As we drove out of the college premises, which provided the parking space for all the vehicles of parishioners attending the Good Friday mass, we passed an elderly lady and a young lady with a little boy in her arms trying to navigate the puddles while holding umbrellas to shelter themselves from the incessant rain. I had never seen it rain so early on Good Friday. Usually the skies darken only after the service is over making the blind faithful among us believe that nature was mourning the death of the Saviour along with us (St. Luke 23: 44-45). But then GF had never come this early either for ages.
Well, what I was saying was that the narrow dirty road with slum dwellers on one side of the church-college campus is sickening (you cant help throwing up if you see young kids defecating on the roadside early in the morning) to pass even on a bright sunny day but I always try to tell myself that the road to heaven is narrow and difficult. And to walk through it on a rainy day is torture but if we cant do it for Christ on Good Friday, when can we?
V, feeling extremely benevolent after a just-finished late lunch of kanji-payar-papad courtesy the church, asked me if I wanted to offer a lift to our less-privileged pedestrian churchmembers. I, feeling no less benevolent, rolled down the window and waited for them to come abreast. Yes, they happened to be on our route but further down but they would take an auto/bus from the stop nearest our place. They spoke a mix of Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam as they tried to shove the little boy onto the back seat first. "They dont seem to have come to the church, but doesnt matter...," V said, a trifle disappointed.
The ladies thanked us profusely for showing kindness to strangers. And yes, they had come for the Good Friday service. They were from Palghat and they had been coming to this church for the past 5 years.
We lapsed into silence.
"Oh. I didnt know there were many Orthodox Christians in Palghat," I said, conversationally after a while.
The older lady hesitated, and then said: "Well, actually we are Nair Hindus but we have become Christians and we now worship only Jesus. And the madam who introduced us to Christ comes to this church, so we have been coming here too. And the Lord has been very good to us. See, today devan (god) has helped us in this pouring rain by bringing you people before us. We dont even know your names or anything about you but we are very happy to have met you."
By then we had reached their bus stop. The cute little boy was called Johan. The mother-daughter-son opened their umbrellas and ran off to the bus shelter.
"Strange to have met somebody like that!" V remarked, feeling rather overwhelmed by their faith. "Coming to church in this heavy rain with a little child. And here we leave our kids at home not wanting them to come out in this weather or this crowd."
Where are we as Christians when those who are not Christians by birth feel closer to Jesus than we do? And when do we initiate our little ones into the hardships of the Good Friday mass, when one experiences at least emotionally the trauma of the Crucifixion?