“Your words are like medical ointment on open Wounds. You are dishing out traditional word power from your position as a known writer. May I request you for more daring thoughts and programmes in the service of the people?” Wrote to me a friend, Mr. Vinay Trivedi responding to my article in the mouthpiece of Gujarati Writers’ Association, “Lekhak ane Lekhan”. I liked much my friend’s critical and advisory letter. In the same letter he added his own poem proving that he himself is a poet daring to express challenging thoughts as per his advice to me.
Vinay Trivedi’s hand-written poem made me to think a lot. He started his poem with a question:
I am hungry-
But do not have bread in my hand,
Bread is in the hands of the distributor
There may be fifty loaves
In his hand.
His face has a contented smile,
A careless look too.
Why not he distribute loaves
To the hungry people?
Everyone leading a routine life should ask this question. The poet has described a realistic but unjust situation. A person is very hungry. He has no bread to eat. But an over fed person has fifty ‘loaves in his hands’! He does not distribute and satisfy the hungry persons! Poet shows his social consciousness. He has also a sense of justice. So he believes that it is the duty of the man in the possession of bread to feed the hungry.
Perhaps you and I may think like this poet. We may raise such questions. But my friend poses more challenging and thought-provoking questions:
“Why did Destiny put fifty loaves
In the hands of the unjust person?
Does the Destiny with a thousand eyes
Like to see the hungry persons
Crying for food
And punching in the air uselessly?
Why does Destiny defeat the deprived?
And give victory to the undeserved?”
Those who need bread do not have them while the overfed persons have them! Here in this undesirable and evil situation the poet has posed three more questions. Those questions reveal the poet’s own mentality. For this unjust situation the Almighty with thousand eyes is responsible. But the Almighty here is not different from a person who rejoices in the suffering of others. So he asks, “Does the Destiny like to see the hungry persons punching uselessly in the air and crying for food?”
A famous poet Umasankar Joshi calls a poet as “a spy of heaven”. But here the poet is not merely a spy but he himself becomes the Almighty God! As the Almighty and all-knowing God or Jesus himself, the poet says in the last part of his poem that God is nothing more than or better than a good willed human being. Read the second part of the poem:
The question is that
Jesus/God has consolation,
Soothing words, loving blessings;
But not certainly the security
And the friendly, loving support
Of two or more hands of blessings.
Sometimes he shows partiality:
He swings the whip of untold sufferings
Not on densely populated big cities
But on innocent bodies and minds!
Why is there difference
In weighing balance,
Symbol of natural justice?
The life is a question mark
As some beings live for the sake of living.
If you have time to listen to a petition
Destroy pain, suffering and ceaseless lamentations
Or destroy the feeling of joy, happiness and pleasure
Like pictures, statues and
All your imagine forms and images.
Man is not God. But some people like to play God. They speak like they know everything and they have the solution to all problems of men. They give solutions to all difficulties and mysteries! Here the poet knows what Jesus/God has and what he does not have. Jesus has for men consolations, soothing words and loving blessings; but he does not have safety, friendly and loving support and the certainty of two or more hands of blessings. So men live for the sake of living. The life is a question mark.
Here we may note two things. First, when we speak about God we can speak only one thing with certainty that we do not completely know God. So we cannot say anything about God with hundred percent certainties. Secondly, all our talk about God is the expression of our human language; that is, words spoken with human limitations, that such God is no God, but only human being. He/she may be God of great wonders and miracles. We know that we human beings are bodily beings while God is spiritual being. We take it for granted that God is also a bodily being!
If I speak about my Christian faith, what ever we know about God is known through Jesus Christ. Christians strongly hold that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Jesus is the perfect human being and at the same time God, who has become man through incarnation.
The Jesus Christ who lived on the face of the earth some two thousand years before is very different from Jesus portrayed by the poet. The contemporary writers of Jesus’ time and his disciples have given a totally different picture of Jesus than the one by my poet friend. We know that the Jesus of the New Testament in the Bible is a person, who gave food to the hungry, healed the sick, raised people from death. That is not all, he instructed his disciples and through them even today continues to do the same things through people of good will and says, “go and do likewise”.
A lawyer once came to trap Jesus with a question. But Jesus made him give answer to his own question. Quoting the scripture the lawyer said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with your entire mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10: 27).
Then, the lawyer wanting to justify himself asked again: “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus answered him with the classical parable of the Good Samaritan. A traveler on his way was attacked by robbers. They robbed him everything and left him half dead. Then two Jewish leaders came on the way, saw the half dead traveler and walked by the other side of the road! The third person on the road was a Samaritan. He took pity on the traveler. Gave him first aid bandaging his wounds and then putting him on his own animal and took him to an inn and cared for him. On the next day the Samaritan paid for the wounded traveler and promised the inn keeper that on his return he would pay him whatever else is spent in caring for the traveler.
After this story Jesus asked the lawyer, “In your opinion which of the three people who acted likes a neighbour to the wounded traveler?” The lawyer answered. “The one who was kind to him”. Then Jesus said, “You go, then, and do the same” (Lk 10: 25-37).
There is a similar story in St. Mathew’s Gospel. A rich young came to Jesus and asked him a question, “Teacher, What good thing must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus asked him to keep the commandments of God and love the neighbours as he loved himself.
The young man after responding that he has done all that from his childhood days, asked Jesus: “what else do I need to do?”
Jesus answered him, “If you want to be perfect, go sell all you have and give the money to the poor … then come and follow me”. The young man was disappointed with Jesus’ suggestion: because he was very rich” (see Mt 19: 16 – 22).
Many a times we are satisfied with our comments and criticism of a situation. But we do not even shake our little finger to do something within our reach to the betterment of the situation!
In Dostoevsky’s novel “The Brothers Karmasov” there is a chapter entitled “The Grant Inquisitor”. In it an autocrat asks Jesus behind the bar, “If we hold in one hand bread and in the other hand freedom, then what will the people choose?”
There is no doubt that the hungry people will choose bread. Only after having their fill, they will be able to think about freedom. In all the four Gospels in the Bible Jesus’ message is to feed the hungry.
Thus Jesus both through his life and teaching have set an example for all of us to follow. He has specially instructed his followers to serve the poor and the needy, in our context the Dalit and the Tribal people in India. But instead of walking on the path shown by Jesus what are you and me doing?
God has created us free. We are bestowed with intelligence. We have the basic discerning power to distinguish between the good and the evil. Using our freedom and the power of discernment we can find and act solution to all our problems and difficulties. But instead of doing that we have become selfish and self centered. We find the escapist and the easiest route which is blaming God for everything.
Then, sitting on the seat of justice we declare: “There is no God”. If there is a God, then does he like to hear the cry of hunger and cause the human confusion of this evil situation? Yes, there is no guarantee of quenching the fire of hunger by his blessed hands until you and I become his hands of blessings!
Finally, remembering the words of Gandhiji, I recall that there is enough for everyone in the world; but not enough to meet the needs of the greedy and selfish people.
My good friend, you have done a good job in voicing this unjust situation. People have always deplored this evil and unjust situation. But instead of blaming God for the unjust and evil situation let us think about some bold and enterprising ways to solve the evil and unjust situation.
Changed On: 16-03-2018
Next Change: 01-04-2018
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018