Pope Francis leads the Ash Wednesday mass opening Lent, the forty-day period of abstinence and deprivation for Christians, before Holy Week and Easter on February 18, 2015 at Santa Sabina church in Rome. AFP PHOTO POOL / GABRIEL BOUYSGABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images
Okay, so I’m not particularly religious. And I’m definitely not Catholic, though my boys do go to a Catholic school for various reasons. In fact, I was raised Methodist and I have never fasted for Lent in my life. It always seemed meaningless to me, giving up candy or pop or wine. I’ve since changed that thought, understanding that the significance comes from the heart of the faster and what it means to them, not in the surface presentation of the act. But even after that understanding, I still never participated. Until I read something that made me think twice about Lent this year.
An article from TIME surfaced on Facebook in which the writer, Christopher Hale, talks about Pope Francis’s Lent Message from 2015. You can read Hale’s words here and Pope Francis’s full message here. For good measure, here is Francis’s Lenten Message for 2016. Pope Francis talks about fasting from global indifference and also about having a heart full of mercy. I won’t go into detail, but I encourage you to read all three articles above. They’re short, and full of meaningful words we can all take to heart.
In fact, they got me thinking: In what way can I fast from indifference? I mean, I’m a pretty compassionate and empathetic person. I care about my fellow man and try to do acts of charity and goodwill from holding the door for a stranger to donating money to a charity to volunteering for local charity events. And I go beyond that to try to improve my own heart and understanding by reading about people who are not like me in an effort to understand their view point. What else can I do?
Arguably, there is a lot more that I can do, because I am far from being a saint. Short of dedicating my life to helping others and rejecting all material possessions, I’m not sure any of us really do as much as we could to better the world around us. But the one thing that kept coming back to me is that the cure for indifference is understanding. Without exposure to new ideas, different viewpoints, other experiences, we continue along in our little worlds oblivious to what goes on around us, just outside of our immediate bubble of community.
This, in fact, was a game changer for me. A few years ago I really began to break my bubble and try to see the world through eyes that had seen more than white straight Christian rural America. This is what I had known my whole life. And it was strangling my ability to be truly compassionate about others. Sure I felt sorry for others, but that is pity. No one needs pity. They need compassion, a hand up, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a mouth to stay closed.
Stay closed? But I’m American! We speak our mind. Freedom of speech! It’s my right to say whatever I think whenever I think it.
True, but no. Understanding doesn’t come with spouting your own ideals and thoughts. Understanding, the battle against indifference, comes when we LISTEN to others, internalize the words, and allow them to help shape our hearts. It doesn’t mean you have to believe every other viewpoint given to you. But you do need to take the time to think about it before completely rejecting it.
So for this Lenten season, I will attempt to post on my blog, Facebook and Twitter, links to articles, blog posts or even Twitter accounts that reflect a viewpoint that might be different than mainstream white straight Christian America. It’s kind of a momentous undertaking, so I may miss some days, but I’ll do my best to share with you some of the things that have helped me to understand my role in this world and how I affect people I will never meet. Through education we can better ourselves and the world around us.
**On a side note, this exercise is meant for the improving of ones mind, not their debating skills. If you disagree with me, or any of the articles I present, please keep it to yourself. I do not want to bring negative commentors to the blogs I share, nor do I care to hear your arguments about what I’m doing. This is for educational purposes. Take what you can from it, but don’t leave your crap behind**
**And if you have suggestions of articles or blogs that I can share, please leave links below! I would love help in this endeavor.**