There is a scene in the Sherlock Holmes mystery Study in Scarlet that is always in my mind. Sherlock is explaining to Dr. Watson:
“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. … It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
The ‘purple seasons’, Lent and Advent, are times when we should take stock of what is stored in our own ‘attics’. Time when we take a step back from our dizzying lives and come to grips with who we are and who God wants us to be. Our lives, and the desires and wants that come with them, can have the effect of crowding what is really important in our relationship with Christ. On top of this, we too can provide useless lumber with our sophistic reasoning that we use to make ourselves feel ok; mental gymnastics that we go through to try to make us right with ourselves and right with God. When it comes down to it – we need to put ourselves under the light of Christ and honestly and determinedly clean out the things that elbow out what is truly valuable for our journey home. We need to declutter.
Now, as we start the final two weeks of Advent let’s make a conscious effort to clean house so that when Christmas arrives we can open ourselves up to the glory of Emmanuel. Don’t plan to do it, just do it. Start now – otherwise it will never get done because tomorrow never arrives. Tomorrow is a very dangerous word when it comes to our faith journey because as St. Josemaría Escrivá wrote: ‘“Tomorrow!” Sometimes it is prudence; many times it is the adverb of the defeated’