Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Lent calls us to compassion
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the Feb. 3, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)
If I had a nickel for every time I have told a child to “stop crying,” well, I wouldn’t be rich. But I’d never again be stuck at a parking meter with no change. The cry of a child is like the Lenten call to conversion. Sometimes we’re willing to listen and sometimes we’re not.
A baby’s cry is hard to ignore. We pay attention and feed, change, or rock the baby. As the baby grows older, we have less patience for the crying. Confronted by tears or whining, I’m tempted to any number of responses: You’re too old to cry. It’s time to get over it. Crying doesn’t help anything. If you think this is a tragedy, you’ll be in trouble when real problems come along.
The truth is, pain makes me uncomfortable, especially if I can’t do anything to fix it. I’m not talking about abused and starving children here. It’s a given we should help change conditions that victimize children. What’s worth reflection is why I find simple, everyday hurts in life so uncomfortable that I have to hush them up.
In Biblical times people with leprosy warned others to stay away by yelling, “Unclean, unclean!” In modern times we have our own ways of keeping people away from our “unclean,” emotionally-hurting selves. Our faces smile. Our words tell of junior’s latest basketball game, sister’s band concert, or our upcoming vacation. We shine up our homes and cars to polish our “everything’s great” image. We even shush our kids when they’re crying.
Lent is an opportunity to take a look at the pain in our lives and how it can be transformed. In recent decades the Church has reached back to its roots and turned the emphasis during Lent toward Baptism. Newcomers in the church prepare during this season for Baptism, and the rest of us recall our own baptismal promises, our birth into the Body of Christ. These promises call us to look at our lives and see how they compare to the model Jesus set for us.
In remembering the life of Jesus, we often concentrate on Jesus’ actions, but the man Jesus was, more than what he did. He was also what he felt and experienced. Jesus was born a human being who suffered cold, heat, hunger, thirst, irritation, anger, exhaustion, loneliness, and emotional pain. We focus on Jesus’ agony and death, but often ignore these other experiences that relate to our own lives. And we find it hard to acknowledge some of our own painful feelings and experiences. Jesus came into the world not to take away human suffering, but to show compassion and give dignity to those who suffer.
The people of God have traditionally prepared for Easter by a renewed commitment to fast, pray, and give alms. Consider this:
• How would it look to fast from avoidance of pain? How would I be transformed by showing compassion to my own and other’s pain?
• Can you visualize prayer as sitting with your painful emotions, feeling them, and recognizing Jesus is present in your hurting?
• How would it be to give time or money to others, not in an effort to fix them, but in a spirit of shared condition? Can I give, not out of superior wealth, not of what is mine, but rather can I share what belongs to all? Can I share because, if another is suffering, so am I?
Physical signs and symbols can help us to be mindful of our call to conversion during Lent. A tablecloth of purple or royal blue is a festive way to mark the season for our families. Lighting a special candle at mealtimes can remind us to focus on prayer and the needs of others. The sound of crying can be a signal to stop and listen to the pain around and within, and respond with compassion as Jesus did.
© 2005, Mary Cronk Farrell
(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and
children’s writer. Her new children's novel, Fire in the Hole!, is available from Clarion Books.)
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