Lenten Devotion – Sat, Mar 13: MERCY

Reciprocity is once more at the heart of this blessing. We are the people who have witnessed and responded to others’ pain, hurt, and suffering. In turn, we are the ones who need — and hopefully receive — compassion and kindness.

It’s easier to be on the giving end of this blessing, than on the receiving end. It’s difficult to accept gifts of kindness, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. After all, that puts us in the position of being vulnerable. Needing someone or something else. We don’t easily admit to being in such a position; our culture valorizes being strong and independent and coping alone, without asking for help.

These Beatitudes remind us that we’re quite human. Not nearly the towers of strength we try to be.

Remember, God is blessing a human society and our human condition. The Beatitude acknowledges that we suffer and serve each other imperfectly.

We already know that we fall short of showing mercy at all times. We simply embody it, as best we’re able, in our daily living. Along the way, we’ll hurt someone’s feelings or overlook someone’s suffering. We may fail to act when we might have alleviated trauma or advocated to mitigate injustice.

Yet the blessing, and the promise, is that we’ll keep trying. We’ll strive to do the next right thing.

In our mortal lifespan, we’ll certainly experience pain and loss ourselves. We’ll need help, support, kindness, compassion, justice and forgiveness. Often we’ll receive what is needed. Sometimes it will arrive in surprising forms and resources, or show up on a schedule other than the one we consider to be ideal.

Yet we know, because we’ve all been disappointed, that sometimes what we need doesn’t come. Not in time. What happens if we ask for help, and don’t receive it? Does that mean we’re not among the blessed?

In fact, just the opposite. The blessing remains true. In our need, we reclaim the power to offer compassion and mercy to others who apparently also need it. Sometimes that involves those who hurt and fail us. Thus, when we’re in need of kindness and compassion, and it doesn’t come to us, we may find ourselves once more in the role of giving compassion to those who ought to have extended it to us.

Please note that all of these aspirations: peace, forgiveness, and justice, are processes. They unfold over time. They may recur in cycles. And they should be done with care to mitigate self-harm. We may have to revisit them over and over, and do the work, again, to both offer them and to accept them into our lives.

Along the way, we cannot fix everything that is wrong in the world. Nor can another person address all the issues that may arise in our own lives. Yet we can support each other. We can look, with renewed clarity, and recognize the holy presence of God showing up as our family, friends or neighbors … or sometimes strangers … just when we needed tender and tenacious care. — Rev Gail

MEDITATIONS:

The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent—strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration. ― Bryan Stevenson

The beatitude suggests that we know mercy because we have been given it. And we have been given mercy because we need it. — Martha Stortz

There is a very deep connection, emphasized in scripture, between one’s relationship with God and one’s relationship with others. Closing one’s heart to a brother means automatically closing one’s heart to God and his grace, while opening one’s heart to another ss a sure way of opening one’s heart to God and his abundant blessings. — Jacques Philippe

Challenge or Question: Identify a time when you had to ask for help. What was that like? What did you learn about yourself? How did it change your ability to request and receive compassion and supportive care from others going forward?

Lenten Devotional – Mon, Mar 8: HUNGRY

In the Gospel of Luke, the blessing extended by this Beatitude is offered to the appetites of the body. “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.” Yet the author of Matthew deliberately deepens and extends the intention of Christ’s blessing. He suggests that it is given to those who hunger for righteousness.

What does that word, righteousness, even mean to us? What are we yearning for, if we desire righteousness?

In simple terms, it means right relationship. We use the language of longing for God, if we are Christians. We might reach for other ethical expressions, if we don’t come from this faith tradition. Such a desire for a bond with the sacred — to relate to something or someone beyond ourselves — seems intrinsic to humanity: we were created to be connected.

Relationships are essential to humans. Our brains are wired that way, our communities are shaped that way.

Of course, just because Matthew points us toward the spiritual aspect of our longing, doesn’t overlook bodily needs During his life, Jesus first addressed the most immediate physical requirements of people in his company: food and drink, healing and respite. Only then did he teach and preach, offering a different sort of satisfaction that sated and quenched the soul, too.

We, in turn, are tasked to meet the fundamental needs of our brothers and sisters in this world. It’s an ethical imperative taught and practiced among all faith traditions: care for those who are vulnerable.

We should pay attention to this category. If those who are hungry in their bellies are vulnerable, then those of us who long for righteousness are also vulnerable. In our longing, we sometimes turn to other forms of comfort or fulfillment. We feed cravings and appetites in dangerous or destructive ways rather than healthy ones.

Constantly, God calls us away from habits, passions, hungers and thirsts that interrupt our holy relationship with Godself. Christ is known, to us, as the Bread of Life. As humans, we’re forever re-committing ourselves to our holy and holistic connection to God, then breaking the promise, straying away or even turning completely aside, only to find ourselves once more in a place of need and hunger.

Did you know that repent means to turn in a new direction? During Lent, we repent. This season, repenting turns us — or returns us — to a holistic connection with Love, meeting the needs of body, mind, and spirit.  — Rev Gail

The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry. — Simone Weil

It has been well said that a hungry man is more interested in four sandwiches than four freedoms. — Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread. — Mahatma Gandhi

We all have a hungry heart, and one of the things we hunger for is happiness. So as much as I possibly could, I stayed where I was happy. — Mary Oliver

Challenge or Question: What are the appetites in your life? Which ones are unhealthy or out of control? Which ones do you want to adjust for greater wellbeing?

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