Sunday, October 2, 2016

Gandhi Jayanthi: An opportunity to see God expressed in the midst of hunger

Bible passage: St. Mark 2:23-28

The disciples of Jesus are seen plucking heads of grain and the Pharisees complain to Jesus asking whether it is possible to do this on a Sabbath? In Jesus’ reply he reminds them of the story of David and his followers who eat the food meant for priests during the time of priest Abiathar, even though the food was meant only for priests. In a significant statement Jesus says “The Sabbath was made for human kind and not human kind for the Sabbath.”

What must have been the problem of the Pharisees who pointed out a rule to Jesus? The problem was simple. The disciples of Jesus were breaking the rule of their religion. The difference between religion and spirituality is something for us to ponder upon at this juncture. We can use this to identify the difference between religion and spirituality. Religion can be said to be the belief in someone else's experience while spirituality is having one’s own experience, religion shows you the truth while spirituality lets you discover it and religion makes you dependent while spirituality makes you independent. Even today we go by rules and not by spiritual conduct. What is it that God wants for God’s creation? Isn’t it the fact that we must love each other just as God taught us, and doesn’t love involve sharing food and feeding one another?

October 2 is commemorated as Gandhi Jayanthi because it is Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. The father of the nation has remarked “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” There is a truth in this that can be linked to the above passage. The Sabbath or a Sunday service can be seen as a day to fast and not do anything else for the rich because they can afford to do it. But for the poor fasting is extension of their poverty. The disciples were poor materially but rich spiritually. The Pharisees were rich materially and poor spiritually. Jesus is leading us to the spirituality of the poor where being poor will make us rich. Fasting can be effective only when it hurts us. Otherwise it is only a life style choice done out of abundance. Sunday’s in church should not just be a set of rules of what we cannot do but should lead us into thinking what we can do.

Today we again get an opportunity to clean up our act. It is not only to clean our surroundings but to clean our mind of prejudices and wrong notions. The communion in the church is not thinking how to prevent people from coming to receive the Holy body and blood of Christ, by talking of rules and barriers but to ask people to come because the poor can become rich in the act of sharing food. Through communion we are getting the idea of going out to the world and reaching out to the poor and sharing our resources with one another.

Food is God’s love made edible. We must worship God by loving one another and sharing what we have with one another for the sake of God’s kingdom. Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35 “Love one another as I have loved you.” The Sabbath or a Sunday is not a rule but an opportunity. Eating food is a right and not a luxury. Staying away from communion will also make us stay away from sharing and feeding. Our children will also not understand why it is important to be hungry so that others may also eat.

A father who was aged was once shifted to a smaller table in the house by his son because the father had lost the capacity to eat properly according to the rules in the house, often dropping food on the table and the floor. The old father was given food on a separate table in a separate wooden bowl. The son then one day sees his child making a bowl and when asked the child answers that he is making a wooden bowl. The father asks him why and he replies that he is getting one ready for the father to use when he gets old, just like the grandfather. The person realizes his mistake and shifts his father back to the main dining table during meals. In the process of being clean and “swach” we must not lose track of the basic lesson in our spirituality of sharing what we have with one another.

This story and the story of Jesus and his disciples along with the quotation of Mahatma Gandhi speaks volumes to us. Being clean is important and making our surroundings clean is also important but making people see God through the sharing of food is even more important. Jesus’ disciples see and experience God in their act of plucking heads of grain. The Pharisees on the other hand quote rules (cleanness) and in the process lose sight of God. Even as we try to grow spiritually may we never lose track of God expressed in the midst of poverty and hunger. Amen.

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