By KATHY GALLO
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
I have lived many Lenten seasons. This has been one of the best because I let go of my usual approach of “giving up” some kind of food, often sweets, and often for the ulterior motive and hope of losing weight. Needless to say, I was not successful on either front.
This year, I lived in the present moment of Lent. I intentionally made a commitment to live Lent differently due to the pandemic and its built-in limitations. Instead of giving up, I was going to be present to life. And to my great surprise, Lent found me. I found myself participating in two powerful activities this Lent. I did not choose them because of the season but because the opportunities presented themselves.
The first activity began before Lent. It was and is listening to and praying with the Scriptures guided by the “Bible in a Year” podcast facilitated by Father Mike Schmitz. While the podcast began on Jan. 1, 2021, you can begin this biblical experience anytime. I love it for many reasons. Father Mike has such a powerful way of proclaiming Scripture. The approach is not reading one book at a time but two readings that relate to each other such as Genesis and Exodus followed by a psalm. Father Mike offers a prayer and short reflection at the end of each podcast.
Listening to the podcast and following along in the Bible offers the opportunity to recognize major themes and see God’s presence in the activities and experiences of the people. Currently, we are listening to the Old Testament. And really, we have just begun. I encourage you to consider the “Bible in a Year” podcast. It puts things in context, draws one into the Jewish understanding of God and the ministry of Jesus.
Secondly, I chose to participate in a program called “Faith and Racial Healing: Embracing Truth, Justice and Restoration,” offered by my parish. This program is part of the JustFaith Series developed by Jack Jezreel, in response to the needs of adult faith formation he experienced in parish life in a Louisville parish 20 years ago.
JustFaith and the programs it offers are not for the faint-hearted. There are many different programs developed from the lens of social justice as defined by Catholic Social Teaching. The Racial Healing program I have been in consists of eight weeks of meetings, a retreat and an immersion experience. There is in-depth reading and dialogue in community. We need others to help us see in a new way. It has been one of the most meaningful and challenging experiences of my life. Vatican II challenged us to be aware of the “signs of the times;” and over my lifetime, racial injustice has been a constant. This program offers intense study and direction for making a change in our Church and in the world. I truly believe that JustFaith should be offered in every parish.
Living deeply in the present this Lent has been such a gift. It amazes me how reading and listening to the “Bible in a Year” and the experience of JustFaith connect so intimately. The Scriptures tell the story of a people in search of a homeland; in search of freedom and belonging. The Scriptures challenge us to be people who welcome the stranger and those in search of a home. Jesus, raised in a Jewish home with Jewish parents in a Jewish land, proclaimed that all belong to the family of God. JustFaith challenges how we recognize the value of each person as a child of God.
I felt uncomfortable this Lent, not from lack of eating or food, but uncomfortable in the realization that many in our world are suffering; and Jesus calls each one of us from the cross to recognize suffering in our midst. The Word of God makes us uncomfortable. It is only with prayer, dialogue and real presence in the face of injustice that our world can heal. We cannot turn a blind eye. And seeing requires action.