By Cynthia Sartor, Companion in Mercy

Lent is coming. A quiet, peaceful time of reflection. It begins with the sobering sound of ashes being gently rubbed onto our foreheads and ends with spring flowers filling the air with color and fragrance and surprise. This Lent we are being encouraged to spend time praying with the Corporal Works of Mercy.

Is it possible to look beyond the ordinary words we use and seek out hidden meanings? Words define and sometimes limit our reality. When we think of bread, we envision a loaf of warm bread from the oven. When we think of someone naked, we envision a person not wearing clothing. When we think of the homeless, we are frequently reminded of the families living in shelters or the stranger whose clothes are dirty and who smells.

Can we challenge ourselves and go beyond our traditional word-defined realities? Can we free ourselves from the conventional, the habitual, the customary and travel beyond what we have learned or memorized in order to see whatever else God has in Her mind for us to discover?

Is it possible for us to walk the streets and hallways of our ordinary daily lives and find those who are thirsting for inspiration, hungry for companionship, or need someone to clothe them with compassion and understanding? Is it conceivable that we could provide a home for those needing no more than rest and acceptance? Is it even possible for us to open our morning eyes and see those who are sick at heart and needing hope, those who have imprisoned themselves in self-hatred and doubt needing love and friendship, and those whose failings and wrongdoings need to be forgiven and buried?

As Mercy, we have the potential to change the world, to care for the impoverished, comfort those who walk with sadness, help the timid and fearful, provide for those who are needing inspiration and companionship, attend to those overlooked by others, see innocence and humor in an ordinary day, provide a place of peace for the troubled, and attend to those needing healing from their weariness and wondering.

Let the ashes of this special Wednesday remind us of our commitment to work Mercy in the most ordinary of ways during our daily, ordinary lives. And, as Catherine said, “We should be shining lamps, giving light to all around us.”