I have always appreciated reading the Psalms. The Psalmist tells it like it is, including the not-so-occasional emotional outburst. Today we hear the entreaty, “Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress…answer me speedily.” Let’s be clear: this is not about God answering our desire to win the lottery, it’s about articulating our greatest needs, hopes, and loves, and having the faith and confidence that an answer exists and will be revealed, often in unexpected ways.
In the Numbers reading, as the people of Israel were afflicted by the otherwise fatal bites of fiery serpents in the desert, an answer was unexpectedly given in the form of a bronze serpent—a Biblically cursed figure. They were to look to it for healing. To look was to live. Is deliverance, thus, bound up with coming face to face with that which is afflicted in this world, and to see this pain and brokenness not as someone else’s problem or responsibility, but as very much our own?
This Lent, as we seek reconciliation in our journey toward the Cross and the resurrection, what are we willing to look at? In the wake of the January 6 Capitol attack, many argued that that day did not reflect “who we are” as Americans. And yet, how long has the violence and virulence of racism and white supremacy plagued this nation? Will we—especially white Americans—look away?
Unity in our democracy will come by seeing and seeking the truth. So too, the pandemic will never be recovered from until we fully realize and repair the wide racial, health, educational, and economic disparities it has revealed. We are not alone in this task. The Psalmist reminds us that God looks “down from his holy height…To hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die.”
- As part of your Lenten practice, how can you strive to not look away from the afflictions of this world, and instead, participate in God’s liberation?
Julie Schumacher Cohen is assistant vice president for community engagement and government affairs at the University of Scranton, where she focuses on community-based learning, political dialogue, refugee solidarity, and other civic engagement initiatives. Prior to Scranton, she worked for NGOs to advance peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians. Cohen is a doctoral student in political science at Temple University and an alumna of the Ignatian Colleagues Program.