Thursday, February 13, 2014

Nineveh lent: Get up and call God

The end of the three day lent has brought us to the point of asking, “now what?” Three days of lent and even conventions in certain places has brought about a spiritual awakening in many people. But for some it remains the same as any day. Conventions, sermons, retreats and prayers do not necessarily bring about any change.

Why should it? Some may ask. Maybe this was the same way Jonah slept in the ship even as the others were terrified by the mighty storm. We see this in Jonah 1:6 which says "The captain came and said to him, “What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.” Even as everyone else was thinking about whether they would have a future, Jonah was sleeping. It could have been because he had so much faith in God that he knew nothing would happen. But it could also have been that he was not bothered about what would happen to others. He was against God’s wish to go to Nineveh and preach salvation to them. So the saving of others was not on his top priority list.

Our lents are also taking on this colour and shape. We are turning out to be people who think just for ourselves and about ourselves. Our sense of justice is limited to us as individuals, and our family, community and church members as groups. It does not stretch much beyond this. It could be the reason why the Christian community has so many prayers, lents and conventions and yet is not doing enough to make a difference in fighting injustice in the country and the world.

This talks volumes about our sense of true morality and justice as some tool we use to hit out at others instead of helping others. The call of the sailors in the ship is interesting. The calamity does not differentiate between them and so each person is asked to call upon their own God. Jonah is unaware of this exercise and he has to be awakened from his slumber. Coming to think about it many of us may be suffering from the same sleepiness that Jonah had. This is almost a self imposed, forced sleep, a closing of the eyes to show that we do not know what is happening.

Sleep is good for the body and essential for a healthy mind and body. But over sleeping is not. It could lead to various complications. One of the reasons for over sleeping could be depression. If Jonah was sleeping while others weren’t could it suggest that he was under severe depression because of all that had transpired? There is an opportunity to pray for the good of everyone and that is over ridden by his sleep.

Many of us are undergoing the same experience of over sleeping. Even though there are many for who sleep deprivation is the problem, sleeping too much as if the problems will go away with that is also not an answer. Lying down is also something we do when we are sad and just don’t want to do anything else. With this there may also be instances of faking sleep. There is a call for all of us to pray for the good of everyone in society instead of faking sleep.

We need to be aware of those who are suffering in various ways in India and the world. We can’t be ignorant of such things and say we did not know. In today’s information rich culture where information is at the finger tip we should show the same eagerness to learn about others as we show to learn about our own culture and tradition. People need our prayers and our support. Saying we did not know, we were unaware and we are not interested in the welfare of others who God points us to is not what is expected of us after a time of lent and preparation.

The world and India are now undergoing challenges of several kinds. They include civil war in several countries, loss of pay for several, increase in the number of the poor, hungry and homeless, genocide, racism, casteism, gender disparity and oppression, discrimination against minorities, global warming, ecology related issues and developmental projects which are against the people of the land.

The Nineveh lent should help us to identify these gross humanitarian violations and pray for the people who are affected by them. Faking sleep and saying we did not know cannot make us oblivious to what is happening. Just as Jonah was awakened and asked to pray, we will also be awakened out of our slumber and asked to pray. Hope this lent will provide this very strength to know, understand and pray for the less fortunate and the least and the last.

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