Lenten Devotional: Thursday, Feb. 18

by JoBeth Allen

Jeremiah 22:3   Thus says the Lord: Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.

My Lenten Devotional is taken from the Sojourners weekly newsletter, specifically (and in places directly quoting) the lead article by Jim Wallis, and from the conversation our Sunday School class had about Lenten practices.

Wallis wrote about what Pope Francis said to the world in his Lenten message: “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.” Instead of giving up chocolate or alcohol for Lent, the pope seems to want us to give up our indifference to others. The Pope continued: “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

In thinking about “giving up indifference” for Lent – for always – I think my indifference comes in the form of choosing that which is clearly defined and “doable,” and turning a deaf ear to the outcry of the oppressed when the task seems too difficult. What would it mean to deliver our neighbors “out of the hand of the oppressor”? It’s overwhelming, and more than a little frightening. Oppressors have a lot of power. If authorities “do violence to the stranger” in my town, if they deport immigrants to face danger and even death in the countries from which they fled, what can I do?

In another Lenten message the pope gave when he was the Cardinal of Buenos Aries, he quoted early Christian leader John Chrysostom who said, “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”

Prayer: Loving Mother/Father God, Speak to me so loudly that I can’t ignore you. Keep sending me Jeremiahs through newspapers and Facebook and the young people I interact with each week until I am able to give up my indifference. Amen