Wednesday, March 16, 2011

About the Lent stuff - by Clint

So, I am entering my third Lenten season, second as an Orthodox Christian. I am not even going to pretend that I have any real deep insights into this season. I am still early in my journey. However, I have a couple of observations.

1. This is a great time to really reassess intentions. Why do I do what I do? Am I trying to receive accolades? Am I simply serving?

2. There is no way to divorce prayer, the giving of alms, and repentance. Lent has a great way of bringing all three of these to the forefront. Too often, we (I) focus on one or the other, and ignore the other two.

What brought all of this to my mind was a brief encounter with a homeless couple this past Sunday. Each week, after Divine Liturgy, Coffee Hour, and Bible Class, my family stops at a restaurant for a late lunch. It has become a family tradition (which is tougher during fasting times, let me tell you...)

Anyway, we had finished lunch this past week and were getting in the car to head home. As I was getting ready to enter the vehicle, I heard a scratchy voice saying, "sir, sir, can you help me?"

I turned to see a dirty, scraggly, beaten-down old man. I said, "what do you need?"

"I am hungry. Can you help me?"

You have probably run into this scenario, yourself. It isn't the first beggar I have seen. My first thought was "another bum, looking for booze money."

I replied, "I don't have any cash, sorry." He looked disappointed, but persisted, "anything will help."

Again, I told him, "I don't have any cash." He thanked me and turned to leave.

Here is the problem. I was lying. I did have money, sitting in my pocket. It wasn't much money, but I did have some.

I got in the car. The rest of my family was already situated. I looked over at my wife and said, "I am going to go to hell. I just lied to that guy. What kind of Lenten spirit do I have?"

I drove over to where the man had rejoined his wife (or companion, or whatever), rolled down the window and gave him the little bit of cash that I had. He and his wife both thanked me profusely. I wished them well. They told me, "God Bless you." I pray that he listens to their prayer.

It made me think a little. The small amount of cash meant little to me. I have more. I am not rich, but I am compared to that guy. The little bit of cash that I did have could put a warm meal in his and her bodies. They needed it much more than I did. I had just eaten in a nice restaurant (it was a Lenten meal, but still...).

It hit me for the first time that the giving of alms is just as important as prayer and fasting. It is something I need to learn better.

God forgive me for lying. God forgive me for thinking ill of that man and his companion. Who do I really think I am, judging them and their circumstances. What mattered was that there was one of God's children, in need of some help. May God bless them and forgive me.

My prayer is that he finds warmth and a resolution to his destitution. My prayer is that I learn what it really means to empty myself, and allow God to fill me.

I ask for your prayers as I struggle through this season.


Fr. James Early said...


This is a great reflection. Kh. Jennifer and I both keep in our cars some brown paper bags to give to homeless people that we encounter. Each bag contains a bottle of water and a package of peanut butter crackers. That's not a ton of stuff, but every little bit helps. That way we can help those who need nourishment, while at the same time knowing we're not supporting a drug or alchohol habit. Beth and her friends get together every now and then and pack the bags. This system seems to work well for all.

s-p said...

Thanks for this Clint. It is an ongoing struggle to not judge and to give all of ourselves to the undeserving as Christ gave Himself to us. These lessons are the hard ones. Thank God for the gift of repentance.

Anonymous said...

those second thoughts...I had just told the panhandles "Sorry, I don't have anything", meaning cash. and it was true. but I had groceries including some babyback ribs from the deli, and a hunk of brie. so I tooted my horn and he came back for the surprise. now I wish I had had some water for him, too.