From Today’s First Reading:
‘Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me – it is the Lord who speaks – to break unjust fetters and undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke, to share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, to clothe the man you see to be naked and not turn from your own kin?’
As we journey together, we introduce you to a number of the refugees JRS accompanies. As we listen to Ibrahim today where do you hear the Lord speak to you?
This week, we introduce you to Ibrahim, who today recalls his first few weeks and months in the UK.
“I arrived in the UK in August 2004. I was taken from the airport straight to the detention centre – I can’t remember where it was. I was there for about a month.
“I didn’t understand where I was, or what was happening. I had very little English. They released me from detention with very little information. They just sent me to the Home Office in London Bridge.”
Ibrahim struggled to travel from the detention centre to the Home Office. He didn’t know the way and the directions he was given were all in English. It wasn’t easy to navigate London transport, and he struggled to ask for help.
“I couldn’t speak any English, I couldn’t understand anything. Nothing, nothing at all. It makes me dizzy to think about it now. I was so confused; I didn’t know where I was.”
Ibrahim struggles to remember the thoughts and feelings of those first few weeks and months in the UK. Without being able to understand or speak English, it was difficult for him to get the help and support he needed. It’s fifteen years ago since Ibrahim arrived in the UK. The experiences of those first few months still affect him.
“From then up to now, it’s been a struggle. Still struggling. From 2004, until now. It’s 2019 now…Fifteen years.”
An Invitation to Prayer
We invite you to take some time with Ibrahim’s journey and today’s readings, and join with Fr Brian, a member of the JRS team, in prayer and reflection.
For Isaiah, the fast that ‘pleases’ God is a practical one. In Ibrahim’s case, this could have been anything from language help, information – even street directions – help to understand the ‘system’; mentoring, accommodation, sustenance, communication, or just the giving of time. The list of things that would make a difference is both rich and perhaps depressingly endless. Moreover, these matters which are clearly need, are not reducible to individual good will and actions. They also raise social and political questions about government policy and how to influence policy for the better.
The ‘fasting’ Jesus speaks of concerns an awareness and understanding of the situation in which we and others find ourselves in. We’re best not praying (or fasting) in an abstract way unconnected with our lives, or with the cultural, social and political world in which we actually live, move and have our being.
Perhaps today we can take some space to reflect on how we live in our world, in our communities; and what values move us closer to God?
Brian McClorry SJ
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