Lent began as a time of preparation for the covenant of baptism. The Year B Lenten readings very much ring out this theme of covenant, starting this Sunday with the covenant with Noah and its interpretation in 1 Peter as the covenant of baptism. The coming weeks feature the covenants with Abraham and with Moses and finally the covenant written upon our hearts in Jeremiah 31. Developing the theme of covenant might be an edifying way to let these Lenten scripture readings prepare congregations for Holy Week—especially the high drama of the Easter Vigil, centered on the waters of baptism.
In my younger, decidedly anti-Christian days, I did not like the way Christians asked God for mercy. It reinforced my idea that “the Christian God” was cruel and punishing. After all, if God was a loving and compassionate God, one would not have to beg for mercy. And if God was cruel and punishing but at the same time righteous and just, then human beings were clearly bad and unworthy.
This whole system of thought—shameful people and cruel God—made me want to stay far, far away from Christianity and Christian churches.
The Vatican is opening up recently renovated restrooms and showers for use by what it calls “homeless pilgrims.” The facility, just off St. Peter’s Square, will offer free haircuts on Mondays given by volunteer barbers and students from a local beauty school. The homeless are also given kits containing underwear, soap, deodorant, and other toiletries. These services are funded by donations and through the sale of papal parchments (AP).