By JAYNA HOFFACKER, Commentary | Published February 20, 2020
“Go forth, the Mass is ended.”
Most of us hear some form of this mandate at the end of Mass on a weekly basis. In Latin, the dismissal is rendered quite simply as “Ite, missa est.” Far from a terse command to make way for those attending the next Mass, it is an instruction to engage in the missionary life of the church out in the world. The words themselves—missa and mission—even share the same common root. The Mass is a banquet, a thanksgiving, a sacrifice, a teaching moment, and a point of departure all at once.
The Lenten season is a prolonged and focused dive into this missionary impulse. It is a rediscovery and a return to the root of our Christian mission. In his 2019 Ash Wednesday homily, Pope Francis spoke of Lent as a journey.
“On this Lenten journey,” he said, “back to what is essential, the Gospel proposes three steps in which the Lord invites us to undertake without hypocrisy and pretense: almsgiving, prayer, fasting.” Through these practices, we can “free ourselves from the clutches of consumerism and the snares of selfishness, from always wanting more, from never being satisfied, and from a heart closed to the needs of the poor.”
From its start in 1975, Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl program has provided a map for that journey. Through traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, CRS Rice Bowl guides us into an encounter with our brothers and sisters in need. Whether you are participating as a parish community, faith formation class, school group, or as an individual or family, CRS Rice Bowl provides prayers, activity and resources to get the most out of this journey.
Featured each week are Stories of Hope that teach us about the individual people and communities that CRS Rice Bowl funds help support. This year, we will meet three young girls: Maria Ana from Honduras, Trinh from Vietnam and Yvone from Kenya. Alongside these stories are simple meatless recipes from around that world that will help you deepen your encounter as you share in the smells and tastes of our global human family.
Almsgiving is practiced through both the familiar cardboard box and online giving in the CRS Rice Bowl app and website. The Lenten alms donated to CRS Rice Bowl support the work of Catholic Relief Services in 45 different countries around the world. A full 25% of those funds, however, stay right here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, supporting the work our local community does to educate on and strengthen global solidarity.
In his encyclical “On Social Concern,” Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “Solidarity is undoubtedly a Christian virtue … [it] seeks to go beyond itself, to take on the specifically Christian dimension of total gratuity, forgiveness, and reconciliation” (40-41). Understood in this light, it seems only natural that a journey of encounter and solidarity should be taken during Lent.
In your participation in CRS Rice Bowl, you can encounter the faces and stories of those whose lives are transformed through your acts of solidarity.
Jayna Hoffacker is a program coordinator for Justice and Peace Ministries of the Archdiocese. She may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.