Lent 2 - 2015
Monday Scripture Readings, According to the Catholic Missal
Monday Scripture Readings, According to the Catholic Missal
The season of Lent is often understood as a time of wandering and longing. Many view Lent, for better or worse, as a liturgical cycle that mimics our human experiences of isolation and fear. The liturgical color of Lent is dark purple and the sanctuaries of Churches are often simplified with bright and joyous symbols being removed for these 40 long days. In some traditions statues and holy images are even veiled or turned with their faces to the wall as a sign of mourning and possible discomfort. As I said last week, Lent is not an easy season to endure or probably shouldn’t be if we approach it with holy fear as the Church bids us to do. Lent is a season of eerie quietness and darkness while we wait in the shadows, with great hope and expectancy, for the promised light of resurrection.
This Lent, I believe God is inviting us to become aware of the wandering and longing, the isolation and fear that exist all around us in a world where peace and harmony seem almost nonexistent. As people of faith, we have wept this past week as many of our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria have been kidnapped, tortured and killed by the “Islamic” extremist group ISIL or ISIS. Our hearts have been shattered as we watched a man be burned alive in a cage by his own fellow human beings. Our ears can’t help but hear the earth-shattering cries of mothers and fathers as their children are torn from their arms only to watch them literally be torn from limb to limb in the lands where Christianity first began and spread.
In our own country, that we ignorantly deem to be enlightened and safe, we heard of a fundamentalist “Christian” family that attempted to sell their daughter into a forced marriage for $25,000. Increasing the horror, it was noted the price could have been higher but she was “damaged goods” due to being sexually molested as a child. Another story told of a nineteen-year-old daughter who had bravely made the choice to escape her family’s cult-like Christianity only to realize she had no proof of identification or birth due to being born at home. Her parents have refused to assist her in acquiring employment or a social security card as a means to force her to return to their perverted faith. A Facebook meme reminded us that a conservative religious family recently spent $10,000 to maintain the “right” for their local employers to fire LGBT individuals, while just 2 1/2 hours away from them an outreach center offers hope and shelter to homeless LGBT youth while operating on a yearly budget of only $7,500.
Our world finds itself in darkness and despair this Lenten season. So many of our fellow brothers and sisters are lost in the valley of fear and isolation and rather than religion and faith coming to their aid it is the very tool used to destroy their lives. Our Gospel reading today began with Christ telling us, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” How far our faith in God has strayed from mercy. So many who claim faith in God, whether Islamic or Christian, perpetuate acts of horror upon the nations of the earth because they have deemed themselves to be judge and jury. We behold self-righteous religious extremism in our political parties and leaders, churches in our communities and even in our own family members. If we are honest, we even catch glimpses of it in ourselves more than we care to believe.
Much of our faith systems have become nothing more than cultic rituals, devoid of love, mercy and fruitful action. Both Islamic and Christian faiths have allowed religious corruption and encouraged idolatry of spiteful doctrines that demand systematic oppression, hatred and, yes, even death. If you think for a moment extremist Christian faith isn’t responsible for deaths you haven’t studied the statistics concerning LGBT teenage suicide and death, which is undeniably linked to homophobic Christian theological formulations. This Lent we sit in sorrow and our hearts break for it seems God is nowhere to be found.
Yet, the Prophet Daniel tells us that God is “great and awesome.” God is merciful and seeks to keep covenant with all God’s children. In this we know it is not God that is nowhere to be found but rather it is God’s faithful who have failed to keep the covenant given to them. It is you and I who are nowhere to be found and should be filled with shame. It is you and I who hear the cries of the mothers and fathers as their children are mutilated and witness the youth who are forced from their homes simply for their sexuality and yet we sit in silence. We remain quiet deluding ourselves that to do so is respectful and civilized. We ask where is God’s justice and dare to judge the Divine while we remain motionless, our backs turned to the realities of prejudice in this world. Justice is indeed on God’s side, as the prophet tells us, but God requires you and I to walk in covenant with the Divine laws of equality, honesty, compassion and holiness to bring true peace. If we do not become voices and agents of God’s justice demanding change, we will have done evil in what we have failed to do. We are the ones who have departed from God, while God unceasingly cries out to us to change, to repent, and return to righteous ways.
Jesus tell us, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.” God is seeking people of faith who no longer self-righteously judge and condemn but rather walk in virtue extending the mercy of God to all they meet and demanding that God’s mercy guide religious belief systems. Furthermore, it seems, God promises us those who judge will be judged and those who condemn will be condemned. These are frightful words beyond our understanding and yet they offer to us the hope that evils perpetuated by treacherous “religious” groups will one day be brought to an end. We are filled with hope knowing the light of resurrection will arrive and God’s justice will never be silenced completely. Let us arise from our slumber, face the world and stand in hope knowing that God is not lost but rather is continually calling each and everyone one of us to action.
We may not be able to travel across the oceans and assist our friends in Syria, but we can begin to demand that hate no longer be espoused in the name of God in our local communities. We can demand that Christianity and Islam no longer be blasphemed by the actions of those who seek only to fulfill their own evil ambitions. We can become such a loud prophetic voice in the faith community that we drown out the shouts of hatred so that the cries of those being abused may finally be heard by all God’s creation and responded to.
This Lent we begin the journey of traveling from darkness to light, demanding the promise of life for all God’s children. Let it be so. Amen.