Some Lenten thoughts: Being with the other
By Lissy Maruthanakuzhy
Nagpur: This is lent season again. As we enter into a period of penance and atonement we also realize that it is the time of God’s mercy, as Pope Francis says in his Book: The name of God Is Mercy. We often come across these two words in church circles: mercy and compassion.
The church is showing her maternal side, her motherly face to a humanity that is wounded. She does not wait for the wounded to knock on her doors, she looks for them on the streets, she gathers them in, she embraces them, and she makes them feel loved, the words of Pope Francis captivates my mind and heart.
Many times when we know that there is someone by our side when we are sick, or an understanding person is there in our difficult moments our pains naturally are halved. We get the strength to face the reality of life and smile at the present. I feel that this may be one of being merciful and compassionate.
Some time ago I read a story of a father and son who had come to stay in a hotel. They were there for the medical treatment of the son. As soon as they had settled in the room the father met the manager of the hotel and apprised him of the purpose of their visit to the new city. Before taking leave of the manager he requested, “Sir, tomorrow you and your employees will see him in the dining hall. He lost all his hair on the head due to the treatment. Please request your employees not to ask him about it.”
The manager assured him to abide by the request.
The next morning the father and son had a surprise. All the employees in the hotel were bold headed!
Eknath Easwaran, founder and director of the Blue Mountain Centre for Mediation in USA, relates an incident in one of his books.
“When I was a boy the village doctor put me on a salt-free diet for a year. I bewailed my fate loudly. I did not get much help from my friends at school. My mother did not know what to tell me either; all she could tell say was that it was only for one year, which didn’t exactly console me. The next morning when I sat down dejectedly to my first salt less breakfast, my grandmother seated herself by my side and said quietly, “I have gone off salt for a year too.” And she didn’t merely tolerate that salt less food; she ate it with real gusto, because she knew that her example was supporting me. As for me, I don’t think I ever tasted a better breakfast meal than that salt less breakfast my grandmother shared with me. In one simple gesture, she showed her love and innate artistry.”
Grandparents, particularly grandmothers are known for their empathy.
Once, my 8-year-old sister was suffering from high fever. My father had already brought the homeopathy medicine from our family doctor. My mother was giving her the medicine drops when I heard her saying, “If only I could sleep with grandmother I will be alright.”
It was evening and with grandparents we were already seated for our night prayers, a tradition in our families. But my grandmother got up at once, carried my sister to her bed and sat by her side and continued the prayers. That night my sister had a sound sleep with my grandmother on the narrow bed.
The next morning I saw my sister hale and hearty, free from the fever.
On deeper reflection I discovered that there were many people who crossed my life’s path showering seeds of empathy. Whether they aware of it or not, they are persons of much caliber, dwelling in the presence of God.
Here I am reminded of the verses from The Mishkant Al-Masabia, where the Prophet describes a worshipper:
God Most High has said:
When my worshipper’s thoughts turn to Me, there I am with him.
And when he makes mention of Me within himself, I make mention of him within Myself:
And when he makes mention of Me in company, I make mention of him in a better company.
If he drew near to Me a hand’s breadth, I draw hear to him an arms strength,
And if he drew near to me an arms length, I draw near to him the length of both arms wide outstretched;
and if he come to Me walking, I come to him running.
And if he meet Me with sins equivalent to the whole world, I will greet him with forgiveness equal to it.
This is the merciful, compassionate God of ours.