas as a time for amassing things; presents, trim, trappings, carols, calories, trees, lights and the like, let us seek to strip back our interior homes of all the clutter and noise and tinsel. Turn off Jingle Bells and put on Silent Night. Light the Advent candles first before turning on the lights of the tree. Go to confession and/or adoration instead of rushing to the store for a few more things. Write the Christmas cards with an eye towards being present to the person who receives, rather than the objective of getting it done. Be present rather than giving or getting presents. Celebrate Christ’s birth by making one’s soul as simple as a stable with a manger; open and free to the Holy Family and as warm and sin free as possible.
Have a blessed Advent.
Copyright 2010 Sherry Antonetti