See the fast that pleases me:
breaking the fetters of injustice
and unfastening the thongs of the yoke,
setting the oppressed free
and breaking every yoke.
Isaiah 58: 6
Isaiah 58 is one of the most important chapters for taking Lent seriously. It contrasts fasting from externals and the fasting that changes oneself and one’s nation.
On February 12, 1945, US and British air forces began the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, in which more than 22,000 people were killed.
Eileen Egan, a close associate of Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day, worked in Europe after the Second World War for Catholic Church relief work. She saw the results of war first hand.
An ardent advocate of peace she once wrote:
“Instead of feeding the hungry, we destroy the fields that produce the food; instead of clothing the naked, we bomb factories that produce clothing; instead of giving drink to the thirsty, we bomb reservoirs. In war, the enemy is dehumanized and is no longer seen as a child of God. As Christians, we must penetrate the disguise and see Jesus in the enemy. Then, we would not kill and destroy.”
Would that we would pay attention to her words and the words of Isaiah and make of this Lent a time of real conversion – at all levels: personal, community, and world.
Would that we turn from war and violence and injustice and seek the God of mercy and justice.
Today we can also remember a woman who did that, living and working in the Amazon. On February 12, 2005, Sister Dorothy Stang was killed for her defense of peasants and small farmers. See my blog post a year ago.
Sister Dorothy saw the face of Christ in the poor. As she prayed:
I light a candle and look at Jesus on the cross and ask for the strength to carry the suffering of the people. Don’t worry about my safety. The safety of the people is what’s important.
Eileen Egan asked us to see the face of Christ in the enemy.
What better way to spend Lent – contemplating the face of Christ and responding in mercy and solidarity.