We are reading a book together for Lent – Meeting Jesus on the Margins. Below is the first meditation written by Mark Kinman. His reflection is a good rumination for thought in the days that follow Ash Wednesday, when we ponder what the meaning of Lent really is.
The simplest question is the most useful: Why?
We need always to be asking “Why?” and not letting our quickest answers, which are often deeply rooted in our prejudices, be our final answers.
When we see someone using the steps of a public library as a bed at night, we need to ask “Why?”
When we read a story about a transgender teenager committing suicide, we need to ask “Why?”
When we go into a grocery store in an impoverished neighborhood and see a fully stocked liquor shelf and no fresh produce, we need to ask “Why?” When we learn we incarcerate a higher percentage of our citizens than any other nation in the world, we need to ask “Why?”
When we see young people of color burn down the Quik Trip convenience store in Ferguson, Missouri, we need to ask “Why?”
And as we embark on our Lenten journey, we need to ask “Why?”
Our first answer, rooted in what we’ve always been taught, might be that we observe Lent as an exercise in self-flagellation, so that, in Paul’s words, we might not “think of ourselves more highly than we ought” (Romans 12:3). We might tend to think our Lenten observance is grounded in our unworthiness. If so, we need to dig deeper.
The prayer at the beginning of our Ash Wednesday liturgy gives us the answer. We observe a holy Lent to remember Jesus’ gospel of “pardon and absolution.” Lent is not about confession and repentance as punishment but as a profound, grace-filled unburdening so that we might encounter the living Christ in all Christ’s abundant joy.
Our Lenten journey should be viewed within the context of meeting Christ – meeting Christ right where he tells us he will be – in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner. It is a journey of seeing all those people as Jesus. Of asking “Why?” and not being satisfied with our first answer or realizing that those whom the world of power and privilege label as “them” are really the deepest and most sacred portion of “us.”
If you’d like to ask why in a group, let’s get together after church, have some coffee, and talk about why.
- Fr. Marshall