Back to the Basics of Lent: Nothingness

This Sunday we celebrate the Third Sunday of Lent, and we reflect on our nothingness. Saint Thomas Merton says that we must love and embrace our nothingness to the honor and glory of God.

Jesus hints at this principle when he cleared out the temple. You see, just like the moneychangers of old, we far too often look for ways to make money quick, to use our fellow man to get ahead, or to view our connections with one another about what that person can do for us.

With this kind of mentality, we find ourselves often worrying about our finances, what others have that may be better than ours, and keeping up with all the new trends and fashion statements. We find ourselves distracted by all the hustle and bustle of life forgetting to take time to truly connect with one another and on a certain level, with the Divine.

It is not until we are willing to embrace our nothingness that we can be rid of these concerns for material things and begin to focus on those things that matter most. We can begin to make real connections with one another. It will also bring us to place of empathy for our fellow human being.

I want to close with this encounter I had this past week. My daughter and I (and sometimes Rev. Marc) have taken to spending a couple of hours a couple of times a week sitting outside at the Metro Coffeehouse. We sip our coffees (and I smoke my cigar) as we absorb the sunlight and talk to the passerby’s. This past week an older African-American man started yelling at me from across the street. It took me a minute to realize that he was commenting on the fact that he didn’t know I was a priest. I must have looked puzzled because he reminded me that I had given him a light for his cigarette the week previously. It was then that I remembered him.

You see, this old man had gone from table to table outside asking for a light. Even those that were smoking turned him away without a second thought. He came to me and I had my lighter in hand and quickly passed it to him. It was nothing out of the ordinary or particularly memorable. He thanked me and started to move on. I didn’t give it another thought.

He crossed the street and thanked me again for giving him a light. He started to share how one of the biggest problems in our society today is that no one wants to be bothered by anyone else. They refuse to make connections with others, refuse to acknowledge their humanity or existence because they are frightened of the possibilities of being hurt. As such, we choose to ignore people, make them feel less than human so that they will move on and leave them alone. He thanked me for being willing to open myself up to him. As he moved off, I was struck by the wisdom Christ had brought to me that day.

You see, in that man I see Jesus: the broken, downtrodden, abused Jesus. And for a brief moment, I gave Jesus a lighter to light his cigarette.

That is the realization that comes when we embrace our nothingness.

Pax et Bonum,

Bishop Greer