There are still many who need help post Sandy. Our families still struggle. They struggle with dealing with the insurance company, understanding FEMA, learning how to live in a new house or a half finished house, and the stress and trauma of it all. Lent is a time when we as a Church take a look at our lives and how we are living our faith. We focus on praying, giving alms and fasting. I ask that this Lent, you walk your journey with us, still struggling in a post Sandy world.
For Ash Wednesday, prepare a basket or tote that will keep items from your Lenten reflection. These items will benefit a family that you will keep in prayer during Lent. You may not know the name of your family, but keep them and their struggle in prayer this season.
On Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten journey often by deciding on something to give up. Sometimes we decide to do something during Lent rather than simply give something up. This year, work on doing both. Commit to praying each day for a family affected by a hurricane. Perhaps it is a family like your own, perhaps you imagine one with children, or perhaps an older couple who are enjoying retirement. In addition, decide to give up one luxury you enjoy during the Lenten season. Perhaps it is buying candy bars, a cup of coffee each morning, or seeing movies on the weekend. Whatever you decide to sacrifice during Lent, take money you would have spent on that luxury and place it in your basket.
The responsorial psalm for the First Sunday of Lent, “Be with me Lord when I am in trouble.” So often we call out to God and ask for help and guidance. Sometimes we do not hear God’s answer or feel God’s presence because we have not stilled ourselves or our faith is shaken and we give in to temptations to despair. This Sunday, write a note to the family you are praying for. Send them a message of hope that God is with them through this journey. Remind them of God’s love and your communion with them during this Lenten season.
On the Second Sunday of Lent, we are told the story of the Transfiguration. Before the apostles, Jesus is glorified with Moses and Elijah. It is a time when Jesus is told that He will lead an Exodus. The victims of Sandy are waiting for an exodus of their own. Our community is in need of assistance in moving out of the devastation and rebuilding. Put a tool of rebirth into your basket, a screw driver, a hammer, a saw, a gift card for Home Depot or some other object that reminds you of rebirth.
“All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink” is from the Gospel of the Third Sunday of Lent. Immediately after Sandy, donations of food poured into the area. The need of food pantries has only increased since the storm as many families have been so affected financially by the storm. This week into your basket, place food items for the physical nourishment of a family. Also place an item in for their spiritual nourishment, a note of hope from you, a favorite scripture quote, or a recording of an uplifting song.
The Prodigal Son Gospel on the Fourth Sunday of Lent is one that we all know well. So often we have turned away from all that is good and yet God continually welcomes us home. God has prepared for us a feast every Sunday. The families that were affected by Sandy are waiting to prepare a feast for their families but do not have items to prepare that feast. In your basket, place a small kitchen appliance, table clothes, silver ware, or other kitchen items so that a feast may be prepared.
“The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy” the psalm from the 5th Sunday of Lent. The joy of the coming of Easter. What brings you joy? When you are stressed and tired, what makes your heart sing? Perhaps it is eating at your favorite restaurant, maybe coffee from D&D or Starbucks, maybe reading a good book, relaxing in a hot bath, or being with your family. Put in your basket, that which brings you joy to share with your family. Maybe movie theater tickets, a gift card to a restaurant, a Barnes and Noble gift card, bath salts or a spa gift card.
When we reach Palm Sunday, we know what is to come at the end of the week. We begin to remember the Passion of Christ, we realize the sacrifice that God has made for us. We realize our role in the Passion as we read aloud the part of the crowd shouting “Crucify Him.” This is a Holy Week and one which requires much reflection from us about the Paschal Mystery and how that plays in our lives. Those suffering from the effects of Super Storm Sandy need to know that Easter Sunday comes at the end of this week. That only because of Good Friday can we celebrate fully the joy of Christ’s resurrection. Into your basket this week, place food to remember the meal of Holy Thursday, cleansing items to remember Jesus’ washing the feet of the disciples, nails to symbolize the crucifixion of Christ, sheets to remember the shroud of Christ buried in the tomb, and bulbs to remember the joy of the Resurrection and Christ emerging from the tomb.
During the week after Easter we are filled with joy, we have worn our new Easter outfits, perhaps even a new bonnet. We have celebrated with family and friends and we are filled with hope that spring is coming. Hopefully this journey through Lent has reminded you that others have a hard time celebrating that Hope, that some are stuck remembering Good Friday too often and not feeling the joy of Easter in their daily life. Continue to offer prayers for them that they will truly feel the joy of the Resurrection daily in their life. On Divine Mercy Sunday, take your basket to an area affected by Sandy and bring that joy to someone. Live out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy by sharing your basket with someone in need.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Highlands, NJ will accept baskets on Sunday, April 7 from Noon to 2pm. You can contact Melissa Whelan Wisk at email@example.com for more information.