By Sr. Agnes Coveney, OSU

By this time in Lent, Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday are past. We are settling into the pattern of Lent—the Scripture readings, the spareness of this liturgical season, and the Lenten practices that we all do our best to adopt in these weeks. I remember a friend who worked with me when I was a newly vowed Ursuline Sister. My friend asked, since I was a Sister, if it was true that I could no longer eat candy bars or succumb to any other rich, favorite food whenever I wanted. I told my friend that, the hard thing was that we could eat candy bars, chocolate, and other good foods. Those kinds of rules weren’t set for us. Instead, the more difficult thing was setting my own healthy, temperate practices.

I still think of that question when I begin my human approach to Lent, working out what will be my Lenten practice. Will it be giving up some flavorful food as my friend imagined—always a good way to be mindful of those who don’t have food options?

Or will I challenge myself and ask what can I, in my daily interactions, do to be generous or kind or an advocate for social justice?

The readings for Monday of the first week of Lent call me, call all of us, to go the distance in Lent. First, there are the fundamental, essential commandments of God (Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18). As Lent begins, God’s rules for a faithful life are set before us to ponder quietly, to read to ourselves, to pray again.

Then, the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 25: 31-46) puts before us Jesus’ description of the judgment time, and the utter, stark question: When did we see our sisters and brothers hungry, ill, ostracized, ridiculed, isolated, or imprisoned and do nothing to help?

God’s commandments and Jesus’ teachings. Let’s contemplate these Scripture readings. Let’s be like St. Angela and sit at the feet of Jesus and let him teach us our Lenten way this year.

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,

and all the nations* will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,

naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?

When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?

When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’

Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’

He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’

And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Mt 25: 31-46