Lent: A Season of De-cluttering
Ash Wednesday Reflection by Matt Palkert
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
I’m currently in the process of moving apartments. If you’ve ever moved, you might be familiar with the routine. You take out your stuff, pack it into boxes, and then wonder how you will fit it all into your car, truck, or whatever you’re using. You might find a bigger vehicle, but something tells you to seize the opportunity and leave some things behind. De-cluttering is one of moving’s hidden blessings. It can be very liberating to let go of things that we no longer need, or better yet, things that stifle us. I find that there’s even something ritual-like about the de-cluttering process, as we take stock of our possessions and re-assess what is important. Thank God for opportunities like this to create a little more space in our lives.
Most of us are probably not moving our stuff anytime soon, but this week we move together into a new liturgical season, one that has its own set of de-cluttering rituals. In the gospel above, Jesus speaks about the familiar trifecta of Lenten disciplines – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Each is there to help us with what we might call our spiritual clutter – things like resentment, shame, guilt, questioning our worth, or the pain of a relationship in need of healing. Spiritual clutter comes in many forms. What they have in common is the way they weigh on us. Physical clutter gets in the way by taking up valuable space in our rooms or homes. Spiritual clutter gets in the way by constricting our hearts. We all know the feeling. The season of Lent and its spiritual disciplines invite us to something different. They invite us to an opening of the heart. They invite us to make room for grace, to let go of what we do not need in order to receive what we do.
The desert is an image that is often used to describe Lent. Indeed, deserts can be unpredictable and even scary places. This is the wilderness to which Jesus was led. Yet, deserts are also spacious, quiet, and free of clutter. Something important happens in the desert’s expanse: we reflect. We listen carefully to our lives, one another, and most importantly, our God. And if we are willing, our hearts are opened.
As we move into Lent this year, may we have the courage to enter its desert space. May we trust the disciplines of the church to deliver us there. And once there, may we listen for God’s consistent invitation: “I’m happy to take that off your hands. Come, be free.”
~Matt Palkert, University Ministry