~ by Antonio Remedios, National Catholic Reporter
Maybe this Lent, as we step away from the busyness to do some inner work, as we try to more closely align how we see with how Jesus sees, the Beatitudes would be a good starting point.
Jesus saw the world through a lens trained on the poor, the sorrowful, the meek, the powerless, the cast out and thrown-away, the persecuted, the insulted. He offered them hope by his word and action. We can hear his words in the Beatitudes. And with compassion, he would “cross the street,” go to their side of the road and be with the poor in spirit where they live. What if we use this Lent to learn more about his approach, and about him?
Here are a few suggestions for reviving and updating our Lenten practice this year.
Fast purposefully. Fast to see through the eyes of the homeless, hungry, naked, imprisoned, thrown-away, mentally ill or addicted, bullied or othered, the people God especially loves.
• Fast from warmth: Turn down the thermostat at home and sleep without a blanket — as a way to (baby steps) step off my curb, and begin to cross the street and feel what the unhoused feel.
• Fast from sleep, for a night or two — in solidarity with those who don’t or can’t have a peaceful moment to close their eyes — who today must live in fear for their basic safety.
- Fast from the rest and safety of our normal lives, to sense the risks, the fatigue, the anxiety of not knowing where next week’s rent money will come from, or if a stray bullet will enter my window tonight or when the next missile attack will happen.• Fast from the safety and convenience of available clean water: Draw your water from an outdoor spigot, and boil it before using it, to cook, to clean, to bathe.
• Fast from adequate clothing: Go shoeless or sockless for a day — and feel the pain of nakedness in winter.
• Fast from the confidence of feeling clean: Go without a bath/shower, for a day, or two, or three … and feel the buildup of whatever it is that our unhoused or imprisoned brothers and sisters have no choice but to endure.
Pray expectantly. Invite God to share the flood of feelings and insights your fasting will surely bring about.
• Notice the difference between your “normal” and the normal of those who have no option but live it perpetually.
• Bring your fasting experiences (fatigue, cold, irritability, discomfort, pain, maybe shame or guilt) as an offering to God.
• Be open to being changed. In fact, hope for it.
• Offer God your fast as a symbol of your desire to be his change agent.
Respond generously. Let your fasting and prayer bear fruit by responding creatively, intelligently, compassionately, immediately.
• Almsgiving doesn’t have to be about money. Make it about what money represents, which is the potential power to effect change. Give your power, mine your potential, and give generously, and immediately — as immediately as you would to your lover, or to your child, or to your aging elder, or to a friend whom you love, when they come to you needing what you have to give.
• Respond with immediacy, with the instinct to drop everything, because now is the only time that matters.
The mystical experience we Catholics hunger for today is not otherworldly, but is right here. It will be the fruit of compassion, born from purposeful fasting, prayer and creative alms focused on those whom God especially loves, the people Jesus sees in the Beatitudes.