Well, it’s Lent. It’s also the Jubilee Year of Mercy for Catholics. So, if we are still looking for a Lenten practice, how about if we practice mercy?
According to Jesuit Fr. James Keenan of Boston College, mercy is the “willingness to enter into the chaos of another.” Pondering the scriptures, mercy is not option. It is not something that one Christian practices and another avoids. Mercy is a commandment. I may give up alcohol or chocolates or some other item, but if I am not merciful then my Lent is not Christian…it’s just a Becket Lent. And since God sees in secret, God will also know that I am a hypocrite.
Benedictine Sr. Verna Holyhead tells us that the Japanese have a proverb that says, “Something of the fragrance of the flowers lingers on the hands of the giver.” For the next forty days of Lent may there be:
~mercy in prayer without ostentation,
~mercy in fasting that is not cosmetic,
~mercy in almsgiving that does not smack of hypocritical trumpeting.
May the meaning of the ashes rubbed into our foreheads seep into our souls. At Easter then may we continue to smell the flowers of mercy that linger on our hands.
[If you are looking for a good Lenten read, check out the footnote source.]