Monday, February 27, 2017
Lent: A time to go hungry
St. John 2:1-12
As we enter into lent, the passage St. John 2:1-12 is of essence to us. We may wonder what a celebratory passage linked to a wedding will give us leading to lent. But at the same time it offers us a few great things for lent. LENT very simply put can be expanded to mean “Let’s eliminate negative thoughts”. Many a time this one thing can make the Lenten experience meaningful and leaving out this one aspect will negate everything else we do.
Mother Mary, Jesus and his disciples go for a wedding at Cana and in between Mary tells Jesus that the wine is over. Jesus’ reply suggests negativity by saying what is it to us that the wine is over. Mother Mary on the other hand tells the helpers to do as Jesus says. It has positive thinking written all over it. Jesus then shows us an important thing to follow during lent. He asks the helpers to fill the six stone jars with water. We also are capable of doing this. But what happens later suggests what Jesus actually did. He tells the helpers to take the water to the steward and make him taste it. The helpers know it is water. But the steward doesn’t! After tasting it he calls the bride groom and says that usually people give inferior wine after the guests have had some, but in this case it appears that the best was saved for the last.
In our lives we do a lot of charity. But should the model of our charity be changed during this lent? Jesus suggests so. He does not simply listen to his mother and do something. They may have not brought any gift for the wedding. But Jesus gives the best gift possible for him at the time by turning the water into wine. Do we give our best for charity? Isn’t the word charity itself coined to suggest that we are doing a favour to someone? Our help or rather our responsibility during lent is to give our best to the church, to the people and to those who need food, shelter and clothing. This is not a charity but this is our responsibility. Mother Mary is also asking us to provide our best. This lent, can we start off by saying that we can indeed give our best.
Secondly, lent should also be a time when we provide the most basic of needs of human beings and that is food. Jesus provides wine so that the people had something to drink. And this should not be seen as strong wine but wine for subsistence and celebration. Can we start a kitchen for the poor, or cook in our houses and give to those who are hungry? Lent does not mean living comfortable lives and eating vegetarian food but giving to others till it hurts us. Jesus did his first miracle when Mother Mary asked. It was not his time but he does it. It hurts for him to do it and that is why the quality of the wine was exceptional. We should similarly lent till it hurts. Our lent could be giving ourselves in sacrifice or our lent could be lending something to others till it hurts us, or our lent could be helping the church till it hurts.
There is a Sri Lankan priest I know. The interesting thing about him is that he works among the poor and refugees. One thing he does week after week and not just during lent is to cook food for his congregation, which comprises very ordinary people. He cooks the food on Saturday evening and takes service on Sunday morning. After service he serves the food that he cooked to the people who attended the service. His work is not something simple and it is not just charity. Rather he shares and eats with the people who are there. His giving hurts so much that he does not have money for his needs and the needs of his family. Can we lent like this?
To sum it up, our lent should be an experience. We should not just be concerned about the diet and eating vegetarian food but helping others with food and shelter till it hurts us. It is not just our stomach which should growl in hunger but our body, mind and soul which should feel the hunger that others feel every day of their lives. May this lent make us experience hunger and reach out to people who are hungry and helpless. It is not easy to help them but if we are ready to be hurt and hungry, we can easily help them. Wishing you a lent which will make us go hungry so that others may be fed. Amen.