(Ash Wednesday is in two weeks. This reflection was first published February 16, 2015.)
“How can I be more compassionate?” she asked.
I asked her why. She didn’t seem particularly discompassionate.
“I was reading Colossians,” she said. “And I read Paul’s encouragement to clothe ourselves with compassionate hearts. And I realized that I have moments of compassion, but I don’t wear it like a jacket.”
I smiled at her image. I wondered what it would look like to have a compassionate jacket. It would probably have sleeves covered with hearts, that were loose-fitting enough to easily reach out. It would probably have pockets enough for tissues and candies for kids, change for Aldi grocery carts and parking meters, gift cards well suited for broken hearts.
I asked her what she was thinking it would mean to be more compassionate.
“So, I’m guessing that it might mean being more like Jesus? I mean, he seemed pretty compassionate,” she said. “But that’s why I’m asking you. That and I’m guessing that I could connect compassion and Lent.”
I understood. She was thinking about Lent as choosing something to pursue.
I wrote out a list of verses from the Bible, several places where Jesus was identified as having compassion: Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34. Mark 1:41; 6:34, 8:2; Luke 9:13, 10:33, 15:20. I asked her to read them and to identify how they point to Jesus showing compassion.
“Do you want them now?” she asked.
I told her to take some time and think about it. To look for any patterns that she saw. I told her that after she identified how Jesus lived out compassion, she could look at moments in her day where she intersected with the kind of people that Jesus met and felt compassion for. And then, I said, she could develop a practice for Lent of responding in those moments as Jesus had.
“Or, maybe at least, ask him to help?” she smiled.