Empty Yourself of Everything But Jesus

In Seasons of Mercy, the reflections of Catherine Doherty for Lent and Easter, the reader is given an insight into her approach to Lent: “Preparation for Lent begins with desire.” She then offers the famous quote from St. Augustine, “Our hearts were made for Thyself, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in Thee.”

How different I would be if I intentionally directed all my desires toward the person of Jesus. How different would my life be if I desired Him above all things. And just think if each member of the Church would do the same. What a powerhouse of grace the Church could be if each member recognized that their deepest desires are fulfilled not in money, material goods, or accolades, but in the person of Jesus.

As beautiful as that sounds however, we humans, or maybe I should just refer to myself, can be so easily distracted. I get “caught up” in the things of this world. I lose my focus and I allow the molehill to become a mountain. All my energy gets redirected to the “fire of the moment,” and when that particular fire is out, there always seems to be another fire that grabs my attention. By the end of the day, I may have put out a couple of fires, but I haven’t advanced the Kingdom of God.

Lent is upon us once again and I can say for myself that I need these 40 days. I need to refocus my energy and attend to the desire of my heart—a deeper union with Christ. That can be difficult because each day I am told by others what my focus should be, whether it be school issues, parish issues, personnel issues. These things and others are constantly banging at the door of my heart for my attention. They can distract me and rob me of my desire for Christ. And when that happens, I am back to putting out fires.

Keys to one’s focus

What is the key to maintaining one’s focus? Well, there are three and you probably know what they are: prayer, fasting, and works of charity. These three traditional works of Lent help me empty my heart of all the junk that I so easily place there, junk that is not lifegiving but in my weakness I cling to anyway. In prayer, I renew my trust in the One who satisfies the deepest longings of my heart. In fasting, I rid my heart of the false idols I have allowed to take root. In charity, I reach out to those in need and break out of my obsessive focus on self.

As we enter into another Lenten Season, let each of us have a fresh understanding of what these 40 days can be about. To quote again from Seasons of Mercy, “We must desire to empty every corner of ourselves of everything but this person called Jesus Christ.” Do you want to have a “good Lent?” If so, make a plan. Look for that extra opportunity and attend Holy Mass during the week. Turn off the television and read a good Catholic book. Pick a night and have a family meal followed by the rosary.

Of course, the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is crucial. Next to Holy Mass, a good examination of conscience and Reconciliation is the best thing I can do to grow in my relationship with God. As I have gotten older, I more and more realize the beauty of the words, “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Hearing those words immediately instills hope in my heart. Those words remind me that I am part of the work of God, the Trinity within me by virtue of my baptism.

Take full advantage of this holy season. May this Lent be the best one ever for all of us. ©TM