Monday, February 09, 2015

Walking the Lenten Journey with Bread for the World

Ash Wednesday is about 10 days away, which means that the Lenten season is just around the corner. There are many parallels between Lent and Advent. They both offer an opportunity to step outside ourselves and make a deeper connection with our Creator. In a way, they both are seasons of hope (anticipation of the birth of Christ and the resurrection of Christ), although Lent urges a deeper reflection of our failings to our God and our neighbor.

In an essay entitled Ash Wednesday,  which is part of the book  Seasons of Celebration, Thomas Merton describes how Lenten prayers and reflections can become a true gift. “Once again, Lent is not just a time for squaring conscious accounts: but for realizing what we had perhaps not seen before. The light of Lent is given us to help us with this realization." 

“Nevertheless, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is not focused on the sinfulness of the penitent but on the mercy of God. The question of sinfulness is raised precisely because this is a day of mercy, and the just do not need a savior.”

The mercy of God.  What a powerful gift. God urges us to practice mercy every day of the year, but the Lenten season is an important time to remember our obligation to those who share this Earth with us. "Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can," Thomas Merton  wrote in a letter to Dorothy Day.

For us whose ministry is walking with those who are hungry (whether we use advocacy, direct service, blogging or other gifts), every year Bread for the World offers us a handy tool entitled "Lenten Prayers for Hungry People." The reflections come in the form of  "table tents" that include a prayer for each of the six weeks in Lent, Bible scriptures and actions that will help in the fight to end hunger. The weekly reflections, Scripture readings and prayers for this year are available online through a PDF download.

"I am ready for Lent, and my table tent is ready to inspire me. I’ve put it near my coffee pot, where it is sure to be seen each Sunday," Robin Stephenson, national lead for social media and a senior organizer at Bread for the World,wrote in a piece entitled "Traveling in the Wilderness," published in the Bread blog.

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