The Lenten Musings 36
Read: Luke 7: 1-10
We all have some cause in our life that is very dear to us. Sadly, most of the cause that is dear to us, are very selfish in nature. We work and we toil so that our life is made more secure and our goal is to move up in life. But there are some people who live for a cause, a cause that is noble, and which has no selfish element in it. The pure joy of serving, serving without any grudge, serving for a mightier cause than just for some selfish cause. Meet Albert Lexie. Most of the news agencies yesterday featured the life of Albert Lexie. Albert is the one who shines shoes at the Children Hospital in Pittsburgh. He has been shoe shining since 1982 and earns about $5 dollar for shining shoes. What is remarkable about Albert is that from the day he started working as the shoe shine person in the hospital, he sets apart the tips that he receives while he does his shoe shine. What is remarkable about the work that Albert does is that he has to drive about ninety minutes to reach the hospital and his earning is only about $10, 000 a year. But he diligently sets apart the tips that he gets, to be donated to a free care fund that takes care of the treatment of children who come from very poor families, patients who cannot afford treatment at the children's hospital. According to hospital sources, Albert has donated more than $200, 000 till this day, the money that he earned as tips when doing his shoe shine. In 2006, Alex was honoured for raising $100, 000 for the a cause known as "Albert's Kids", while earlier in 2001 also he received an "Outstanding Philanthropists Award. Alex also was featured on a billboard, by the Foundation for a Better Life. What is also more noteworthy about this humble man is that he also has a children book in his name titled " Albert's Kids; The Heroic Work of Shining Shoes for Sick Children". As I came to know about Albert Lexie, I feel proud about this man, but at the same time I hang my head in guilt thinking that many of us who are in a better position than Albert Lexie, do not even move our little finger to do something worthy, or for living for a higher cause than just for one's own selfish existence.
One of the teaching that Jesus propagated and also appreciated was when life was lived for a noble cause when, people are ready to rise above selfish confines and desires of life. In Luke 7: 1-10, we find a very moving incident about a centurion and the pains that he takes, so that his servant could get well. Who is a centurion?. Centurions were the back bone of the Roman army who could be considered as equivalent to modern army captain. They commanded a standard unit called a Legion, which is a force of 6000 men. Here is a man who has power vested on him and who has a high place in the society. More than the power that was vested for him, for which he is respected, what we see is that this centurion was held by others in high repute. In Lk 7: 5, we find a witness of society about the centurion. They tell Jesus that he is also a philanthropist who loves common man and he was generous enough to build synagogues for the Jews there. In this particular context, we find the heart and mind of Centurion, now being expressed not for some concrete structure, but for a person who was his servant, who is a slave, sick and was dying. And it is for this sick person that he seeks the help of Jesus. Who is person for whom he is bringing recommendation in the presence of Jesus?. It is for his servant which in Greek translates as "doulos" or a slave. Slave in the context of the roman empire were considered just another property. They had no rights and the owner could sell his slave to another. Owners could be very sadistic while dealing with their servants. But here the centurion sets a very different example. He has no guilt nor has no issue to humble himself for the cause of his suffering servant. Moreover he does not ask Jesus to come to his house to bring healing to the servant on the contrary he communicates his strong faith to Jesus, by telling him that He only has to command and his servant will be healed. The very act of meeting Jesus for the sake of the servant is now compounded by the strong faith affirmation of the centurion. It is this act of centurion which makes Jesus to appreciate and announce to the crowd that "I tell you I have not found such a great faith in Israel" [ Lk 7: 10]. Here is a centurion who is ready to humble himself not for furthering any selfish cause of his life, but for the sake of a person who has no rights or privileges nor identify. In a world where we all are in mad rush to acquire more and in a rush to make our life more and more better off, in a rush that makes us greedy, people like Albert Lexie or the centurion in the Bible teaches that, in life it is worth to live for a cause that is noble or for a cause higher, than just living for satisfying or furthering selfish desires in life. As we observe lent, let us ask ourselves whether we all could order our life so that we also embrace in our life a cause that could be noble, a cause that is unselfish, higher than our life?. That will make our lent significant and meaningful.
Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla