March 24, 2017
Although the spring season officially begins last week, Winnipeggers have a more pragmatic view of spring: we need the snow to go in order to declare an end to winter, and even then we are not entirely convinced, having been fooled before by April blizzards. As the snow begins to melt, we start to look for the harbingers of spring, from pussy willows to robins to pre-season baseball. Although I take heart at the natural signs of the impending season, one of the main indicators of spring for me is the re-emergence of neighbours.
All winter long we shuttle between our vehicles and houses with as much speed as possible. If by chance we see the people who live around us through our scarves, toques and parkas, we acknowledge them with a curt nod or quick hello. Once the frigid weather passes and we are able to move around the yard again, we find the time to catch up, chatting over the fence or meeting people as they walk their dogs. A feeling of community and connection flourishes along with the crocuses. It is almost like a spiritual thaw takes place alongside the physical one, and it allows us to extend ourselves out to our physical neighbours and to the world beyond.
This year our Lenten theme is, Who is my Neighbour? The question comes from the introduction to the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel. A person who had training in the law asks Jesus how he can achieve eternal life. Jesus, sensing that the man already knows the answer, asks him what the law says. The answer comes, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as you love yourself.” The man pushes further, asking Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus’ answer comes in the form of the famous parable of the man hurt on the roadside. Many people pass by, but no one comes to his aid, except for the proverbial Samaritan. It is important to note that the Jewish people of the time did not regard Samaritans as friends. In normal circumstances Jews and Samaritans would not have spoken to each other; in extraordinary circumstances, the person that the injured man would have despised saves his life.
In his parable, Jesus chooses to have the injured Jew rescued by a Samaritan to illustrate his point more clearly. It is our actions, rather than our proximity or similarity to others that make us “neighbours”. The global nature of our society and lightening speed of media allows us instant access to the suffering of people from Syria, Sudan, Korea, and Afghanistan. These international neighbours need our support along with our neighbours at the Bravestone Centre and the senior whose snow you shovel. It is our compassion, caring and kindness that makes us neighbours with the people on our street, in our city and country and around the world. It’s not always easy being a good neighbour in our world, but we all know how right it feels and how thankful we are when someone is a good neighbour to us!
As the coming season of spring warms the earth and brings it to life again, may the message of this parable enlighten us on our Lenten journey and enliven us to live as true neighbours in our communities and in our world.