Word for the (rest of the) year

Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1290-1348), “The Presentation”

Around the start of the new year, I saw a lot of posts around people's 'word of the year' and the intention that they wanted to set for 2020. This was something that I really wanted to do for myself as well, but at the time I couldn't wrap my head around something. There wasn't any word that stood out to me or spoke to me.

Rather than rushing into it out of frustration (the way I would have done in previous years), I decided to open it up to the Lord and ask Him to show me in His time. What is my intention for this year? What is this elusive word?

The word is purification.

It finally came to me this past weekend, during the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. In the past, this feast has also traditionally been know as the Purification of Mary. According to religious law, every first born had to be presented at the temple 40 days after their birth. During this time, a woman was considered 'unlean', so Mary's presentation of her son at the temple was also the time when she would be purified.

Between you and I, I used to despise this word 'purification' whenever I heard it used in a biblical or Catholic context. Perhaps it was out of ignorance or pride that I misunderstood its use, or the fact that I too was in desperate need of purification from a number of things. But as time goes on, it has been interesting to grow in this desire for more intimacy and closeness with the Lord. This desire for intimacy has also led to a personal need for purification.

When I Googled the definition of 'purification', a few things came up. The word could mean 'the removal of contaminants from something', or 'the process of extracting something from a substance', or even 'the process of making something spiritually or ceremonially clean'. No matter what your choice of definition is, the thread that ties all of these definitions together is the element of change from one state to another. It's a process that something undergoes to become clean or better. In my case, I felt a deeper call to be purified.

Interestingly, in the first reading for this feast from the prophet Malachi, the word purify comes up again. Malachi speaks of the coming of the Lord, who "is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness." (Malachi 3:2-3). Not only am I called to be purified, but I am also called to be refined. Through God's grace and mercy, I am purified and refined.

While this was all well and good that I had finally found my word, I started to wonder what it was that I needed purification from. This quickly became apparent in my prayer. I realized that it might not necessarily be that I needed to be cleaned, in the literal sense, but I needed to do some housework in my heart so that I could fully and totally surrender myself to Him.

I entered into 2020 with a lot of question marks hanging over my head. Many people know that I crave certainty and plans, and with impending graduation (for real this time!), I had no idea what was next. The wonderful thing is that I have options, which I'm really blessed to have. But as for a set decision on what's next? Nothing at all.

Despite an outward presentation of total surrender and joy for the unknown, deep in my heart I knew that this was a lie. Even in the work that I'm doing now for my honours project, I live every day on eggshells. There are so many question marks and moments where I feel discouraged and that I can't do it. But time and time again, the Lord has been faithful in big and small ways to show me that I can and will get through this final semester. All of this has lended me to a deeper conversion towards Him and surrendering everything to Him.

So where does purification come in? This is what I found myself praying about this morning: I need purification from the negative self-talk. I need purification from feelings of abandonment, hurt, and anxiety. I need to take each day as it comes and stay secure in it, whether good or bad, because every day is a purification process. Every day is an oppotunity for deeper trust, deeper conversion, deeper love.

As purification happens, so does refinement. God has planted deep desire and potential in each one of us. God as the master sculptor has a plan for us, and every yes in faith that we give Him is a moment where He chisels us into who He has designed us to be. We are meant to be more than just slabs of marble: we are meant to be masterpieces.

Though the feast of the Presentation of the Lord is behind us, may we always remember how the Lord is present to us always and how we too should aim to present ourselves to Him. No matter what our state, He will accept us for who we are. He wants us to come to Him, and He will help us be the masterpiece that He has destined for us to be.