Each issue carries an imprimatur from
the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Reprinting prohibited
Day by Day Through Lent
Fasting From Our Clutter
by Susan K. Rowland
Lent is here. Ready or not, the Big Question is always: How we are going to “do” Lent this year? May I suggest going on a fast that makes sense in this culture? Let us fast from the various types of clutter in our lives, beginning with the “outer regions” of life—our personal habits and the clutter in our homes. Then we will move to mental and spiritual clutter as the weeks progress toward Easter. We can fast from the confusion and busy-ness that characterize our culture. If we use this period to open our hearts, we will be well prepared to celebrate Easter. I offer the following ways to do that.
GETTING READY TO CLEAR MY CLUTTER
Jl 2:12-18; 2 Cor 5:20—6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 Today’s readings give me basic instructions for the next 40 days. As a first step to clearing my heart and mind of clutter, I arrange a quiet prayer corner in which to talk to God. I find a suitable place in my home and stock it with a Bible, a notebook, pens (and this Update!). Today, and every day this Lent, I will spend time with God, reading over the Scriptures for the day, listening to what God is saying to me, and writing down what I hear.
THURSDAY: WHAT AM I GAINING—AND LOSING?
Dt 30:15-20; Lk 9:22-25 This culture urges me to do so
much. In what ways is the rush and busy-ness of my life not
truly necessary, but an effort to win the approval of others—in
other words, to “gain the whole world”?
FRIDAY: REACH OUT TO OTHERS
Is 58:1-9a; Mt 9:14-15 Before I can reach out to those in
need, I must be able to reach out. I talk to God today about
areas of life where I neglect myself and compromise my health.
Am I eating the wrong foods? Not getting enough sleep? Constantly
stressed? Any of these habits will make me less able to
serve God and God’s people.
SATURDAY: BE KIND TO MYSELF
Is 58:9b-14; Lk 5:27-32 The tax collector Levi’s change
of heart came about because Jesus showed him kindness and
friendship. I talk to God about any changes I should make in
my self care in order to do as Jesus did. I ask for God’s help in
making these changes in order to be able to do God’s will.
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT: CLEARING MY SURROUNDINGS OF CLUTTER
Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-15; Lk 4:1-13 I do not live “by bread
alone.” If the only meaning of life was food, clothes or work,
how meaningless it would be. Lent is a wonderful time to
remind myself that God’s presence is what gives life meaning.
I begin Lent by starting a “give away” box and praying about
what I have that could be used by someone in need.
MONDAY: BE HOLY AS GOD IS HOLY
Lv 19:1-2, 11-18; Mt 25:31-46 Does clutter and disorganization
interfere with my growth in holiness? Today is a good day
to begin paring down. I look through my kitchen for five or
more items to give away.
TUESDAY: EXPECTING THE KINGDOM?
Is 55:10-11; Mt 6:7-15 Does my home look as though I am
expecting and praying for God’s Kingdom? Why or why not? I
let go of more clutter by going through bookshelves for five or
more books I could donate.
WEDNESDAY: A SIGN OF GOD’S LOVE
Jon 3:1-10; Lk 11:29-32 I can be a sign of God’s love to the
world by living more simply and passing on my excess to
those in need. Today, I gather five or more blankets, sheets or
towels to give away.
THURSDAY: THE FATHER KNOWS MY NEEDS
Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Mt 7:7-12 Am I in the habit of asking
God to provide for my needs? Today, I look through drawers,
on closet shelves and in storage areas for five or more items
FRIDAY: IF I REPENT, I WILL BE SAVED
Ez 18:21-28; Mt 5:20-26 Like many in this culture, I need to
repent of my excess. Today, I search through my clothes for
five or more items to give away.
SATURDAY: BE PERFECT AS GOD IS PERFECT
Dt 26:16-19; Mt 5:43-48 I have gathered at least 25 items to
donate. How does it feel? Do I feel relief and freedom? Grief?
Uncertainty? I trust that I do not need things to be happy.
Today, I take my “give away” box to a favorite charity.
CLEARING THE CLUTTER
OUT OF MY WORK LIFE
Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-10; Lk
9:28-36 Peter’s reaction to
seeing Jesus transfigured
was to do something, build
something. But God tells
him and us, “This is my
son. Listen to him.” In a
culture where what we do is valued above who we are, listening
to God is sadly neglected. This week, I will pray about the
“clutter” of excess doing; about busy-ness, stress, and workaholism.
Do I trust God with my work? Do I see myself as
loved and valuable for who I am, not what I do?
MONDAY: BLESSINGS—OVERFLOWING, POURED INTO
Dn 9:4b-10; Lk 6:36-38 Jesus promises blessings beyond
belief when I give. To whom do I give my time and energy? Is
it to career, work and chores? Is there anything left for God or
people? Should I reorder my priorities?
