Lent is a State of Being.

I’ve been getting ready for Lent. In fact, as a pastor, I have been ‘in Lent’ for several weeks already to prepare our parish – and her people – for a journey that is supposed to change us. By the seemingly so far off glorious Easter sunrise by today’s vantage point, we are to end up being different; substantially different. We are to be a new people.

Now, that journey will be easy for some. The some who will choose to neglect to honor the season. Others who will slight it. And still more will treat it no more and no less than the way they treat every Sunday; a place one goes but only when there is nothing better to do in the world. But, to those of us who will sink deeply, reflect, look honestly within ourselves, and who are willing to not only ask God the hard questions, but to allow God to do something wonderful by answering those questions, even if it is painful and requires sacrifice and change, we will all be a different, a better people by Easter day.

This past week, the large box finally arrived by International Post. I gently, and nervously, unpacked the life jackets that came to represent all of those lives who died seeking safety in Lesvos, Greece. As I did so, I began to weep. I wept at the symbolism. I wept at our collective inhumanity. I wept because I knew not their plight, nor cared enough to help. I wept in the power of their imagery; these inanimate objects that once held humanity itself. And, as I gathered with Alan and Sean one evening to fashion them into a cross, I wept with desolate abandon. “It was time”, I thought to myself. “It is time to change the world, or at least for us here at Saint Miriam, because we are better than this; we have to be if we follow the One we say we do.”

In my human and frail hands – the hands of someone who sleeps in a warm bed every night, who is loved by my wife beyond words and faults, and who makes my way in world without much pain considering others who have not these joys, let alone sleeps in a tent within a frightening refugee camps – were actual life jackets that literally stole the lives from the innocent trying to gain nothing more than safety.

Over the past few months, I have worked with such on-the-ground refugee supporting NGO’s as Lighthouse Relief, Project Lifejacket, and Movement On The Ground. These wonderful groups of independent people are responding to a humanitarian crisis affecting literally thousands of innocent men, women, and children forced from their homes by climate change, poverty, and war. A crisis few people care to know about or aid in any way. They are trying to set a new blueprint for humanitarian help worldwide to what has been called ‘the biggest humanitarian horror story of our century’. And, lest we forget, over 60% of these refugees – these who seek the safety of someone’s asylum – are but mere children.

28 September 2019, Greece, Mithymna: Numerous life jackets left behind by migrants and refugees are lying next to some broken boats on a rubbish dump near the town of Mithymna on the island of Lesbos. Five islands in the Eastern Aegean bear the brunt of the refugee deal between the EU and Turkey. (Zu dpa: “Refugee misery on Lesbos: Residents and migrants at the limit”) Photo by: Angelos Tzortzinis/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

And that is why, this Lent, we as a people of God, will look hard and uncomfortably at this humanitarian crisis through a moving display in our own home, and pray for the causes of such atrocities: poverty, alienation, apathy, wrongly applied and inferior and prejudicial immigration policy, and global warming and climate change.

Together, with my liturgy, ministry and music teams, we have set a beautiful journey to come. A moving journey. One that will cause us to weep and mourn, but hopefully one that will also change us; but only if we attend and allow it to become a state of being.

I will end my blog using a section from our adopted Litany to the Guadalupe

From becoming oppressive, deliver us.
From becoming cynical,

From denying options to the poor,
From becoming opportunists,
From, becoming deaf to the voices of the prophets,
From becoming blind to injustice,
From becoming complacent,
From becoming ungrateful servants,
From becoming arrogant,
From becoming elitists,

Model for love and compassion, may we imitate you. I pray – and I trust – that you will join us. I pray and trust that we will never abandon the gospel mission of our parish.

 

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