Telegram & Gazette
The Rev. John McGinty
Published: 5:01 a.m. ET March 5, 2022. Updated: 2:48 p.m. ET March 6, 2022
The world is rife with strife.
In what we might at least pray are the waning days of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, distraught truckers separate neighboring nations as they express their anger and dismay. Inflation is the growth stock over most of the world, worrying families as if they hadn’t already had enough to stress about. And the Russian Federation, after claiming that arraying endless military hardware and 190,000 soldiers around a neighbor is not meant to be a threat, finally advance and invade Ukraine. Russia does so only to find a staunch resistance from the leadership of the 30-year old democracy to the grandmothers challenging the invaders on their native streets.
And that’s only the most obvious of the ‘troubles we’ve seen’ and the troubles we are seeing. Amidst all this, the Christian world entered the six-week season of Lent on March 2 with Ash Wednesday, and moves toward Holy Week and the celebration of Easter in mid-April. This ancient season, a time of preparation for converts to be baptized and for those baptized to recall what that means, stands as a counterpoint to so much else around us. A counterpoint with a much smaller voice, because when it comes to Ash Wednesday and Lent and Easter, most of us see it all as very familiar. We believe that long ago we came to understand what it’s all about.
But do we really understand?
Amy-Jill Levine of Vanderbilt University is a respected scholar of New Testament and Jewish Studies. She writes in the introduction to her book, “Witness at the Cross: a Beginner’s Guide to Holy Friday,” a study on the crucifixion of Christ: “The Jewish and Christian traditions tell us that God needs us. It is through our hands and feet, our mouths that speak and our hearts and minds that prompt us to act, that God’s work is seen in the world.”
To enter Lent and to move toward the cross of Christ in the context of this real human world as we mark almost one-quarter of the 21st century now past, is to walk together in the midst of suffering as did those who witnessed Christ’s walk on Good Friday. For us, the greatest injustice is to turn our faces away from suffering because we find it too hard to see. Our first call is to a courage that dares to look and knows itself responsible to look.
This past week, I have wept before images of mothers and children in Ukraine, their expressions saying that they cannot know what the next hours will bring. I have been moved deeply by the faithfulness to his post of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, and the many who stand like him. Their hands and feet, their mouths, their hearts and minds invite — no, compel you and I — to know our own call. It must be to stand as straight as we can in a world of strife and allow God’s work to be seen here and now, to allow God’s strength to work through us, to allow God’s truth to find a voice in our generation.
As we look around us near and far this Lent, how can we do any less?