The National Catholic Review

This Lent I'd like to suggest not giving something up, but doing something. Specifically, bothering.

In the Gospels, when Jesus of Nazareth condemns people, or points out sin, it's usually not people who are trying hard to avoid sinning, it's people who aren't bothering to love. In the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, in the Gospel of Luke, two men pass by a guy lying by the side of the road, who could certainly use some help. They could help the fellow, but they don't. He rightly points out their sin. Jesus doesn't condemn those who are weak and trying hard; but those who are strong and aren't trying at all.

For Jesus, sin is often a failure to bother to love, what theologians used to call a "sin of omission."

But during the weeks before Easter, most Christians during the weeks seem stuck on what they've been trying to avoid for years. A familiar hymn is: "I try to stop smoking every time Ash Wednesday comes around!" But if Jesus were around today (I know that's a dicey few words) he might say, "Don't worry about where you're already trying and keep failing. Look at where you're not even bothering."

So this Lent, instead of fasting, why not bother? Instead of a negative Lent, how about a positive one? Instead of giving up chocolate for the umpteenth year in a row, or trying to kick your smoking habit, why not bother to call a friend who's lonely? Instead of turning off your TV, or going to the gym, bother to donate money to the poor in Haiti. Instead of passing up potato chips, bother to visit a sick relative.

In the Gospels Jesus says, "It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice." Here's a novel idea for Lent: why not take Jesus at his word?

Read the whole thing at HuffPost.

Comments

Kevin Browne | 3/7/2011 - 11:12am
Great post.  If people are looking for an extended look at this topic, I highly recommend the chapter ''Sin'' in Moral Wisdom by Fr. Jim Keenan, SJ.  Particularly interesting is his discussion of Albert Speer, the German Minister of Armaments during WWII, at the end of the chapter.
Anonymous | 2/28/2010 - 10:48pm
It just seems that people always present this as an ''either or''.  I constantly hear people say that they don't give something up.  They say they try to do something positive.  Also, when they do give something up they pick a bad habit such as over eating rather than picking something that is good and making a true sacrifice(shouldn't we give up overeating every day?)
CATHERINE GREEN MRS | 2/28/2010 - 5:22pm
Read the suggestion with gladness - and read the comment above with some dismay.
Questioning whether this idea of Lenten self sacrifice and outward giving is strict Lenten protocol is something like the Pharisees fretting that Jesus had done a miraculous cure on the Sabbath isnt it?  
 
Sunil Korah | 2/28/2010 - 12:56pm
"This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own." (Is 58:6-7). So I think Fr.Martin is spot on
Fran Rossi Szpylczyn | 2/28/2010 - 8:42am
I put the Huffpo link on my FB page and many of my "SBNR" friends leapt upon it with great joy. This is a reminder that God pursues us all with great persistence in many ways. Thank you for being a channel for that pursuit.
Beth Cioffoletti | 2/28/2010 - 8:18am
Yes, but did you have to post that TEMPTING and delicious looking cake photo?!  (Doesn't make it easy for those of us who are still trying to give up sweet stuff!) :-)
Anonymous | 2/27/2010 - 6:48pm
Fr. Jim,
I thought that we were expect to pray, fast, AND give alms during Lent.  Wouldn't your positive Lent fall under alms giving/charity?  Are you discouraging us to pray and fast?
Anonymous | 2/27/2010 - 4:36pm
Great post, Fr. Martin.