Pass it on – Tuesday, the Third Week in Lent – Daniel 3:25,34-43/ Matthew 18:21-35
The heart of today’s readings is unmistakable; it has forgiveness written all over it. Be it asking for forgiveness from God in the first reading or to consequences of not forgiving others in the Gospel.
The first reading taken from the book of Daniel presents itself in the exilic period of the Babylonian deportation which took place in the 6th century BC. The Babylonian king in the narrative is Nebuchadnezzar. However, the Book of Daniel was written in the 2nd century BC during the reign of the Greek king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
So how do we explain this complexity? Imagine yourself living under a despotic leader (there is no dearth of them in the world right now) who has curtailed your religious freedoms and dictated that you worship his faith and gods. If you were to criticize him openly you would find investigative agencies that would hold you forever in a prison under some trumped-up charges. So, to get your message across you speak of Hitler, from a bygone era, whose very actions are reflected in the despotic ruler of your age. By doing so, your readers know whom you are talking about without the consequence of being witch-hunted. That’s the book of Daniel for you in a nutshell.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes (which means a manifestation of God) erected a statue of the Greek god Zeus and slaughtered a pig and all this was done in the temple of Jerusalem. The writer of the Book of Daniel ‘recalls’ a similar incident when Nebuchadnezzar installed a statue of himself and wanted the Jewish exiles in Babylon to worship it. Three young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused. The dictator wants to make an example and so they are to be executed in a fiery furnace.
The reading of today is the prayer of one of them. It is not a prayer asking to be saved from death but a prayer of forgiveness for a people whose sins have brought them into exile. It is a prayer of admission of guilt that has brought a nation so low that they have now become the least. These three “contrite souls” stand as witnesses to the fidelity of Yahweh whom they serve (3:17) and even if God, in his wisdom, chose not to deliver them from this persecution, they would bow down to no other god (or dictator).
This prayer of forgiveness is tender and heartbreaking. Four times the young man pleads to God with the words, “Do not.” Yet he asks not for himself but for these people who deserved the exile, who deserved the covenant of God to be withdrawn, who deserved his favour to be rescinded and asks that they be treated as gently as God himself is gentle. We know from history that God forgave his people and sent them home to Jerusalem under King Cyrus.
Which brings us to the Gospel. “How often do I have to forgive my brother?” asks Peter. For Jesus that was an obvious answer, as often as God has forgiven the crazy debt of 10,000 talents that he forgave you of; or to give 10,000 talents a more modern-day equivalent, 1,50,000 years of service. Yes, you read that one right.
You can’t ever repay a forgiving God whose debt is beyond measure. So, what can you do? Well just pass it on. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. But the Gospel of today also comes with a warning; woe be upon you if you don’t.
God took his people out of Egypt but not Egypt out of them – ThirdSunday in Lent – Exodus17:1-7/ John 4:5-42
The first reading has so much meat on the bone that you won’t miss the tidbits. So let us place the text in context. The ‘children’ of Israel (to be taken affectionately but in this case literally because of their behaviour) have seen the mighty plagues that delivered them out of, when in Egypt. Having crossed the Red Sea in chapters 14 and 15 they enter the wilderness of Shur (15:22) and it is here that their complaining begins.
While Google Maps did not exist at the time of Moses, common sense did! Common sense coupled with tribal chatter should have been enlightening enough to make people entering the wilderness expect the reality of a desert. But while God took the Israelites out of Egypt, they refused to take Egypt out of themselves. We know that they hankered for the fleshpots of Egypt which in reality could have only been starvation and hard labour, all of this wrapped in slavery.
Their first encounter in the desert was the bitter water at Marah which God sweetened for them with a ‘piece of wood’ that Moses threw into the well. In another age, God would give us the ‘wood of the cross’ to sweeten the bitterness of our lives. But does God’s saving action make us grateful?
Having got sweet water, the people complain about food in the ‘wilderness of Sin.’ This time God rained down bread from heaven. But it is at Rephidim, which means rest, that the children of Israel begin their unrest again. Now at Massa and Meribah God gives them water from the rock.
I did mention earlier that there is much meat on this bone for us to enjoy, so let us begin.
1. Have you asked yourself, “can I trust God?” This is an important question when you decide to break away from your slave master (who could even be your boss at work) and step into new unchartered inhabited and hostile territory. If you want to answer that question don’t look to God but look into your past. Has God let you down in the past? It is more likely that you let him down. Our lives are a living testimony to a God who has come through for us and yet even when our throat is slightly parched, we feel compelled to bring God’s deliverance into question.
2. Moses is more than a leader he is a leader par excellence especially when you have to lead a tribe of constant grumblers whose ingratitude almost brought Moses to death (the text of today tells us they wanted to stone him). The leadership of Moses is not the result of attending a Christian leadership seminar but rather his dependency on God. When faced with a problem he went to God. “How do I deal with these people?” he asks God. You may feel the need to talk to a counsellor but a counsellor may help you to solve your issues for the day, God on the other hand helps you resolve them for a lifetime. Choose God first, choose him always!
3. For the third reflection, I want to frame this reflection in the purple of Lent. Moses was the man who led and fed his people. Yet the text of today tells us that in his appeal to God, Moses tells God that these very people wanted to stone him. Sound familiar? Christ fed 5000, raised the dead, cured the leper, and welcomed the sinner but finally, they not only wanted to kill him, but they did it. Moses had to deal with the possibility of being stone, Christ was crucified.
4. In the Gospel of today taken from John 4, Christ, knowing the sinful life of this Samaritan woman engages her in a theological discussion, offers her living water and wins her over to eternal life. Did she get it at first? No, she seems to make fun of this man offering her ‘living water’ at a well, when he has no bucket at all (no one told her he walked on water). But her openness draws her to see him as more than just a Jew (verse 9), as a respectable man, for she calls him “sir” (verses 11 and 15) as a “prophet” (verse19) and to the beginnings of accepting him as the Messiah (verse 29) and the acknowledgement of Jesus as the “saviour of the world” (verse 42)
Is this good enough for your day? If yes then take this water to someone else who is thirsty and all you have to do is send it with a click of a button.
Kerala style chicken stew
500 grams chicken
2 tosp coconut oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 to 4 green cardamom
Half inch cinnamon
1 tsp fennel seeds
7-8 garlic cloves
1 inch Ginger
3 to 4 green chilies
1 onion sliced
1 cup carrots, potatoes and peas
1 cup thin coconut milk
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon black pepper powder
For the tadka or tempering
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Hand ful of curry leaves a
Handful of Pearl shallots or small onion
in a Kadai or deep bottom dish add coconut oil and temper, the whole spices, add ginger garlic, green chilies, curry leaves followed by onion Add the chicken and sauté it well. once the chicken changes colour, add the thin coconut milk. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
Once the chicken is cooked, add the thick coconut milk, garam masala powder and black pepper powder.
now for the tempering or tadka. In a small pan, add coconut oil, mustard seeds a handful of curry leaves, and handful pearl shallots or onions. Let the mustard seeds crackle and then pour it over the stew and mix well.
You can also fry some cashew nuts and add to the dish.