Posted on Feb 26, 2020

23 February 2020

One of  the mandatory things I used to do when I went back to Hatley was to visit the cemetery.

My parent’s home was across the street from the Catholic grade school which is right next to the rectory which is right next to the church which is right next to the cemetery.

The summer before I left for college I worked in that cemetery:  cutting the lawn, setting tombstones right, clipping by hand around each gravestone–we didn’t have a weed-whacker.

Let me tell you, it does strange things to you when you crawl around the cemetery on you hands and knees  for days on end in the hot sun.

One time several years ago—and this is a story I told at my mother’s funeral last November,

 my mother went to the cemetery with me.

On the way back we began talking about death.

I asked my mom what did she expect to spend time in purgatory for.

Without pausing to catch her breath she said:  “I don’t expect to spend time in purgatory.”

I said, “Mom, you’re my mother and I know you’re pretty close to perfect, but no one is actually perfect.  There has to be something, a nasty thought, an ungenerous moment, a fit of anger, a bit of jealousy.  Something.”

She paused and then said seriously: “I really do try to live without regrets.  I have never hurt another person.  I just wouldn’t do that.  There’s no one I can’t or wouldn’t talk to or help.  I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve ever done. God just wouldn’t send me to purgatory.  God wouldn’t do that to me.”

I realized on the drive back to Eau Claire that evening that this was the only time I’d ever really talked “religion” with my mother.

I envy her moral stance.

It had to have come from her relationship with God.

She knew God.

She knew God well.

I have to believe that her morality–the stuff Jesus is talking about in the gospel today and last weekend, comes, not from any great effort on her part, although it probably does take some effort, but from her spending time with God, knowing God.

Spending time with God changes you, us.  And perhaps, as Jesus says, we do become “perfected.”

Lent begins this Wednesday.

And while I  always recommend the traditional practice of prayer, fasting, and the giving of  alms as ways of discipline, I also understand that some of what we do works at us from the outside.

But prayer, spending time with God works at us from the inside out–

and maybe that ‘s the most important thing we could do this lent.