“If God calls me to apply my activity not only to my own sanctification, but also to good works, I must establish this firm conviction, before everything else, in my mind: Jesus has got to be, and wishes to be, the life of these works.
My efforts, by themselves, are nothing, absolutely nothing. ‘Without Me you can do nothing.’ They will only be useful, and blessed by God, if by means of a genuine interior life I unite them constantly to the life-giving action of Jesus. But then they will become all-powerful: ‘I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me.’”
Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, OCSO, The Soul of the Apostolate
Every year in late winter my mother spends a weekend at our house helping me to paint a room. This little tradition started the first year after we moved into our house and so far we’ve completed the living room, the boys’ room, our daughter’s room, and now the hallways. It’s a lot of work — especially taping off all the windows and woodwork in an old house like ours — but it’s worth the effort for the clean, pristine walls afterward.
(Not that they stay that way with ten little hands in the house, but that’s another story.)
This year as I was rolling a fresh coat over scratches and smudge marks, I thought about how painting a wall is a lot like the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. A wall, when it is first constructed, is a plain thing, not quite white, until it receives the first coat of paint; then it is clean and unblemished. But over time the wall accumulates hand prints and dirt, gouges and pencil marks. Some are due to carelessness, some are deliberate. But in the end the wall is less attractive and in need of some care. So we break out a gallon and with a fresh coat of paint the wall is healed and made new. This process can repeat itself many times over the lifetime of a house; it takes patient care and effort to ensure that the walls are kept fresh over the years.
The wall is like our souls. The first coat of paint is our baptism, through which the stain of original sin is washed away. But we fail to take care of the wall and, through sin, it is marked and beaten. But through the sacrament we can wash away the smudges of sin and heal our souls. This process repeats itself many times over a lifetime through dedication and a deliberate intention to confess our sins and receive absolution.
So this Lent, make sure you get yourself a fresh coat of paint by revisiting the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.