by Janessa Juntilla
I grew up in a family dedicated to the Catholic faith. Some of the most clear memories from my childhood are going on Lenten pilgrimages with my family. During these pilgrimages, we loaded into huge, twelve-passenger vans and traveled down to a church in St. Louis. We’d spend this time reflecting on the Lenten season and thinking about how to apply Jesus’s sacrificial love in our own lives. I’m so appreciative of these experiences I had growing up, but in all honesty, I’ve been struggling with how I connect with faith for a long time and I no longer identify as Catholic.
Though I don’t identify as Catholic, I continue to carry the values and morals I learned growing up in this faith, even if I don’t realize it all the time. I’m able to draw on the meaning of Lent as I work on living a life dedicated to social justice advocacy and activism. Lent, more than anything to me, is about looking at scripture, reflecting on Jesus’s life of radical love and justice, and thinking about how I too can live a life of radical love and justice. Jesus understood that each human person is dignified. He stood in solidarity with people who were abused and abandoned by those with the most power and privileges. He preached that we should love and actively care for others.
In our world, where people are dehumanized based on their identities and robbed of their inherent human rights by those with the most power and privileges, how are we living as Jesus did? How are we called to love and care for others? What actions are necessary for radical justice?