“Do uncomfortable things in service of justice.” I scratched some semblance of this mantra into my iPhone Notes app when I heard Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson speak last spring at the University of Minnesota. This invitation, from the critically acclaimed author, activist and death-row lawyer, is on my heart as I enter Lent, 2016.
Lent is an uncomfortable journey. At its best, it’s an invitation to examine our brokenness — the root causes of our behavior and thought processes that separate us from one another — and make our way toward reconciliation and the hopeful promises of new life. At it’s least, it’s a backdrop for our spiritual life unfolding on a kind of catholic social stage. In either case, we are given these forty days to walk more consciously, more uncomfortably, more intentionally toward the ultimate reconciliation of Love, Mercy, and Justice and our very human selves.
Visitation Sisters’ Lenten Focus: “We are called to reflect on the Cross of Christ looking honestly in our lives and communities, and honestly assess where we see people bearing that cross today.” (Sourcebook)
This particular Lent commences the same week as Sister Mary Margaret, my husband, Francois, and I co- presented on solidarity as part of the Salesian Second Monday series. It arrives with its unmistakable invitation to humble ourselves in the ash-crossing ritual reminding us of our broken humanity and need to see our circumstances anew. This Wednesday comes informed by the previous months of Wednesdays –with Flint’s lead water contamination reports; our polarizing political climate revealing the ever widening gaps between humans; the protests marchers proclaiming, “Black Lives Matter!”; and the death of Jamar Clark -just down the street from the monastery- bringing our ailing humanity to the fore with the cry for greater awareness, mercy, reconciliation and justice.
It is within this messy dynamic of our social, political, economic and spiritual environments that I recognize my own soul seeking renewal. It is on this Ash Wednesday that I turn to receive the cross markings on my forehead –symbolizing origin and ending –and welcome God’s mercy. Within this next forty days, I seek to do this uncomfortable work reflecting and acting. I set out this day, buoyed by the community of the Vis Sisters, our northside neighbors, the Companions and Lay Residents, my husband and child, and make my way toward Easter. I muster the courage to face my inner anger, shame, and resentments that perpetuate my separation from others. I prayerfully ask God for the patience and proximity to move toward greater solidarity of spirit with those who hurt, too. I faithfully seek to act in small, practical ways in compassionate alignment with Christ on his journey, and pray for our common destiny as one of ultimate new life.
Will you join me?
A Few Lenten Resources for the Journey:
Mercy Misericordia: Lent 2016 by Joan Chittister (illustration by Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS (click to order)