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Lent Isn't Just About You


Apr 14 2014
Why one Catholic writer went on a mission to do more than self-improve.

In recent years, Lent has become more than an opportunity to give up chocolate, as Christians explore ways to use the 40-day period to engage social justice issues, such as hunger, clean water, and poverty.

Bridging spiritual disciplines with mercy ministry, 31-year-old Kerry Weber took up the New Testament call to tend the physical, bodily needs of people around her in New York City. She spent the months leading up to Easter doing one act of mercy a week, living out the belief that Lent wasn't just about her self-improvement, but about God's justice and love toward her community and her church.

The managing editor of the Catholic magazine America, Weber shares her Lenten project and wrestles with the practical ways to pursue justice in her new book Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job. She spoke with Religion News Service national correspondent Sarah Pulliam Bailey.

How did you decide to embark on your mercy project during Lent?

Setting a deadline of doing these things within a certain limit forced me to really start doing mercy. Then from there, I figured out what I felt called to continue after Lent and viewed the experiment as more of a discernment process. Lent was a good time for that kind of self-reflection, answering questions like, "Where are you in your relationship toward your community. Where are you in your relationship to God? What things do you need to do to improve both of those things?" It seemed like the perfect time to do that.

For your project, you set out to complete the "seven corporal works of mercy," which you'll have to explain to most Protestants.

You'll have to explain it to most Catholics. [laughter] They're generally attributed to the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus says "Whenever you do one of these things for the least of my brothers, you do them unto me." The things that get listed in various versions of the Gospel are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead. We can write it off, like "Yeah, we'll do these," but this is not on the periphery of our faith. These acts are central to our faith, and we forget that. It's very easy to forget that because we're busy, or because it's hard to think about that we don't really want to consider what that means for our life.

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