Like John the Baptist – Mom Hated to Clean! But She Did It Anyway
My mom was a typical mom in all but one thing. She hated to clean!
Mom was a good Catholic girl who went to work in a restaurant at 16 and didn’t finish high school until she got her GED at the age of 32, followed by a college degree in art. Later, she was an optometric dispenser for Montgomery Wards and several other companies before she retired. She didn’t make millions of dollars doing it, but she loved what she did. She’d help pick out new glasses or calm those who were told they needed glasses for the first time, or—several times a year—she would be there for people who were told they would lose their sight or lives to a tumor that was found because of an eye examination. Many of these people became lifelong friends; for others, she would go to their funerals, comforting their families.
How did she get to know all these people? Simply by offering to clean their glasses.
Now, you would think that cleaning is cleaning. Not so to her. If she cleaned at home, she would immediately elicit my and Dad’s help in whatever project she conjured up. Then, after the couch was moved, or everything was out of the cabinet, or the beds were moved to a different room, the white tornado clouds of Lysol, Pine Sol, or vinegar would appear. As much as she hated cleaning, she loved the results and always commented, “Well, that wasn’t so bad. We should do this more often.”
The other thing mom loved to do was go to church. She was always the most comfortable—not at Sunday Mass but at Tuesday night Novena Mass. She loved being in a church at night, with the votive candles flickering and the sight and smell of incense wafting upward—especially during Advent, when the sun went down around 5 p.m. She would usually drag me along and plop me down in the pew next to her, sometimes to pay attention to the priest, others to sit on the kneeler and use the seat for a desk so I could draw a boat, dog or house. I once asked her why she liked the Tuesday night Novena Mass so much. With a calm look and a slight smile, she said, “Because I feel so clean and straightened after.”
Mom vs. Saint John the Baptist
Now that I think about it, Mom was very similar to Saint John the Baptist. Since John was the son of a High Priest of the temple, I’m sure he grew up in a comfortable life with finer things—the best cuts of meat, great clothes, never going hungry. But as he got older, he felt restless. He wanted to work, not go to school. He wanted to do what God was telling him to do. He wanted to help people. And, just like Mom, he would go to heroic lengths to “clean.” He went to the desert; he wore only scratchy, stinky camel skin and ate locusts and honey. He would look out in the night sky, not at votive candles flickering, but at stars. He would see the smoke rise, but instead of incense, it was from his small fire for warmth. And just like Mom, John would comfort the people who came to him. He would tell them there was a better life, a life with God, and a life worth “cleaning” for.
So, he would get right down in the river, roll up his sleeves, and clean. He would baptize with Lysol for the spirit, wash away sins with the Pine Sol of the Holy Spirit, and lift them out of the Jordan with the cleaning vinegar of sanctity running down their cheeks and back. And, just like Mom, John would take whoever came to him—young or old, rich or poor, woman or man, heathen or heretic… they were all God’s children, and he was there to serve.
From the Old, Becomes New
In Advent, we read in the Old Testament,
“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated… A voice cries out: In the desert, prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley…” (Isaiah 40:1–2, 2–4)
In the New Testament, we have John appearing “in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins… and [they] were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.” (Mark 1:4-5)
Like Mom and John the Baptist, we have heroic cleaning to do. Advent is the perfect season to clean the closet—of our souls. Vacuum up the carpets—of the times we know we missed the mark. And clean your glasses—so your heart can see the goodness of God in everyone you meet during this season of expectation.