By Sister Sharon Havelak, OSF
“I can’t wait for Lent to start!”
I startled myself as I said it to myself. Did a double-take. Because I hate Lent. And it’s still a month away. Where was this coming from?
I’ve been keeping a long list of possible topics, knowing this blog is coming due. The list was very closely related to all the things I’ve been keeping in prayer the last few weeks. The crazy weather swings, from extremely warm to artic cold and back again, from torrential rain in drought areas to a dipping jet stream that brought heavy snowfalls to the south and east. The stories of peoples’ generosity and courage over the holiday season. The debate over our immigration policy: the very real fears of families being torn apart, the censure of immigrants who might undermine our society or use too many resources.
Though the plight of refugees from the Middle East hasn’t been on the news lately, the situation is still desperate. Pope Francis chose that as the theme for his World Day of Peace Message on January 1st: Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace. We used the theme for our January prayer service, focusing on stories of refugees and the men and women who help them.
I’ve been struggling a lot with the sense of entitlement that seems so pervasive now. We’re taught to need things, that we deserve them. At a recent meeting, one of the attendees tried to enlighten the group on how the Civil Rights Act has ruined our country. Others are getting what should be ours.
Racism, gender issues, sexual harassment, equal pay, tax reform, environmental justice: the list goes on and on. And our little social justice study group chose the theme of Hopelessness for our next discussion!
One of the things that’s kept me grounded through all the turmoil is a little set of Earth reflection cards that the Sisters used a few years ago. There’s a simple quote, most on either Earth or Franciscan spirituality, one for each day of the month. I’ve kept using them. Month after month, I reflect on ideas like our fundamental interdependence, how everyone – and everything – is sister and brother, on God’s poverty (God’s constant giving in order to enrich our lives) and how we thank God by generously sharing with others and thereby become who we truly are: images of a generous God. All this has opened my heart a bit and helped to make me more compassionate.
So, I’m looking forward to this Lent, when our Sisters will be exploring a program, Lent 4.5, focusing on Christian Simplicity. The title of the program refers to the fact that, if everyone on the planet had equal access to Earth’s resources, 4.5 acres would be each person’s share of resources. We, in the United States, presently use some 22.3 acres to sustain our lifestyle. How can I learn to need less, but live more fully? How can I be more aware of the many gifts I’m given each day and respond in gratitude? How can I take to heart the call to conversion in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’: to see the world as God’s loving gift and respond generously, to be aware that we are linked with all creatures in “splendid universal communion” and to respond with creativity and enthusiasm to help resolve the world’s problems?
It may take me a month to get ready for the soul-searching I need to do this Lent, to get ready for the challenge. But I hope that I’m a better person – and the world’s a little better place – at the end of it.