By: Tessa Winkler
Do you know the three tenets of Lenten observance? No, they're not "giving up chocolate," exercising daily" or "reading the newspaper." To better understand the paschal mystery, we are called to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It may be difficult to imagine embracing these pillars of Lenten practice over the next 40 days but, I believe a focus on almsgiving may be a gratifying and benevolent way to start on your journey toward a more holy life.
There are so many worthy causes in need of attention, time and resources but, due to the Old Testament symbolism of Lent, immigration is a perfect fit for those looking for a natural and relevant area deserving volunteer commitment. The 40 day duration of Lent is based on two Biblical stories; one of which is the Israelites' 40 years of roaming the wilderness. Having come to Egypt from Canaan in the midst of a devastating food shortage, the Israelites were then forced into slavery and, later, fled Egypt as social outcasts. Leviticus 19:33-34 tells us that this exodus prompted the Lord to say, "You shall love the alien as yourself, for you were once aliens in the land of Egypt."
Whether you are a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representative, an attorney or have no legal training, sharing your talents with a charitable legal service provider in your area could make the difference for vulnerable immigrants and deeply connect you to the baptismal spirit of renewal intended for all of us during the Lenten season. Review completed applications at a workshop for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) hopefuls – young people who came to the U.S. with their parents, who know no other country that they call home, and who now have the opportunity to stay in the U.S., work, and go to school. Provide translation services at a legal orientation program for custodians of unaccompanied alien children (LOPC). Consider doing outreach; promoting an information session via social media or distributing flyers in the community for an English as a second language (ESL) course. Maybe you could take photos for applicants or help with crowd control at a citizenship event?
Immigrants to the United States embody the redemption that we are called to seek during the paschal season. In fact, immigration is central to the life of Jesus Christ and His resurrection celebrated on Easter day. It is with this in mind that I urge you to take the 40 days of self examination granted during Lent to "love the alien as yourself" through acts of charity. Offering your time to a CLINIC affiliate is a spiritual exercise guaranteed to change the lives of others, as well as your own heart.
*Tessa is the Communications Officer/Web Content Coordinator for CLINIC