TUESDAY: HEAVY BURDENS, HARD TO BEAR
Is 1:10, 16-20; Mt 23:1-12 Is there anyone in my life who
has laid a heavy burden on my shoulders? Jesus promised that
his yoke is easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:30). Are my
burdens God’s will or the result of human selfishness?
WEDNESDAY: WANTING THE PLACE OF HONOR
Jer 18:18-20; Mt 20:17-28 Jesus told James and John that
the greatest in the Kingdom is the humble servant. How much
of my busy-ness is designed to gain a “place of honor”? Do I
need to revise my thinking in this area?
THURSDAY: LIKE TREES PLANTED BY WATER
Jer 17:5-10; Lk 16:19-31 What a wonderful image—a tree
planted by a running stream, always nourished, never in fear
of drought. It is possible to live such a life by reading God’s
word and praying often throughout the day. I, too, can be
refreshed and fearless, no matter what happens.
FRIDAY: PRODUCING THE FRUITS OF THE KINGDOM
Gn 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28; Mt 21:33-43, 45-46 The Kingdom
will be given to those who produce the “fruits of the Kingdom.”
What kind of “fruit” is my life producing? The lasting fruit of
the Kingdom, or things that will not last beyond earthly life?
SATURDAY: GOD’S ARMS ARE OPEN WIDE
Mi 7:14-15, 18-20; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32 This parable could be
called the parable of the faithful father. If I have realized this
week that work and busy-ness are replacing my relationship
with God, it’s time to come home to my Father.
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
CLEARING UNFORGIVENESS FROM MY HEART
Jn 4:5-42; Jn 2:13-25; Lk 13:1-9 Jesus told the
woman at the well that
God’s life is like “a spring
of water gushing up to eternal
life.” If I am unwilling
to forgive, this acts like a
dam that blocks the flow of God’s grace. This week, I will
consider whether there is anyone whom I need to forgive. God
wants me to forgive them and pray for their healing.
MONDAY: JESUS’ HOMETOWN REJECTS HIM
2 Kgs 5:1-15b; Lk 4:24-30 Does it ever seem that those
closest to me are the ones who respect me the least? Jesus
experienced this in Nazareth. Forgiveness often has to start
with those in my immediate family.
TUESDAY: HOW OFTEN SHOULD I FORGIVE?
Dn 3:25, 34-43; Mt 18:21-35 The parable of the two servants
helps me put forgiveness in perspective. My debt to God far
exceeds what anyone owes me. I thank God today for all the
times God has forgiven me.
WEDNESDAY: FOR MY CHILDREN
Dt 4:1, 5-9; Mt 5:17-19 Passing on instruction about God’s
ways to my children, grandchildren, or any children God puts
in my path, is essential. Am I teaching the children around me
how to forgive and love?
THURSDAY: A KINGDOM DIVIDED CANNOT SURVIVE
Jer 7:23-28; Lk 11:14-23 We are the Kingdom of God, the
Body of Christ. Jesus warns that a kingdom cannot survive if
it is divided against itself. Refusal to forgive others in the
Church promotes disunity and division. Is there anyone in my
Christian family I need to forgive?
FRIDAY: LOVING THE LORD WITH ALL MY HEART
Hos 14:2-10; Mk 12:28-34 There is no room for unforgiveness
in my heart if I am loving God with all my heart. One
sign that I am forgiving is when I can pray for those who hurt
me. Today, I write down the names of anyone I need to forgive
and ask God to bless them.
SATURDAY: COME, LET US RETURN TO GOD
Hos 6:1-6; Lk 18:9-14 Regardless of the problems I have
with unforgiveness, God invites me to return to him and be
healed. If I have discovered any deep problems in this area, I
ask God today how to be healed. The Sacrament of Reconciliation?
Professional counseling? I will not be afraid to seek help;
God is faithful and wants to help me.
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
CLEARING THE WORRY FROM MY MIND
Jn 9:1-41; Jn 3:14-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32 I cannot be afraid
to be bold or worry about what others think of me. The man
born blind didn’t worry about the outcome of his case; he
stood up to the Jewish leaders and lectured them. Pray this
week to have that attitude and to trust God no matter what.
MONDAY: TAKING JESUS AT HIS WORD
Is 65:17-21; Jn 4:43-54 The royal official who asked Jesus
to heal his son lived a day’s journey away. He headed home,
believing, but he must have worried. Can I relate? Have I ever
trusted God but had to wait to see the outcome?
TUESDAY: DO I WANT TO BE MADE WELL?
Ez 47:1-9, 12; Jn 5:1-16 Jesus could ask me the same
question. Do I really want to trust God in everything? What
would life be like if I did not worry?
WEDNESDAY: THE SON ACTS NOT ON HIS OWN
Is 49:8-15; Jn 5:17-30 If Jesus could do “nothing on his
own,” surely I am even more dependent on God’s grace to
overcome my problems. If worry (or anything else) is cluttering
my life, I ask for God’s help. I, too, can do nothing on my own.
