From Today’s First Reading:
‘Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast.’
Over the weeks of Lent, we will introduce you to a number of the refugees JRS accompanies. We invite you to assemble alongside them, and share in community with them.
Can you sense God’s presence in their experiences?
This week we introduce you to Ibrahim. Like all those we accompany through the JRS Day Centre, he has been made destitute as he seeks to gain recognition of his status as a refugee.
Ibrahim grew up in a small village in West Africa. He’s been in the UK for around fifteen years.
Ibrahim loves football: he has played the game all of his life and you can see the joy in his face when he speaks about it and how his team are doing in the league. Each Monday night he gathers with his teammates to play football in the park. He enjoys playing watching football with others; it’s an opportunity to make new friends and to catch-up with old ones; it’s an enlivening experience.
“When you watch a football match together, when you enjoy it, you forget about the problems you have. You meet people who support different teams, you rejoice and commiserate together. You have conversations together, and build relationships. It helps you forget your problems.”
It is as if this experience of football holds his past and present together, gives the hope of community – and, for Ibrahim, is a clear island of relief and hope.
An Invitation to Prayer
We invite you to take some time with Ibrahim’s journey and today’s readings, and join with Fr Brian, chaplain to JRS, in prayer and reflection.
Although the prophet Joel’s call for a ‘solemn assembly’ doesn’t sound like a football match or a gathering to watch a game, it does involve something like Ibrahim’s sense of a real and true community. And that is something we all need. It’s rather different from the non-community generated by ‘parading’ one’s good deeds, as Matthew speaks of in today’s Gospel, where it seems community has been reduced to a competition which isolates the losers.
Perhaps we can make an extra effort during Lent to be aware of experiences of community which do matter or have been important to us and to others – and to look for opportunities for being part of a community or communities which may or may not be ‘solemn’, but which do enhance and widen our hope and the image of what our lives are for.
Fr Brain McClorry SJ
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