“I Used to Think My Mom Lived in the Laundry Room!”

Last October, the Chancery staff retreat was led by Deacon James Keating of the Archdiocese of Omaha.  One of the stories he told us has come to my mind recently as we approach the season of Lent.  He shared:

When I was a small boy, I used to think my mom lived in the laundry room.  Caring for a large family, she seemed to always be doing a load of laundry.  One morning, I came down to the kitchen.  As I drew near, I heard my mom’s voice from the laundry room, “Jimmy, don’t touch the cookies!”  She had been up early and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies were on the counter.  I inched over to them.  I looked longingly at them.  I smelled them.  Finally, I climbed up on the counter to sit next to them.  I looked carefully at the full plate, picking out the biggest one and thinking, “that is the one I will choose when she gives me permission to have one.” 

Suddenly, I heard the sound of her coming up the steps.  Panicking, I leapt off the counter.  The plate of cookies came down with me, crashing to the floor, shattering the plate and sending cookies in all directions.  When she entered the room, I was standing in the midst of the mess with my head down.
                “Jimmy, did you do this?” my mom said.
                “No.” I whispered, head down.
                “Jimmy, did you do this?” my mom said again.
                “No.” I whispered once more, my head still down.
                Tiptoeing through the mess, she came to me, and lifted my chin.  My eyes darted back and forth.  I was reluctant to look into her eyes.  Finally, unable to resist “the mom stare”, I looked at her.  With her eyes locked on mine, she said once more, “Jimmy, did you do this?”
                “Yes.” I said as the tears welled up.
                She hugged me tightly and while I was secure in her arms and enveloped in her love, she whispered to me, “Don’t ever lie to me again.”
This, he went on to say, is precisely how the Lord deals with us.  He does invite us to own up to the mess of sin and chaos which surrounds us.  Gently, he asks us, “did you do this?”   However, he ALWAYS does so within the embrace of His great love for us. 

As we prepare to enter the season of Lent, the Church invites us to repentance, to a metanoia (a complete change of heart, a turning around – away from sin and towards the Lord).  I find myself asking this question, “What am I going to do for Lent?”  But, I believe the better question is, “What does the Lord want to do in me this Lent?”  Deacon Keating’s story inspires me to have the courage to stand in the midst of the shattered plates and scattered cookies in my life and to look Jesus in the eye and have the courage to receive the truth of the brokenness in life and take responsibility for my part in it.  Most importantly, though, it inspires me to allow myself to be received into the loving arms of Jesus and allow Him to hold me tightly.  And then to listen as he reveals to me the real root of my sin and the way out of it. 

In the coming days, let’s make room in our lives for some silence and invite the Lord in.  Not to ponder, “What am I going to do for Lent?”, but instead, “Jesus, what do you desire to do in and for me this Lent?”

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