As the dark days of winter are lessening, I find myself impatiently waiting for signs of spring to emerge. Where is that brilliant spring green? Winter is necessary here in the Midwest where bulbs in the ground and bare trees need this season of cold and dark to reenergize for the new growth of spring. There is a natural connection to why our liturgical season of Lent coincides with nature’s season of winter. We, too, need to take time to sit in the darkness and pray. Lent calls us to reenergize our inner selves in order to bring new growth and hope during the Easter season.
So too do we need the season of Lent to open our hearts and be with those in solidarity who do not have much. I think of the Isaiah 58 passage that says “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly. .. setting free the oppressed … sharing your bread with the hungry … sheltering the oppressed and homeless . . .”
This winter my house has engaged in a monthly energy fast, one evening after dinner we turn off all the lights, computer, cell phones, and TV. We light our house with candles and sit and have meaningful conversations and/or play a game. It reminds me of the times we have power outages due to snow or ice storms – the difference is this is our deliberate choice. While it allows us to be present with each other in the same room we are also conscious of the many people around the world who do not have access to reliable electricity. I think of a Haitian religious community, the Sisters of St. Antoine of Fondwa, and how they work with an orphanage and the people of the town of Fondwa who do not have access to those things we take for granted every day like electricity.
I take Isaiah’s passage to heart as I serve free community meals with university students or serve at the local homeless shelter, trying to be actively present to those I serve and listen to their stories. I also am very aware of our senseless refugee policy here in the state of Kansas where our governor has issued a decree that no more refugees may be relocated in our state. From calling his office and talking to some of our refugee resettlement sites, I want to learn how I can assist in protesting this decree.
All of these Lenten practices are leading me to the new growth of Easter where the hope of a just world lies.