My dad loves to grow orchids, but for some reason, those genes were never passed on to me. While I have no trouble caring for a dog, plants are another story and it seems that every time I try to care for a plant it dies. A little while ago as a joke some of my friends bought me a cactus and I promptly gave it away because, while I’m sure I could probably care for a cactus, I don’t think I could have lived with the embarrassment if it died, so it was just better to not take that risk.
While I can’t keep a plant alive, I am fascinated by the skill that it takes. Watching my dad care for his orchids over the years I have learned that caring for plants is more than just planting seeds and watering the plants and passively watching them grow. Anyone who cares for plants knows that taking care of plants is a very active process takes allot of time and dedication. So too, with our spiritual lives. We cannot just show up to Mass and casually say our prayers and expect to flourish. No, caring for our souls is an active process that takes allot of time and dedication.
As we prepare to enter the season of Lent, which starts on Wednesday, we are invited today, to stop for a moment and ask ourselves what the condition of the soul is. We live in a very fast-paced culture where we have to take care of so many material things that so often without ever thinking about it, we stop caring for our spiritual soul. Today’s Gospel reminds us that as much as we might like to think that we can multitask when we try to multitask we end up neglecting parts of each task. In short, if we try to multitask our faith we run the risk of falling short and overtime losing our faith completely.
Perhaps a good way to investigate the condition of our soul is to look at our lives and see what worries us the most. If our worries are so consumed by earthly things then I dare say, we have lost where our focus should be. This 40-day journey towards Easter which we are about to embark upon then is the opportunity for us to take some time out of our busy schedule to care for our souls by giving it the nutrients it needs and pruning those things which are preventing our spiritual growth.
The first requirement of fertile soil is that it must be rich in nutrients. God, Himself provides those nutrients for us primarily in the sacraments. There is no greater way to nurture the seed of faith in our life than to participate in the Mass frequently where God’s word rains down on us and our soul is infused with nutrients when we receive Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Holy Communion. God provides all that we need to have fertile soil, but we need to open ourselves to receive it. As you consider different Lenten practices why not consider focusing on the Mass. Perhaps this means taking the opportunity either alone or as a family to prayerfully read the readings for Mass ahead of time, maybe it means arriving at Mass a few moments early to quietly prepare yourself. Maybe this Lent we need to infuse some nutrients into our souls by finding one additional day during the week to come to Mass.
While good soil is essential for successful growth if you ignore the plant itself, it will die. Sometimes caring for the plant means that you need to trim parts of the plant so that it can truly flourish. So too in our lives. If we find ourselves so anxious about the many things of this world that we neglect our own spiritual lives, then perhaps we have to do some pruning in our lives. Friends, if we want conversion and growth we are going to have to suffer for it because growing does not come without growing pains. As we look to grow this Lent we need to consider what we need to prune from our lives. Perhaps it’s as simple as turning the TV off or fasting from specific foods, but perhaps it’s a bigger change like removing an activity from our life so we can spend more time with our family. Instead of giving up candy for Lent this year, why not consider fasting from things like impatience, trusting that God’s timing is perfect timing, or consider fasting from worry, trusting that God is in control and worrying will not help. Perhaps we need to prune doubt from our lives, trusting that God has a plan for us that is beyond anything we can imagine or maybe we need to prune envy from our lives trusting that we are blessed and that our value is not found in our possessions.
I think one of the reasons I kill every plant I try to take care of is because caring for plants takes allot of work and I am simply not patient enough to do it. Life gets so busy, that I forget to take care of the plant and by the time I remember about it, the plant is already dead. If plants take so much time, attention and care, imagine how much time, attention and care we need to spend on the growth of our souls. This Lent is the opportunity to leave worldly anxieties behind and turn back towards the Lord, but if we want to be free from those worldly anxieties we need to get our priorities back in line which is going to require some serious work. What work then do you have to do this Lent and are you willing to do it?