Today is Good Friday. Today, we honor the moment when Jesus laid down his life for us, to forgive our sins and to open the gates of heaven once more.
Here is a short prayer for today.
Let Us Fast
While fasting with the body, brothers and sisters, let us also fast in spirit. Let us loose every bond of iniquity; let us undo the knots of every contact made by violence; let us tear up all unjust agreements; let us give bread to the hungry and welcome to our house the poor who have no roof to cover them, that we may receive mercy from Christ our God.
When I first started this yearlong journey, I started off with a simple corporal act of mercy: Feed the hungry. However, it isn’t always so easy to do so, when our emotions and thoughts get in the way. We sometimes don’t want to give a homeless person on the street food because “why can’t they just get a job and stop begging? They are liars.”
These thoughts that invade our mind do more harm than good and come from an evil source. It takes all the willpower we have inside to block them out as we help the less fortunate, no matter if they are liars or not.
So, in addition to the easy task of donating food to our local food pantry, my husband and I decided to start volunteering once a month at Catholic Harvest Food Pantry. This pantry allows those who need food to “shop” through the store with a volunteer to get the items they need and want.
When we arrive, we got a rundown of the schedule: We take the person in need, who has a slip of their family size, and loop them through the aisles with a cart and some boxes. Each pile of food and other items have a tag that lists how much they are allowed. Some just say “2 items per family.” Some items have a scale, where a family size of 3 would only get one item, but a family of 5 would get two, etc. Some tags even say “2 items per person”, so if there is a family of 5, the person can take 10 items. As we guide the person around, we ask “do you want this? You can have 2. Do you like this? You can take 2 per person, so 10 items.”
That night I only had one woman I worked with, who had a partner and 3 kids. Some items she passed up, like cereal. I thought, “Why would she ignore and reject FREE food that her family clearly needs?” But in other moments, I realized my privilege, where I can go to the grocery store and pay a lot of money for the best toilet paper and for non-aluminum deodorant. This woman was looking for some deodorant, something that would make her feel fresh. It is such a simple thing I take for granted as I look at items in a grocery store to see which item I WANT, not NEED.
And, going back to her “rejection” of food: Where is it my place to judge this person, who is allowed to have food preferences? If her kids won’t eat cereal, why should she take it and let it go to waste? I don’t like certain foods either, and when I go grocery shopping, I don’t buy them. How is this any different?
After that first experience, I was immediately enlightened. This was a moment to serve another person, and this person isn’t required to beg, plead and jump through hoops just so she can get food for her family of five. She deserves to have a moment of being taken care of, to have someone serve her.
That is human decency. That is being Jesus to others.
Spring is on its way, along with Easter! In a few short weeks, we will honor the resurrection of Jesus. And, with any luck, the weather will be wonderful for this early Easter. Lately it has been beautiful where I live.
In honor of that and Daylight Saving Time, let’s say a fitting prayer:
Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness. Come, my Life, and revive me from death. Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds. Come Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of my sins, kindling my heart with the flame of thy love.
Along my journey during the Jubilee of Mercy, I wanted to seek outside advice for how to proceed during this special year. With the Internet age, I can find a long of resources online through blogs and other means.
However, I am a traditionalist, and I love books. So, before this journey, I compiled a list of books that I would seek out and read, to help me along my way.
The first book I read was “Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep your Day Job” by Kerry Weber. Weber is a Mercy Associate and managing editor of America magazine.
Throughout this book, Weber tries to tackle all the corporal acts of mercy during the Lenten season one year. She was applying to be Mercy Associate with the Sisters of Mercy, whose mission is to do the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy that all Catholics are called to do.
As a refresher, the corporal acts of mercy are:
Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Shelter to the homeless
Visit the sick and imprisoned
Bury the dead
As a young New Yorker, Weber talks about the struggles not just during Lent but as a faithful Catholic who is new in a career and is managing the dating scene. She mentions how hard it is to also incorporate these works of mercy that we are all called to do, and how to be in the world, but not of the world.
I enjoyed reading Weber’s tales, her fears and her joys. It was a very timely, modern look at the Catholic faith that can draw in a younger generation, to show how faith is never perfect but a work in progress.
Whereas I liked the book, I felt the title is misleading. With the “your” in the title, I thought Weber was going to give more practical advice on how to live out the corporal acts of mercy, not just tell me what she did in New York City. She has many more resources than I do, and I even have more resources than someone living in a smaller town. She has the flexibility of options to work with her schedule; I have to manage mine to a T in order to volunteer.
It might have been better to say “How I Fed the Hungry … and kept my day job.”
All in all, a good read if you want to commiserate with someone else struggling with their faith.
Today is a special day for a good friend of mine. It is her 30th birthday. So, in light of that, let us pray for friends, near and far:
Prayer of Friendship by Vienna Cobb Anderson
You have blessed us, O God, with the gift of friendship, the bonding of persons in a circle of love. We thank you for such a blessing: for friends who love us, who share our sorrows, who laugh with us in celebration, who bear our pain, who need us as we need them, who weep as we weep, who hold us when words fail, and who give us the freedom to be ourselves. Bless our friends with health, wholeness, life, and love. Amen.
I had been thinking a lot about clothing the naked, and how it impacts me as a human.
After Adam and Eve sinned and they were cast out of the Garden, we had to clothe ourselves, out of shame. We regard our bodies as shameful, for some reason.
Obviously we want to give clothes so people stay warm in the cold and cool in the heat. But people don’t deserve to wear old cast-offs full of holes and stains, as I mention here. Besides the examples I gave in a previous post, I wondered how I can do more, and is there a way to do more for this particular corporal act of mercy?
I have always wanted to volunteer at a pregnancy center. When I lived in Lewistown, I stumbled upon one that would help women carry their child to term by asking them to come in for video classes, where they can earn “points” or “bucks.” These would then be used in the retail store ran by the center, so the women can shop for necessities for the babies.
Well, lucky for me, we have a similar place where I live now, called Human Life Services. I love how the organization empowers women to take care of their children (or give them up for adoption) while working within their current life, whether that is a job, school or other issues.
This had me thinking: We are all born naked. We come into this world without anything covering our bodies that God created. And, because of our sin, we must clothe ourselves in this world.
So, why not help these women and families clothe their children, not just with physical clothes but with the clothes of salvation through Jesus Christ?
This is just another way you can help clothe the naked. Encourage and support women in your community who have no resources or help in the face of pregnancy. Every life is precious, but that includes the one of the mother. We can’t simply stop at “don’t abort.” We must support, as well.