Lent and Mercy

By Alice Knowles, DignityUSA Vice President

Lent is a prayerful and integral part of the spiritual calendar year.  It is the time of reflection and intention, as well as the purpose of our faith.  Pope Francis has pronounced a “Year of Mercy” beginning on December 8, 2015.  It is a year for showing mercy and forgiveness. 

For many, Lent is the season of sacrificing something in order to be more mindful of what one is giving up or putting aside.  It is not about eating less chocolate cake; it is about reminding yourself that every time you say “no” to that cake, you are praying.  You are praying yourself closer to God and your intentions.

Some of us may remember praying the Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent; maybe some still do pray the stations.  Some of us remember fasting during Lent; maybe some still do fast for Lent.  Maybe you recall not eating meat on Fridays.  These were traditions and practices that were both holy and sacred to our completing our Lenten obligation.

This year, maybe Lent could be served by acts of mercy.  Dignity communities regularly perform works of mercy.  The communities support food banks, homeless shelters, AIDS programs, programs for children, and the sick and the grieving. There are many opportunities for showing your love of God and the joy of Easter.  As people of faith, it comes easy for us to act in charity.  We often act on our Christian ideals.  Lent is a time to perform those acts with intention. 

Lent is the time to pay more attention to what matters.  It is the time to work purposefully for your connection to God.  It is the time to put your faith first.  Last month, Jeffrey Higgins, a cantor at a catholic church, was fired from his position because he is a married gay man.  The Dignity/Washington community lent itself as witness to Jeffrey, his husband, his family and his community by being present to support them outside of the Mother Seton church.  This witness was an act of mercy!

At the opening of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis said “Let us abandon all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved.  Instead, let us live the joy of encounter with the grace that transforms all.  Let us remember the joy of acts of mercy.  Let us perform those acts of mercy because we know that we are loved by God.”

Wishing you a holy and peaceful Lent.