THURSDAY: ACCEPTING GLORY FROM OTHERS
Ex 32:7-14; Jn 5:31-47 Jesus accuses the Jewish leaders of
caring more for one another’s approval than for God’s. Is that a
problem in my life? I ask Jesus to help me seek God first.
FRIDAY: THE GOSSIPS OF JERUSALEM
Wis 2:1a, 12-22; Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30 The pilgrims in
Jerusalem were having a great time gossiping about Jesus. Do
I worry about what others are saying about me behind my
back and want to “set the record straight”? I discuss this with
Jesus, who experienced the same problem.
SATURDAY: COMMITTING MY CAUSE TO GOD
Jer 11:18-20; Jn 7:40-53 Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern,
and Jesus was made fun of for doing God’s work. Doing and
saying what is right often lead to persecution and ridicule.
Today, I ask God to help me be strong and bold. If I am
persecuted, I am in good company.
FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD—CLEAR OF CLUTTER
Jn 11:1-45; 12:20-33; 8:1-11 One characteristic of a “decluttered”
relationship with God is the willingness
to wait. Think of Martha and
Mary. They sent word to Jesus that
Lazarus was ill. Jesus did not answer
their prayers the way they wanted,
but what a glorious end to the story!
MONDAY: ‘WHOEVER AMONG YOU IS WITHOUT SIN …’
Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62; Jn 8:1-11 Jesus was
merciful and gentle to the woman caught in adultery. Is there
anyone “caught in sin” that I could treat more as Jesus dealt
with this woman?
TUESDAY: ‘I ALWAYS DO WHAT IS PLEASING TO GOD’
Nm 21:4-9; Jn 8:21-30 Only Jesus can say these words. But
Jesus is always there to forgive if I only “look up” and give
him the chance.
WEDNESDAY: ‘YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH …’
Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95; Jn 8:31-42 God shows me the truth if
I stay in touch through prayer. Relationship is all about sharing.
Do I share myself with Jesus and let him share himself with me?
THURSDAY: CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM
Gn 17:3-9; Jn 8:51-59 “Whoever keeps my word” is a true
child of Abraham, Jesus said. How do I “keep God’s word”?
FRIDAY: ‘THE FATHER IS IN ME AND I AM IN THE FATHER”
Jer 20:10-13; Jn 10:31-42 Through Jesus’ death and resurrection,
I am also “in the Father” in a deep, intimate relationship.
How have I experienced this?
SATURDAY: THE EVERLASTING COVENANT
Ez 37:21-28; Jn 11:45-57 God’s deepest wish for us is: “I
will be their God, and they shall be my people.” This is the
essence of what prayer should be. How does this change my
image of what my relationship with God should be?
FREED TO LOVE AND SERVE
Mt 26:14—27:66; Mk 14:1—15:47; Lk
22:14—23:56 Today we begin Holy Week. This week,
we leave our clutter behind. We concentrate
our thoughts on the love God has
shown us through Jesus’ passion, death
and resurrection. These are important
days. Plan to spend this week, as much
as possible, in prayer.
MONDAY: A LOVE IMPOSSIBLE TO HIDE
Is 42:1-7; Jn 12:1-11 Is my love for Jesus as obvious and
extravagant as Mary’s? The fragrance of Mary’s perfume filled
the house, probably the neighborhood. Do I love Jesus with
that kind of abandonment and lavishness?
TUESDAY: ‘YOU WILL DENY ME THREE TIMES’
Is 49:1-6; Jn 13:21-33, 36-38 When Peter realized his sin,
he went to God, wept over his sin and said he was sorry. I am
weak, but God always loves me.
WEDNESDAY: ‘MORNING BY MORNING HE WAKENS ME’
Is 50:4-9; Mt 26:14-25 Like Jesus, the faithful Servant, I
should go to God every morning and begin my day talking
with my Creator.
WASHING ONE ANOTHER’S FEET
Ex 12:1-8, 11-14; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15 Jesus’ example
of washing the disciples’ feet is a graphic image of how I
can serve others. Washing someone’s feet is a simple gesture.
In the same way, my service need not be complicated.
‘OUT OF HIS ANGUISH … LIGHT’
Is 52:13—53:12; Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; Jn 18:1—19:42 Jesus suffered agonies I cannot imagine. Yet, out of his suffering,
I am forgiven and receive eternal life. Isaiah tells us Jesus
has found “satisfaction” in what he has done. He is happy to
have saved me! Has there ever been such a love as this?
‘DO NOT BE AFRAID; HE IS RISEN’
Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:1-7; Lk 24:1-12
Alleluia! Jesus is risen. God’s love has conquered all, even
death. Is there anything, really, that can make us afraid if we
truly understand that? Is there anything more important?
NEXT: Jesus’ Agony in the Garden (by Ronald Rolheiser)