NETWORK Lobby invites you to join your Lent 2022 journey with ours. Our weekly Lenten lesson includes reflections and a video series on individual bias and racism and racist policy built into the US tax code

Lent 2022, Week 6: Lent Calls Us to Atone

View earlier Lenten Reflections: Ash Wednesday | Week 1Week 2Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 

Mary Novak
April 8, 2022

Watch Tax Justice For All

The Conclusion (starting at at 38:37)
As Lent gives way to Easter, we must ask ourselves, how can we atone for our part in the systemic evils that oppress so many? How can we carry the lessons that we’ve learned this Lent with us? One practical exercise is found in NETWORK’s Tax Justice Calculator. In the final video installment, our interactive tax calculator lets you simulate the impact that a more just tax code could have.

Questions for reflection:

  1. How can I incorporate what Tax Justice For All taught me about racist policies and laws into my daily life?
  2. How can I continue to do the work of recognizing racist structures and policies and (if applicable) how they directly or indirectly benefit me?
  3. What would it look like for our society to be transformed into one that has eradicated racist structures and policies?

What does it mean for us to atone?

This Lenten season, NETWORK invited you to journey with us in exploring racist impacts hidden in something mundane: the tax code. Through our Tax Justice for All resource, we examined how tax policies historically and systematically disadvantage Black and Brown families and disproportionately benefit white people and the ultra-wealthy.

We all have a part in this. Those of us with the right to vote to bear a responsibility for who we elect and the policies they enact. And Catholics and other people of goodwill have a moral duty to see that our government policies benefit people pushed to the peripheries of society. Pope Francis calls this a lofty form of love.

As we journey through Lent in preparation for Holy Week, the language associated with Jesus’ suffering and death becomes familiar: atonement. But this complex concept is too often oversimplified as Jesus dying “for our sins.” Accepting this shortened summary fails to capture the pernicious nature of sin in our world and convey what is demanded of us as participants in God’s transforming grace. This is why we have focused on one aspect of structural sin with our Tax Justice For All series.

It is important to reflect more broadly as well. On April 9, 2022, NETWORK will host a special conversation on “White Supremacy and American Christianity,” featuring Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), Father Bryan Massingale of Fordham University, and Dr. Marcia Chatelain of Georgetown University, the recipient of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History. Watching this conversation can also serve as a form of penance, educating ourselves about the reality of white supremacy in U.S. Christianity. 

Many people do not realize that the Catholic Church did not abolish ‘penitential days’ on Fridays year-round. In fact, the Bishops’ 1966 statement says “Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year.” Today, in place of — or in addition to — fasting from meat on Fridays, people are encouraged to engage in other personal penance.  

As someone who holds many privileged identities in our society, I can think of no worthier personal penance than the reflecting on systemic racism, examining my own complicity in it, and finding paths forward to end the sin of racism.  

In the hope of Easter, I believe accepting this work of penance will allow each of us to atone and be transformed. 

Good and gracious God, as we prepare ourselves to share in the joy of Easter, open our hearts and minds. Help us to see what we would rather not see, especially the suffering caused by the injustice of systemic racism. Help us reflect on these painful realities and see them for what they are. Help us to avoid despair and to move from reflection to action, galvanized by your Spirit. Grant us the courage to speak out and the clarity to cooperate with your grace in building the world anew. Amen. NETWORK Prayer to Move from Reflection to Action