I’ve been deeply mourning the direction of my country.

Two Sundays ago, as we reflected on the story of Jesus’s transfiguration, my pastor focused on Peter’s panic on the mountain. Like Peter, our body politic seems to feel drowned in chaos, manufactured or otherwise. And like Peter, whose response to God’s disruptive transfiguration was to seek to control it and to make it safe, our representatives in government seek to wall off change, to contain it, to channel the unknown that we’ve been taught to fear.

Yet, to do so, my elected officials and fellow citizens seem to be making scapegoats of my dear friends. I think of Tamara and her family, Rafat and Yusra, amid the increasing Islamophobia in our society. I think of Iliana and Daniela and the fear they feel as politicians and businesses promise to “Build That Wall.” I think of Hannah and Sara and Rachael and their extended families when I hear about the desecrations of Jewish gravestones. I wretch in fear for Jordan and Heather and Chris and Laura when I hear about bomb threats to their children’s Jewish Community Centers. And as I sit in my mostly-white, Christian congregation, I think about the extreme levels of racial disunity and injustice that exist here in the U.S. So much pain. So much to heal.

But as we entered Lent this year, I also thought about my own heart, and all the fear and smallness that has gathered there in months since the U.S. election. I thought about my own will to division — how I was inclined to cut out from my circle of care those who, it seemed to me, had chosen to elect leaders who relish division, scapegoating, dog whistling, and control. I thought about our Buddhist siblings’ reminder that there is no separation between these hatreds — that to choose division myself is to cut out a part of our general body that is central to the compassion and fierce love through which lasting change comes.

I yearned for my Lenten practice to share in the transformational energy of Jesus's transfiguration and path to the cross. I prayed for clarity on how my Lenten practice might contribute to the healing of the world — what my Jewish siblings might call Tikkun Olam.

And it came to me, quiet as a whisper but strong as the wind: I felt God calling me to keep a fast for sacred unity this Lent. And that I should do it as a sunrise-to-sundown fast from food and water, as our Muslim siblings do each year for Ramadan. (With one modification: 2-3 times per week, I play basketball and will drink water and a protein shake during the game to support my body’s recovery.) If I want to participate in God’s transformation of division into solidarity, I must first practice prayer in solidarity with those siblings in my society who have been most vilified. 

So I'm fasting until Easter, on April 16th. I fast so that I may be drawn closer to God’s sacred unity, and repent from approaching life and justice work as a willful, disconnected, and egotistical individual.

I fast to remember the sacred connection between all beings who share breath — what my Hebrew siblings call ruah, what my Muslim siblings call ruh, and what Jesus in his Aramaic called ruha. The breath connects all of us — believer, non-believer, animal, human, plant — in a sacred flow of reciprocity. We pass the Holy Spirit around with each exhalation. I pray that in each breath, I may be transformed, that I may be God’s transformational instrument of peace, justice, and unity. I pray that we all will be moved to root ourselves in our common breath, and that we’ll work to banish the scapegoating, xenophobia, and fear-mongering meant to divide us.

I fast in solidarity with my Muslim siblings, and pray that they may have peace and a life without fear.

I fast in solidarity with my Jewish siblings, and pray that they may have peace and a life without fear.

I fast in solidarity with my Indigenous siblings, and pray that their cries for sovereignty and earth-stewardship will be answered by all. 

I fast in solidarity with my Buddhist, Hindu, pagan, atheist, and agnostic siblings, and pray that they may have peace and a life without fear.

I fast in solidarity with my fellow Christian siblings, and pray that they may have peace and a life without fear.

I call on my fellow white Christian siblings in the United States to take on leadership roles in prayerfully challenging the will to fear and hatred and division that so often is perpetuated in our name.

I fast in solidarity with all refugees, with all immigrants, with all my siblings displaced and seeking safety, and pray that they may have peace and a safe life without fear.

I fast in solidarity with all my siblings of the global majority, and pray that they may have peace and a safe life without the terror of white supremacy.

I fast in solidarity with all my queer and transgender siblings, and pray that they may have peace and a safe life without fear.

I fast in solidarity with every human being and all our earthly relations, and pray for our collective connection and liberation from exploitation.

I pray that we all will be moved to seek sacred enoughness, and no more. I especially call on those of us with means living in the United States to work to give up our luxuries and our excess so that we may move society towards the heaven on earth that God promises. 

I pray that our world will be transformed by this sacred unity always available to us, that we will put our weapons down, that we’ll re-orient our relationship to earth and to each other.

This is my sustained prayer this Lent — that like Peter I may be filled to overflowing by the chaotic, shimmering wonder of God’s enveloping transfiguration, and that where Peter sought to control chaos, I may more constantly and energetically pour myself back into the healing of this world.

Timothy R. Dougherty is an assistant professor of English at West Chester University of PA, where he teaches writing classes. 

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