Since it’s been just about been a year since my last blog post, this post is long overdue. (The blog post about my terrible quarantine haircut doesn’t count 🙂 )
So much has happened since the beginning of the Lenten season in 2020, and in some ways, the past year feels like one long and neverending Lent. I recently read the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, and did I ever relate to the start of the biblical story. Naomi is a woman living in a foreign land due to famine in her home land of Judah. After experiencing the death of her husband, both of her two sons also die ten years later. Heartbroken and destitute, Naomi insists that her two daughters-in-law return to their parents while she makes the journey back to Bethlehem to find her way amidst tragedy. While one of the women relents and returns to her parents, the other woman, Ruth, refuses and accompanies Naomi back home.
When Naomi reaches Bethlehem, the town stirs and questions her return. However, Naomi tells them to call her “Mara”, which means “bitter” – not “Naomi”, which means “pleasant” – because the Lord has brought calamity upon her and her house.
Living through 2020, I can’t help but relate to Naomi’s sentiments when I think about what our country has experienced:
the racial reckoning that occurred as a result of the killing of African-Americans like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor;
the hundreds of thousands of lives lost due to the global pandemic;
the financial fallout resulting in lost jobs, closed businesses, evictions, hunger, and people finding themselves in desperate situations;
the devastating impact of closed schools, isolation, loneliness, and separation;
the political turmoil that erupted into the January 6th insurrection.
So much has occurred that I can’t help but feel the Lord has brought calamity upon our collective house, our nation.
And though it’s felt like one long Lent, I believe that observing Lent 2021 is even more important this year. We started the season with having ashes sprinkled on our heads, which symbolize penance, mourning, and mortality. I’m going to use these forty-something days to really let that truth set in. To repent for my sins, to mourn all the death and destruction in our midst, and to acknowledge that my time on earth is finite, so I need to be about my Father’s business while I’m here.
I pray, on a national level, we do the same. In many ways, our country has been brought to its knees. So this Lent, I hope that Americans turn away from racism, xenophobia, and prejudice that has plagued our country since before its inception. That we acknowledge and mourn all those who have died from the pandemic due to a lack of health care infrastructure and the politicization of a deadly virus. And that we understand that our democracy is fragile, and we have to be committed to living out and protecting the principles that we claim our country is founded upon.
Though Lent is hard and long, it always ends the same: with Easter and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Likewise, Naomi’s story doesn’t end in despair. Through God’s providence, Ruth is redeemed by a man named Boaz. He marries Ruth, and takes both her and Naomi into his home. By God’s grace, Ruth has a child who becomes the generational line to King David and ultimately Jesus. Though Naomi went through trying times and hardship, God never left her or forsake her, just like He never leaves or forsakes any of His children.
Scripture and knowledge of God give me confidence that when I am obedient to Him, and when I persevere in faith, my story will be redeemed. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’” declares the Lord, “’plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Amidst the uncertainty and trials of the past year, I’ve seen God’s plans unfold in my life. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with faithful people in the Black Catholic community, co-founded Black Catholic Messenger, grown my Youtube Channel, and signed a contract for my third novel, Last Place Seen, which is slated to be released in Winter 2021.
I know it will take time and patience to see our nation redeemed. However, I hope we don’t go “back” to the way things were before the pandemic. I hope we move forward and build a solid infrastructure for our country that includes equal rights, protection, and opportunities for every person regardless of skin color or economic status.
This Lent, I’m going to continue my prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, with the confidence that Easter’s coming.