By the Reverend Whitney Burton
One year in college, I gave up meat for Lent. Beef, pork, chicken, seafood, you name it, all the meat. I didn’t do it to be more sustainable, or because I was worried about ethical issues, but because I knew it would be difficult. I was accustomed to meat at most meals and so giving up meat for the 40 days of Lent was my way of creating a constant reminder of the season that we were in.
What I realized is that I tended to be more focused on the lamb chops I was going to have on Easter Day than I was on the changes my Lenten discipline was having on me, both inside and out. Taking something I liked out of my routine during Lent made me more focused on myself, rather than on Christ’s witness to the world, and so as the years have passed I have learned that taking on a spiritual discipline is what feeds me, be it prayer, study, reading or something else.
We began Lent this year not only contemplating our own mortality on Ash Wednesday, but also the mortality of 17 children and teachers killed in a school shooting in Florida. I find myself constantly thinking of our own youth here, several of whom have friends at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and received live updates via text and Snapchat during the events that occurred there on February 14, Ash Wednesday. As our youth seek to console their friends in Parkland, I am encouraged by their strength and courage, and their dedication to show love.
We are called to a holy Lent through self-examination and repentance. This Lent I am examining my own sins, and our communal sins – sins of fear and inaction. I repent and ask for forgiveness from God, and I look toward our youth and the youth around the country who are leading the way in change. These children are standing up for their own, and for those they have lost, and they amaze me.
This Lent, I say their names out loud in prayer every day, and I dwell on the beautiful lives that were already a light in the darkness, and that had the potential to become so much more. I give thanks for their classmates who are standing up and telling us all that they won’t sit around and let this become just another tragic statistic. They remind me of the grace and courage of Christ, and they empower me to do something and stand along with them.
I pray for Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Scott Beigel, 35; Martin Duque, 14; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Aaron Feis, 37; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Chris Hixon, 49; Luke Hoyer, 15; Cara Loughran, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Alaina Petty, 14; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsay, 17; Alex Schachter, 14; Carmen Schentrup, 16; Peter Wang, 15. I pray for the repose of those souls, both children and adults. I pray for love to overcome darkness in this world. And I pray for repentance for my own silence and that our “thoughts and prayers” will change us and turn into action.
If you are struggling with your Lenten discipline – perhaps that you just can’t stick to it, or it’s not having a spiritual effect, or maybe you just got too busy to pick one this year – whatever the reason, if you need a new discipline for the remainder of the season, I invite you to join me and pray. Pray for the souls of those killed in Florida and around our country lost to senseless violence, and for their families. Pray for the strength and courage to seek change, and pray that our prayers turn into action, being strengthened by the Holy Spirit.