Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on March 14, 2016 at 7:00PM Penance Service
Happy first day of Lent! Today actually is the first day of Lent… for Orthodox Christians, who celebrate Easter on a different day than we do, this year May 1. They do not have Ash Wednesday, they start their Lent with what is known as Clean Monday, and it is a national holiday in Greece. This first day of Lent, this Clean Monday, is reserved for two things: 1) Clean your home, to clean your castle so to speak. The idea of spring cleaning can be traced back to this Orthodox tradition of Clean Monday. 2) Go to confession, to clean your interior castle so to speak. In this way the faithful begin their Lent renewed in Christian love, mercy, and forgiveness.
For those of us here tonight, you might say that this is the first day of Lent, because we are being renewed in God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness tonight. Maybe it is not officially the first day of Lent, but it is certainly a new beginning to our Lent. Our sins don’t weigh anything or take up any space, but they sure do weigh us down and clutter up our minds, hearts, and souls. Our Lent can become bogged down and we can become stuck in our spiritual lives when we’re burdened down and our interior castle is cluttered.
Tonight we participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we can clean up and unclutter. On one level it’s kind of like those 1-800-GOT-JUNK commercials on the radio, if you’ve ever heard them. You just point at junk and they make it disappear. Point at your old sofa and magically it disappears. Point at your broken appliance and magically it disappears. On some level tonight we are doing just that. We are pointing out our sins and our Lord is making them disappear. But the deeper reality is that we are encountering our Lord in a very real way tonight. He is coming to us as a friend and brother, to relieve us of our burdens and to clear away the clutter of sin in our lives. Jesus is removing the junk that our arms might be free to embrace him and his love, mercy, and forgiveness; that our interior castle, our hearts, our minds, and our souls, will have the space for him to enter.
Jesus is always with us and he is always pouring out his grace upon us, but we’ve got no room in our interior castle for it to enter. Tonight we cleanup and unclutter, to make room for Jesus and his grace to enter within us, so that we are no longer lost sheep, and we can follow the Good Shepherd through the rest of Lent and the approaching Holy Week, as holy people, people set apart to share in the joy of the Easter resurrection.
Rejoice and be glad!