The news of the day and our Lenten obligation

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake that shook Chile over the weekend killed more than 700 persons and displaced a few million more. At this point – remembering that these numbers are expected to increase but we know not by how much – the news is relatively sparse, so far-reaching conclusions aren’t easily deduced.

Last we checked, Episcopal Relief & Development had little else besides – they’re busily “reaching out to dioceses in the affected areas to determine the best course of action.” What more, really, at this point without risking misinformation?

Perhaps only that the prayers and alms-giving of the faithful are urged. Again.

As we saw when Haiti suffered its major, history-making catastrophe recently, the simple outpouring of Christian compassion can be overwhelming all on its own (even if it results in misguided attempts to express itself). Thankfully, if reports are accurate, Chile’s oranges will not be Haiti’s apples. Still, the hurt remains, and just because the media has moved its camera does not excuse us from praying for and with Haitians – which if true begs us to remember not just the Haitians but, in fact, all who need “deliverance from [any] danger, violence, oppression, and[/or] degradation.”

Yet our imaginations and memories grow short; we get tired and overinformed. We forget how to pray, or we just forget. And so Lent thunders its demands, asks us to assume obligations that help us see with fresh, new eyes. Everywhere we cast the penitential gaze (whether with computer and television screens or just walking the streets of our towns), we can detect hunger and hurt, both immeasurably large and improbably subtle. Technology has shrunk our world, and we can judge for ourselves how much pain exists in it. If we pay attention, our hearts will break. Our hearts will break, and the hours will pray themselves in us.

Tend the sick, Lord Christ;
give rest to the weary, bless

the dying,
soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted,
shield the

and all for your love’s sake.

A Lutheran colleague recently noted that Lent is inherently incongruous because while we say we enter into the desert with Christ, many of us in the U.S. live in a land flowing with milk and honey, and are so immersed and lost in it that we can’t catch the distinction for long without losing it.

So let us take the words we so often hear and repeat on this Lord’s day – words we so often say without due regard – and let us commend them, and all our life, to the God whose care extends over all.

“The Lord be with you … Let us pray.”

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