Too many of my friends are struggling and in pain these days, it seems. "Tough economy" doesn't begin to describe what it means to find yourself out of work, interminably, after years of sharing your expertise, experience and dedication. It doesn't touch what it means to drag yourself to a job you live in gut-wrenching fear of losing, or one where the ground feels shaky under your feet. And it doesn't hint at the corrosive anguish of wondering how the hell you will make ends meet, for months or years on end.
This is a "tough topic" in Lent, when we are called traditionally to fasting, prayer and almsgiving. That last one in particular: What are we called to do for "the poor" when we worry about meeting our own needs and those of our families? I sometimes want to shake Jesus and remind him that the "lilies of the field" never had to feed or educate their kids, pay for health care, or survive retirement. Yes, I know—giving alms can involve "time and talent" as well as, or instead of, "treasure." But it can be tempting to despair that your time and talent are valued by no one, at least in worldly coin. No easy answers, except that it sucks, and that by now I have a stumbling hope that God is closest to us when things suck the worst.
Here is a morning prayer steeped in the hope of compassion. As someone who struggles horribly with mornings, I love its acknowledgement that some days will be harder than others. Thanks to Mary Margaret Cannon of my faith community, the Oratory Church of St. Boniface, for posting it online today; it is attributed to St. Boniface, a British missionary to Germanic tribes who once hacked down an oak tree worshipped by pagans and who surely had his share of discouragement.
the refuge of all your children,
in our weakness, you are our strength,
in our darkness, you are our light,
in our sorrow, you are our comfort and peace.
May we always live in your presence,
and serve you in our daily lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.