As we journey through Lent, we invite you to enter into a journey alongside the refugees we accompany. Notice the Lord’s guiding presence and generosity in their story. Where do you long for Him to give you relief in your own life?
In this first week of Lent, we introduced you to Quasi, who was accompanied by staff and volunteers from JRS Europe as he journeyed across land and sea in search of safety.
Danielle, as JRS staff member, reflects on meeting Quasi and Ahmed on their journey, of the kindness and hardship that they met along the way, aware that she saw only part of their journey.
“It is difficult to know how to end this story, which touches me every time I remember Qusai’s suffering, his courage, his unforgettable personality, and the goodness of Ahmed, Eleni and his online friends. I’ll end with what Qusai expressed as his life vision, which he was prepared to die for and will now hopefully become his reality:
Today we invite you to take some time to sit with today’s reading, to join Frank Turner SJ in prayer and reflection:
Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord offers his people a wonderful promise. But the promise is not merely a reassurance. In context, it has two key elements, the first of which is a condition: that they refrain from ‘trampling on the sabbath’. ‘The Lord will say, “Here I am” … if you remove the yoke from among you’.
The people have fulfilled the fasting laws, but complain that God is not moved. The verses immediately before the passage above, therefore, stress that the ritual of fasting is only authentic if fasting also expresses solidarity with those whose hunger is not a religious choice but the burden imposed by an unjust society. To deny this solidarity by actively exploiting the vulnerable is not merely ‘hypocrisy’. It poisons the entire character of a symbolic religious act that calls us to conversion, by enabling us to experience our own human weakness and dependence – for example, our almost pathetic need for constant nourishment. We cannot truly desire the Lord’s consolation and guidance so long as we refuse to be shaped by the Lord’s own care for the poor.
Second, when we read that ‘the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your needs in parched places’, we are invited to recall the founding Jewish experience of the Exodus. There, the people complain about the intolerable harshness of desert life, claiming to prefer even their former slavery in Egypt. In response the Lord provides manna. Now, writes Isaiah, the Lord’s gifts will actually surpass those of the Exodus. God will grant not emergency rations but ‘the waters of life’, ‘restored streets’, even ‘delight in the Lord’. But accepting God’s gifts implies our own openness to living a renewed life.