Reflection on Community
Written by Janice D’souza
Julian Year corps member
Growing up super-duper Catholic in India, I’ve had a challenging and exciting relationship with Lent – especially with the privilege of it all. What some might find difficult to be without for a month is a luxury for others, and it is a privilege to be in a position to sacrifice anything at all. How lucky we are to give up candy for Lent when so many people cannot afford food. I think about my family in India, who gave up one extra thing because we felt like we should go further into the wilderness by inconveniencing ourselves for Lent. I have found solace in an address Pope Francis gave last year – “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance.”
This year with the Julian Year in Chicago, I had the chance to work through my questions and learn more about Lent in my community. During dinner, we read sermons by Oscar Romero to further understand how to be in solidarity with the community we live in as well as the global community. Because this is a year of intentional simplicity and service, our community delved deep into the question of who or what we are sacrificing for for Lent. Is it for ourselves? So much of Lenten practice these days seems to be about giving up things for self-improvement, that it’s almost become a second chance for New Years resolutions.
I am using these forty days of Lent to add things to my life rather than removing them. I have always wanted to learn about saints, so this Lenten season, I am participating in Lent Madness. I have to come to realize that to love is to be inconvenienced, so I am letting myself be inconvenienced by actually returning phone calls, and walking out in the Chicago winter to have a friend date when all I want to do is watch The Office. Investing in love and community seems like the perfect fast but it also calls us to be vulnerable and inconvenienced by putting others needs before ours. But it is a luxury we owe each other, even after Lent is over.