Sunday, March 1, 2015

Thoughts in Solitude

Two Lenten reflections:

1. The most important thing our cat does not know, of all the millions of things she is unaware, is that she is dying. Lizzie, perhaps 19, is a quiet tabby we  have had for the past 15 years as an indoor cat; she once enjoyed being outdoors on our porch and at night she would play with me before licking my wife's face in bed.

Now Lizzie sleeps curled up in a corner, half-hidden by a curtain, as if trying to retreat from us. She emerges only to eat and use her box, where she seems slightly disoriented. She has no interest in being playful or being petted. Yet she is spared, as I am not, the keen awareness of age, infirmity, and the coming of death.

I think of this daily now since I am aware of my 93-year-old neighbor who is near death in a nursing home wondering, as he tells me, why he is being kept alive. I have no answer.  He must know it would be a great relief for his wife and family if he passed, yet it is not God's will--yet.

My own aging process fills me at times with great dread as I think of being sent to a nursing home to die or picture myself hobbling around my home half-crippled with arthritis.  All I can do is find time each day to be grateful for all that is good in my life and to be productive, even when surrounded by reminders of mortality.

None of this is as depressing as it may sound since I am glad to be aware of what is going on since it forces me into prayer and reflection.

2.  A shared insight from Richard Rohr, the Franciscan writer:  Most of the untold millions of people who have lived on this planet have been poor and powerless, often oppressed.  Their history is seldom told. A major exception is the Bible, which uniquely legitimizes those on the bottom while criticizing those with wealth and power. Is it any wonder that the Bible and the faith it records remain alive for countless people?

An important topic for Lenten reflection is being mindful of the poor and marginalized, who are so often unseen in our affluent society. I think of Pope Francis' call for a poor church, "a church for the poor."  He does more than speak. This week, a homeless man was buried in a special part of the Vatican cemetery reserved for German priests.

Francis doesn't worry about setting a precedent--if we do this for one, how many more will expect to be buried there?  Such is the likely fear of many in powerful places in Rome and elsewhere.  And I doubt if the German priests will mind sharing space with a no-body who lived on the streets.

It is good to see the Vatican moving in some surprising new ways to pay attention to the poor, who are the image of Christ among us.

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