On Wednesday, March 6, we begin our Lenten journey as a community with our Ash Wednesday Service. Two common themes connected to lent are ‘fasting’ and ‘being a better person.’ The second theme reminded me of a specific personal experience. Once a week, I take part in a Pray and Play prayer group. We meet at St. Martha’s Parish, pray the Rosary, and then we go to play hockey. Pray and Play is a great opportunity to gather as part of a faith community. After one game, I was greeted by a homeless man at the arena asking for money. I politely declined, as I truly did not have any spare change on me. Soon after, the homeless man asked me for a ride to the homeless shelter. I made an excuse that I was driving in the other direction. I was not ‘being a better person.’
I often ask students to be nice. Some have described me as a nice guy. When did Jesus ever mention being nice to others? When did Jesus ever ask us to be a nice? I once read:
God does not say: “I was hungry, and you felt sorry for me. I was naked, and you felt embarrassment. I was sick, and you had feelings of sympathy toward me.” All of which would have been simply nice. (Author Unknown)
Jesus does not want me to be nice to my neighbour; he wants me to love my neighbour—all of my neighbours. He wants the hungry fed, the naked clothed, and the abandoned cared for.
Now, back to my post-hockey experience. I was polite, but I was not even nice. Had I given the homeless man money, that might have been a nice gesture; but I do not think that could be called love. A ride to the homeless shelter? We all have to make decisions and safety must be a factor, but on that night I did not exhibit love. How hard would it have been to ask one of my fellow Pray and Play members—members of a faith community—to join me in giving a homeless man a ride to a shelter? In my opinion, Jesus would have supported loving actions even more than prayer. For my inaction and my cowardice, I asked forgiveness. Faith must be a verb that demonstrates action. During Lent I want to take up the challenge of ‘being a better person.’ I need to do this, not in a polite way of being nice, but in a challenging form of showing love.
During our Lenten journey, I invite everyone, with God’s help, to become better people. Our three traditional practices during Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving can help us become a better person. During his Sunday sermon, Deacon Michael reminded us we could fast from certain things and to feast on others. On example he provided was we can “fast from judgement and feast on caring.” This Lent, I will fast from merely being nice, and feast on loving action. This Lent, I hope to ‘become a better person’ by going above and beyond being nice by showing loving actions to my neighbours. All my neighbours.