taking the words of Jesus seriously
As St. Oscar Romero declared, “Our Lent should awaken a sense of social justice.”
He also pressed, “A Church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what Gospel is that?”
For followers of Jesus, Lent is a time for personal and societal repentance, radical conversion, renewal and social transformation. Living under the brutal occupation of the Roman empire, Jesus declared: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk.1:15) Living in the U.S. empire, which is responsible for so much needless death and suffering in our world, we need to heed Jesus’ proclamation now more than ever.
Upon prayerfully reflecting on this Isaiah passage in recent years, which is read by many Christians every Lent, I was inspired to make it more contemporary, as if Isaiah were speaking to the nation today. This meditation was written  before the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. Now, as this health crisis worsens, may it move us to pray for everyone who is directly affected by this pandemic, take responsible precautions, and do all we can to help and support one another as we cope with a crisis that is daily impacting our lives.
In addition to our prayers and social distancing, followers of Jesus can insist that the Trump Administration, Congress and the U.S. power structure discontinue the wasting and misusing of money and resources on weapons, endless wars, bailouts for the rich and oil companies, and instead use these resources and take the necessary action to address the pandemic in all its ramifications and provide free universal health care to all people everywhere, especially the poor and those at risk.
During this Lenten Season, I pray that Christ followers can take Isaiah’s words to heart, become repairers of the breach—agents of healing and hope—and labor to create the Beloved Community that’s possible through the nonviolent transformation of our society and world.

READ: #LentTogether: The Cost of Discipleship in Community

Cry out, don’t hold back.

Lift up your voice like a trumpet.

Announce to my people their rebellion, 

To the nation their sins.


Yet, day after day, the rulers and countless people invoke my name,

as if they practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God.

They delight to invoke my name to bless their violent deeds.

They use my name to bless their wars and their weapons.

We practice good religion, they say.

We pray and serve our country well.

We keep good law and order.


Look, you serve your own interests, not mine says Yahweh.

You follow your religion of nationalism, materialism and militarism.

You are slaves to selfishness.

You know not my ways.

You don’t know how to fast—your rituals are empty.

You assert an authority you say is rooted in morality—based on justice and truth.

You hypocrites!

Your morality is rooted in worshiping idols—gods of metal, money, power, greed.

You are desecrating and destroying the earth!

You worship false gods, not me!


Is not this the fast that I choose—the real act of worship that I desire:

to undo the bindings of the yoke, to renounce empire, 

to resist all violence, racism, sexism, discrimination and killing,

to let the oppressed go free, to disarm and abolish nuclear weapons, killer drones and all weapons and guns,

to end all injustice,

to revere all life and to safeguard your holy creation!

Is it not to share your resources with the poor, to offer hospitality to the homeless, to welcome the refugees and immigrants, to clothe the naked, and to provide quality housing, health care, food, education and meaningful work for everyone?

Is it not to make sure that the dignity of each person is respected and to recognize that all human beings are sisters and brothers, children of God?

Is it not to eliminate poverty and abolish war so that people can live in justice and peace?


Then and only then shall your light break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up quickly.

Then you shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and the Lord will say,

Here I am.


If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, the demonization and scape-goating of your adversaries,

if you offer food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

if you establish justice for the oppressed and proclaim liberty to the captives,

then your light shall rise in the darkness and your despair be transformed into hope.

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt, you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; 

you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

About The Author


Art Laffin is a member of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington, D.C., where he lives with his wife and son. For nearly four decades, Art has been an organizer, writer and speaker in the faith-based nonviolent movement for peace, social justice, and eradicating poverty and war. He has participated in numerous actions for abolishing nuclear weapons, killer drones and all weapons, ending U.S. warmaking in Iraq and Afghanistan, prohibiting torture and racial violence, and upholding human rights for the homeless, immigrants, the poor and prisoners. He has been imprisoned for his involvement in the Trident Nein and Thames River plowshares actions, as well as for other nonviolent protests, including ending U.S. military intervention in Central America. He has also traveled to war zones in Northern Ireland, Central America, Palestine and Iraq to stand with people who are nonviolently resisting war and occupation. Since his brother's murder in 1999, he has been actively involved in campaigning against the death penalty with the Journey of Hope. He is co-author of "The Risk of the Cross" and co-editor of "Swords Into Plowshares." He has also published articles in the National Catholic Reporter, Maryknoll Magazine, Sojourners, The Catholic Worker, The Hartford Courant, Tikkun Magazine and Pax Christi USA.

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