Justice Matters
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By Jeanette Arnquist

Finally, it is Easter after what feels like a very long Lent. It seems to me that we began this particular Lent around the middle of March of 2020. Easter came and went without Lent ending.So did Advent, Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent in 2021. But now it feels to me like Easter and it feels like Lent is finally going to be over.

Most of my friends are in my age group, that is over 65. I and most of them have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We are breathing a huge sigh of relief as we emerge from over a year of isolation and sacrifice. Finally, we are able to safely get a haircut, go into stores, and most importantly, hug our grandchildren. We may even feel it is safe to go to Mass inside a church for Easter! Easter! Yes, it is Easter!

We are experiencing an unearned privilege that many of our brothers and sisters don’t have.

When I was a student, oh so many years ago, I stopped at a vending machine on my way to class and put in a quarter to get an ice cream bar. The machine made a noise and out came – NOTHING! I pushed the coin return and nothing happened. The guy standing in line behind me indicated that I should get out of the way because it was his turn. He put in his money and also chose the ice cream bar option, and out came two. Yes, he clearly saw what had happened to me. He picked up both of them, looked at me and walked off.

What do you think the guy should have done? He had done nothing to cause this privilege of having two ice cream bars. Since I had not given him any money, he didn’t owe me anything, right? But he did get what I had deserved.

While I am feeling like Lent is over, I need to be aware that there are others whose Lent is not over. They are not enjoying the same privilege as I. There are people who needed the vaccine every bit as much as I did, but were unable to navigate the complicated systems necessary to schedule it. There are people who live in countries that don’t have access to vaccines. And there are so tragically many people have lost jobs, homes, or loved ones, and that grief isn’t going to be cured by getting vaccinated. There are people who have been left out again and again and were left out once again.

Let us learn from the ice cream bar incident. When we have been given a privilege, let us use it to help those who lack privilege. Let us open our hearts to their plight. Let us continue to give alms throughout the year. Let us devote a tithe of our lives to making the world a better place, especially for the poor. Let us work towards a world where everyone can experience Easter.

Jeanette Arnquist is a former Director of the Department of Life, Dignity & Justice for the Diocese of San Bernardino. She is retired and living in Tuscon, Arizona where she remains active in social concerns ministries.