I'm grateful to be here today and to share with you my thoughts of what Lent is all about. And as we celebrate, and as we continue our journey, on Ash Wednesday, I prepared by having three things with me: I had the Scriptures for the day; a dictionary; and a book entitled Black Pearls, which was written by Eric Copage. And it is collection of daily meditations, affirmations and inspirations for African Americans. I've been a teacher in the classroom for 19 years, and therefore I also have homework and you will have homework at the end of this presentation.
As I think of myself as a child, as a child, I thought as a child. And Lent for me as a child was to give up chocolate ice cream and chocolate candy and chocolate cake. And if it lasted a week, I was lucky. I also very much looked forward to Sundays because I knew I didn't have to fast on Sundays. I now am a woman. And I think as a woman. And as a woman, I know the scriptures and look at them to see what I must do. The readings for Ash Wednesday give me a lot to do. And I will focus on the fact that in the readings, I see Jesus calling me to be intentional and to be motivational. My second scripture, Black Pearls, tells me to also have a purpose; on March second, Ash Wednesday, it says that I need to have purpose.
Looking at the readings, looking at what I feel scripture is saying to me in these 40 days that I am going to be on a journey, I will first look at it at one day at a time. I feel that in doing that, it helps me to focus and to know that I have the graces and blessings of each day. We know the scriptures also tell us that today is the day of salvation. So today - each day of Lent - as I go through it, I will focus on one thing that day.
And the scriptures say a lot about almsgiving. For me, almsgiving is giving every part of my body - my voice, my heart, my lips, my ears. So each day of Lent, I will focus on giving one blessing, one grace that God has given me for that day. One day, it will be that I will speak out against an injustice; another day might be that I will comfort someone who has experienced a death in their family. On another day, it might be that I spend the 10 minutes with my God in silence and try to see what God is saying to me - being an intentional listener that day. What is God saying to me that day? It might be the time that I will enjoy the whole presence of the beauty of nature that God has given me. Whatever the one day is, that will be what I'll focus on. And that will be the almsgiving for that day.
In none of those experiences have I talked about giving money. It has been about giving of myself and of my body. And I feel if I do that, then really I am living out and being aware and being intentional about what God wants of me in Lent. And it is something that is not me giving up of anything except of myself. But it's giving of myself- being positive in what I am doing for the day. And I feel if I do that - if each day, I intentionally and purposefully look at something that I am doing, then I will be a real ambassador of my God. An ambassador who is a representative of who God is. If I do that, then I will be the ambassador and a true ambassador of what God wants me to be. And I will be therefore able - at the end of those 40 days, because I have intentionally given of myself to God during that time - at the feast of the Resurrection, when I am presenting myself and really seeing how God is presenting God's self to me in light, that I truly will be able to say that I have kept Lent and have purposely been a person who has been an ambassador of Christ.
And it is my challenge to you for you each day of Lent to purposefully, intentionally. Really see how you, with your gifts, with the gifts and graces that God has given to you, how you in the end will also be an ambassador. And therefore, together we will know that we have been using and have intentionally seen the real presence of God. The real giving of self and the real being of the ambassador to God. So that at the end of Lent, we will know that we have fulfilled the day of salvation and fulfilling what God has given to us. Amen.
Cora Marie Billings, RSM
Cora Marie Billings, RSM
Sister Cora Marie Billings has been a member of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas for 65 years. During that time she has been a Teacher, a Campus Minister and an Administrator. She is one of the Founding Members of the National Black Sisters’ Conference. Since 1968 she has been an advocate for human rights and anti-racism. . As such she has done presentations around the nation. At present she considers herself a Community Volunteer.
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