Clearing Away the Brush
Recently I had the opportunity to work on the cemetery clean up project in Pratt City with other members of the Knights of Columbus. It was my first chance to take part in the event which was started three years ago. I arrived a bit late but ready to work on a cold but otherwise beautiful Saturday morning.
Project leader Rob Smith assigned me to Team B as I arrived. I joked that I had been put on the ‘B team' but it didn't really matter to me. It looked like there was plenty of work to go around and it turns out I was assigned to just the right spot.
One side of the cemetery looked well cared for, but the other side needed lots of work. From what I was told things had improved greatly from three years ago, but most of the graves were overgrown and there were weeds as tall as me all over.
I watched as these men, my brother Knights, spread out across the cemetery with weed eaters, chain saws, and all kinds of equipment. Unprepared as usual, I was armed with only manual hedge clippers, but I sought to put them to good use.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
There were many tall stalks growing all over and I decided that would be my task. But where should I start? I chose a grave site which was enclosed by a small iron fence. The fence was in disrepair and I couldn't know for sure if any graves were inside with all the brush and growth I confronted.
Nonetheless I started to work. I began to think of those who were buried here. I wanted to think of them as people, not just anonymous graves. At one time their graves were cared for by loving families. Why else would this fence have been erected? As I clipped away, I wondered whose grave I might uncover. Would I recognize the name? Perhaps it might be a relative of one of our church members.
As I worked through the brush, the vines and the weeds, I could see I was getting down to a headstone. I continued to cut away at the brush, anticipating what name I might see. I pushed aside some of the clippings to reveal the first name - "Mary". Seeing the name, I paused a moment and then continued.
Finally the rest of the headstone was clear. "Mary O'Hare" And just above the name was the word "Mother".
Seeing that brought chills to me. Clearing away the brush and what was the first name I saw? Mother Mary!!
Instantly I thanked God for bringing me there that morning. Sure there were many chores to do at home and I had a busy evening lined up, but something drove me to show up even though I hadn't signed up. God had a plan and He put me in just the right place.
It was a few days before Lent and here I got a beautiful reminder of what Lent is all about. We spend time fasting, praying and doing good deeds in Lent. We work on our spiritual lives - sort of like clearing away all the brush that has covered our heart and soul over the year.
And when we clear away that brush, who will be waiting on us? Mother Mary, of course - the Blessed Virgin and Her son, Jesus Christ will be waiting with open arms. They're always there waiting. Sometimes we can't see them in our hearts as we've let ourselves get overrun with the weeds of doubt, the vines of deceit and the thorns of sin.
But that's what Lent is for - to clear away the brush and get a clean start.
The rest of that morning was hard work, but it was as spiritually rewarding as it was physically. For me, it was a perfect time to get myself in the Lenten frame of mind. Now Lent is about half over and I ask myself - Am I still clearing away the brush? Or have I let myself get overgrown again?
It's not too late to start over if that's the case. If you need help, there are plenty of good people at church to assist you. You don't need a weed eater for this job. All the tools you need are right there at church - the Mass, Confession, the Stations of the Cross, the sacraments and so much more.
Hopefully we'll all take the time each week in Lent to use some of those tools and do a little pruning. Perhaps for some of us, the job is a little bigger (some major clearing). But the result is to get our hearts in shape and our spiritual lives back on track. When we do so, rest assured Mother Mary is right there with us, helping us every step of the way.