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Lent is a time for making a good confession, so I have something to confess:
I am addicted to HGTV.
I’m sure you’ve seen some of the shows – “Property Brothers,” “House Hunters,” “Love it or List it,” “Flip or Flop.” But my favorite guilty pleasure is probably “Fixer Upper,”with Chip and Joanna Gaines. Every episode, this married couple tackles a house that looks like a lost cause—or one badly in need of a lot of TLC. But with imagination, craft and—not insignificantly, money—they turn it into a showplace.
Along the way, there are always setbacks, problems, pitfalls and near-disasters.
But somehow, it all works out in the end.
Chip and Joanna prove, again and again, that nothing is hopeless. In fact, the prevailing moral of HGTV, the guiding principle behind all of the shows on the channel, seems to be that any ramshackle piece of property can become a little piece of paradise. Everything has possibility and promise.
Nothing is beyond redemption.
This, my friends, is message of Lent: None of us is beyond redemption.
Each of us has possibility and promise.
Each of us is a “Fixer Upper.”
Lent is an acknowledgement that we have work to do. In our lives. In ourselves.
What should be our blueprint for Lent? Where to begin?
Let me suggest three ideas.
First, we need to make a floor of faith. Pray more deeply. Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you haven’t been to confession in years, go! There is no better time than now, in this Year of Mercy, to seek out God’s mercy and remake our lives. He makes all things new. Join us to pray the Way of the Cross every Friday night, to relive the greatest sacrifice of all time and remember what was shed for us. Spend time alone with the Blessed Sacrament. Above all, whatever we do, we need to make prayer the foundation. This is the floor on which everything else must stand.
Secondly, we have to take out a sledgehammer and tear down the walls that are separating us from God. Remove what is getting in the way—barriers like pride. Selfishness. Gossip. Cynicism. Ego. Dishonesty. Infidelity. Sin. These are walls keeping us isolated, closing us off. Sin casts a long shadow. These things are what keep blocking the light.
Finally, over all build a sheltering roof of charity. Of love. Of mercy. I always encourage people not just to give up something for Lent, but to give. Donate to Catholic Charities. Give to Catholic Relief Services or to the papal agency where I work, CNEWA, which supports the churches and peoples of the Middle East. Make a pledge to Operation Rice Bowl, which feeds the hungry. This is a moment for those of us who have to give to those who have not.
And I don’t mean just physical, material things.
Let us vow this Lent to give of ourselves. Give respect to those who are shunned, and dignity to those who are mocked. Give companionship to those who are alone. Give comfort to those who are anxious. Give time to those who are often forgotten or neglected or abused or frightened.
Give hope to those who feel life is hopeless.
Lent summons us to remember what the apostle wrote about so beautifully: faith, hope and love endure, and the greatest of these is love. Love is the roof that shields us from life’s storms—and points us to what this season is truly about, where this all ends. The ultimate destination at the conclusion of these 40 days is Calvary, where the greatest prayer, greatest sacrifice and greatest love remade the world.
If you want a symbol of the greatest restoration project of all time, look to the mark that will be emblazoned on our brows: the cross, signed in ash—a reminder of what Christ sacrificed for us.
The cross also tells us something else: We don’t have a moment to waste.
The ashes come with a caution: “Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return.”
Remember, our time here is limited.
Remember, we are not immortal.
Remember, the clock is ticking.
This is our opportunity to declare that we do remember—and to make every moment matter. Today, with these ashes, we tell others that we have embarked on this great restoration project. The ashes say, in effect, “Caution: Construction Zone.”
They say: we know we are little more than dust—but that we can be so much more. By God’s grace—through prayer, sacrifice and selfless giving to one another—we can be. We must be. The gospel demands it. Our salvation depends upon it.
The scripture cries out to us today:
“Be reconciled to God.
Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation…”
Behold, this timeless truth that even HGTV understands:
Nothing—and no one—is beyond repair or redemption or hope.
We are all “Fixer Uppers,” in need of improvement.
So let’s unroll the blueprints, roll up our sleeves, and set to work.
Photo: Baylor University