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‘Whatever He says to you, do it’ – Part II

By Fr. Dr. Daniel Johnson

The Day Dadima Saved My Life

Your nephew found it funny that dadima taught you spiritual lessons in the kitchen. What else did dadima teach you didi – other than making the perfect rounded paratas?

Your thoughts scanned your memories of the past years in a flash. Oh, there are so many things she taught you; but that one time when maybe your dadima saved your life, stood out.

One time dadima saved my life, Balu. ‘Tell me about it,’ insisted your nephew, now eagerly waiting to taste your now famous aloo parata.

You remember dadima’s rule Balu? Which one, she had so many, Balu said laughing. The one about washing your hands before eating? Oh, of course! How can anyone forget that! No one, absolutely no one, even dadaji, was supposed to eat food in the house without washing hands with soap and water! She would always have a piece of soap and water kept in a jug and anyone who tried to sneak in without washing their hands before eating would be in big trouble!

But this one time, you made a bet with your cousins. I must have been 7 or 8 years old. We were visiting dadima’s house for vacation. Your mother, other cousins were all there. The bet was, if I could successfully avoid dadima’s powerful scanner (her eyes of course), and eat food without washing hands, they would give you their gulab jamun! After all, none of us understood why dadima had to be so strict about washing hands?! It’s not as if you would get sick or something. None of the nieghbours or your other friends had a rule like that; dadima was being a little too strict, maybe a little too superstitious too. So you sneaked in and sat down to eat without washing hands. Even when dadima called out her instructions on washing hands from the kitchen, you nodded as if you had done it. And yes, you won the bet!!! Oh, what a wonderful feeling it was, i.e. till middle of the night.

Your stomach started murmuring and grumbling; you started to feel nauseated and soon started to sweat. And then it started – diarrhoea and vomiting – those evil twins sent from hell (that’s what dadima called them) to drain the life out of you. The whole house was awake. No one took it serious – ie except dadima. She insisted that your father go to the nearby village and arrange a vehicle to take you to nearby Government Hospital clinic. By the time you reached the Hospital, you had been losing fluids so much that you were hardly able to stand or sit up even. If you had been late, things would have been very bad explained the doctor the next day.

After coming home, you recovered quickly – mostly because of dadima’s food and prayers for your recovery. Then one day, as you were eating the hot kanji which dadima had prepared, she came and sat by your mat on the floor. Stroking your hair in a loving way, she said – ‘‘Whatever He (Jesus) says to you, do it’, that’s the last thing Mother Mary said, beta.

You wanted to say, this is not time for spiritual lessons dadima – but you were too weak to say that and you were all too aware that it’s your disobedience which led you to the sick bed.

Jesus and his disciples were invited to a marriage, dadima continued. But there, right in the middle of all the festivities, they had run out of wine. ‘But, who drinks wine for weddings?’, I asked. (Even though weak, my little curious brain was working!) Oh, that’s part of their culture beta; remember the special butter milk which you got for Balu’s older sister’s wedding? It’s like that – in their culture wine signified, joy and prosperity. But running out of wine was an embarrassment for the entire family. The family got so worried that they went and told Mother Mary about the situation, who then told Jesus about what happened. Then Mother Mary came to the family and said, now all you need to do is ‘‘Whatever He says to you, do it!’

Jesus then did the strangest thing – asked them to fill a huge jar full of water and serve it to the guests! ‘Jesus turned water into wine!’ – you said in your weak voice, excitedly, recollecting the story you learned in your Sunday School class. Yes beta, Jesus did a miracle. But the miracle was preceded by obedience to what Jesus asked them to do.

Beta, sometimes what your elders tell you to do, or rules which they ask you to follow, don’t make sense. ‘Like the rule to wash hands before you eat food’ – I added sadly. ‘Yes, there is a reason there is a rule in our house not to eat without washing your hands. (It’s to help prevent sickness which spread from dirty hands and water, I understood later) But you are too young to understand the reason behind the rule. And so it’s important to ‘obey’ even if you don’t understand fully. You obey Jesus when you obey God appointed authorities over you – like your parents, priests and teachers.

Many times in our life too, Jesus asks us not to do somethings which may not make full sense. Like avoid gossiping or not keeping bitterness and forgiving those who hurt– these contaminate your mind and will make you sick, just like dirt contaminates your hand and makes you sick. At other times, it’s important to do things even when you don’t fully understand the benefit. For example things which the church tells you to do – like not missing Divine Liturgy and taking part in eucharist, or praying and asking for your guardian angels protection when you go on a travel, or fasting during those appointed times and seasons or making sure you read the appointed scripture portions each day. These spiritual practices are like nutritious food which helps you fight sickness from the inside.

‘Whatever He says to you, do it’ – that’s the last thing Mother Mary told beta. Once they did what Jesus asked them to do, joy was restored in that house!

I will do what you ask me to do, dadima. Of course you will, beta, I know you will, dadima said. She kissed your forehead and blessed me and said a prayer for me.

It’s almost 25 years since that incident. But you have now passed on that tradition of handwashing to your family too! But not only that– but many other traditions too – like praying before you leave home, fasting during Great Lent and other appointed times, not missing church unless you are really really sick and many more. Of course, your daughter is now making aloo parata’s too – her’s is starting to look like Sri Lanka or is it Africa?

Click here to read part 1 of this article.

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