A Reflection on Lent and Biblical Justice

by Mary Kay Glazer

As I write this, we are already one week into the Christian liturgical season of Lent, forty days of entering with Christ into the suffering of the world. One of the ways that I do that is to reflect on and pray about the ways that I turn away from the world’s suffering, and the ways that I contribute to it. The scripture passages in this season, hard as they are to read, help keep me true to my intention. Here is a sampling from these first days of Lent:

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God… (Joel 2:12-13a)

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? (Luke 9:23-25)

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:6)

Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

And then there is this one, which speaks directly to how we are called to treat those who suffer most because of the greed of too many:

You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:13-14)

This is but one passage where labor justice is specifically named. Injustice against those who toil for their livelihood has deep, ugly roots. Just as God’s message to “loose the bonds of injustice” is one that resounds throughout history. Whether or not our spiritual practices include Lenten disciplines, we are called to work for justice, for workers, for the poor, for the orphaned, for the widow, for the refugee – for all who are marginalized. For all who are cruelly exploited to support the wealth of a few. For all whose lot in life is to be ignored and treated with contempt.

I encourage you to pray with any of the above passages. You may also want to reflect on these queries:

  • In what ways does the money I spend support unjust treatment of workers?
  • Am I even aware of the injustices?
  • What does God want me to change in my life to live more justly?

Choosing justice means choosing the life God offers us –

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live… (Deuteronomy 30:19)

What would it mean for you to choose the life of blessings, for yourself and others, the life that God invites us all to in these and all times?

For more on how you can live faithfully in this season of Lent, go to Network: Advocates for Justice, Inspired by Catholic Sisters – the group that includes Nuns on the Bus. 

Mary Kay, a Quaker who grew up Roman Catholic, is a spiritual director, retreat leader and writer. Click here to learn more about her work.

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