The Lenten Musings 35
Read: Mark 5: 1-20
It is quite normal for many of us to offer a penny or food when we see someone begging or homeless. The first lessons on giving are taught by parents to their children is by normally giving something to the man on the street. For many people it would be strange news when they know that in United States there are sizable people who are homeless and are in dire needs of food, shelter and clothing. Hence looking at the countless people who are homeless and in need of food, organizations especially those organizations related to church's do food drive or help out in community kitchen to feed the homeless. However, a recent news item about laws regarding helping the homeless is creating ripples and sense of disgust among the minds of common people. According to laws that have been passed by different city council, feeding the homeless is banned and if you are caught feeding the homeless then you could be fined. This depends on which city that you live. Some of the cities that have banned feeding the homeless is Philadelphia, New York, Orlando, Houston, Las Vegas and the list goes on. In other cities where feeding the homeless is not banned, many requirements are put if you want to feed the homeless. The requirements like taking food preparation course, acquiring expensive permits are some of them. One may feel absurd at why such rule has been imposed. When asked as to why feeding the homeless is banned, the reasons are varied. Some cities feel that there are health risk involved when so called good samaritans distribute food, while other feel that they don't want the homeless people to congregate in one particular part of the city where they will be fed and many other such reasons. The city has in fact asked the law enforcement agencies to help them to enforce this rule. In a country where more and more people are denied place in shelter homes, and are now on the streets, when government is finding it hard financially in helping these homeless people, it is strange that instead of looking at a humanitarian way of solving the issue of feeding and taking care of the homeless, the government, city and civic official are turning to the law books, to eradicate the issue of homeless people. The reasons that the city gives in banning the feeding of the homeless could be justified according to them, but then one needs to think whether an alternate provisions in the law has been created or envisaged so that the homeless do not go hungry or are denied shelter homes. I think we live today, where we want our world to be beautiful, where we don't want the sight of the homeless, the poor, the wanderer to be a part of our environment. And the best way to drive them away is to annihilate them. At this time of lent, it is important that we think whether we can widen our world to incorporate into our world and whether we could be sensitive to the need of those people who are denied the basic rights like food, shelter and clothing.
In Mark 5, we find Jesus Christ making a deviation in his journey. He deliberately goes to the land of Gerasenes. His intention of going to Gerasenes is because in that mountain, in that valley lives a demon possessed man. A man who lives all by himself, a man who lived by the tomb. Mark describes the man as someone who was very strong, that nobody could bind him even with chains and a man who always hurt himself and cry out. A man who lives isolated life or a man who has been condemned by the people, the society to live isolated life. It is to this unknown man that Jesus goes and searches for him. As Jesus comes in searching for him, the man is surprised and shouts to Jesus Christ, asking him what is it that He wants to do with him, or in other sense what is the relationship or the cause that makes Jesus Christ to come to him. The man request Jesus Christ not to hurt him. He is already hurt, his life is in a mess and in isolation. It is from this crisis of isolation, the crisis of isolation and being denied of one's basic right, that Jesus Christ brings healing to this man, making him well. In v: 15, we find that when Jesus heals him, he becomes normal; dressed and in the right state of mind. A man who lived in social isolation or was forced to live in isolation is brought back to the main frame of the society, to the same society which denied his basic right of shelter, food and clothing. Here is Jesus Christ teaching through his encounter with Legion, that the need of the hour is not to shunt out those people who are homeless or who are different from us out from the main frame of the society, on the contrary work or plan in such a way that every person feels that he/she is part of the society, irrespective of his financial, or social status. Jesus teaches us to widen our world so that we could incorporate those less fortunate people, also to be a part of our wide world. Let us therefore not think how to annihilate those who are less fortunate, on the contrary devise laws and reforms so that the issue of poverty, distribution of wealth and food are all seen in the right perspective, thus making our world more humane and also sensitive to the needs of the less fortunate ones. That is what we need to do this lent.
Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla