Two Oranges

By Barbra Mousouris

Originally delivered at Eventide, April 5, 2017

(take 2 oranges) Here we are in the 5th week of Lent already! A period in which we are invited into a time of self examination and reconnection with spirit.  Some of us interpret this to mean fasting and self denial…which is sometimes easier than self examination. Of course, in our normal lives we examine and choose our behaviors all the time.  We act appropriately with colleagues, we are courteous to people in line, we stop at red lights, we edit our writings before we hit “send”!  We reevaluate our careers, our relationships, our eating habits, our plans, our weight, our habits.  Self examination in Lent is a SPIRITUAL course correction.  The church gives us this chance for a do-over… To examine our spiritual life is not to see where we feel we are not measuring up, as it is the human condition to be imperfect…  It is an opportunity to look at ourselves, not everybody else, knowing that God also looks at us honestly, forgiving and loving us no matter what, and reminding us during Lent of the goal of heading toward spiritual growth and peace.  This is a personal, individual journey, whether you give something up, or add meditation or spiritual readings or charitable service, or whatever you choose that brings you closer to spirit.

When it comes to choices, everyone makes choices, even animals! My golden retriever would eat an entire bowl of kibble, laced with special verboten human food gravy to hide her seizure medication…of course after much glopping and slopping, a tiny white pill would remain in her otherwise spotless bowl.  She too was making a choice, much to my chagrin.  We all take what gives us joy, and let the rest go.  Like a citrus juicer that separates the sweet juice from the pulp, our “blessing extractor” can take any experience and draw goodness out of it.  Or not.  In gratitude we can take the best, and leave the rest… Be open to the golden nugget God is trying to give you in each experience.  We are all given 24 hours in a day, every day.  It is our choice how to spend it. Lent is a time to let the light shine through the darkness, the spring after the winter.

One  gospel reading for Lent is about the feeding of the multitudes. It is a familiar biblical story that appears in each of the 4 gospels, each time miraculously written.  On a desert night, Jesus blessed the meager food resource of 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and miraculously fed 4000 hungry souls ! Pretty weird if you ask me. Within this story lies the essence of what Christian living is about, providing bread for the world.  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that bread is more than, white or wheat, but as a universal symbol for that which is necessary to sustain us. In John chapter six, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Those who come to me shall not hunger or thirst.”  In the Eucharist on Sundays, we experience this miracle, through the invocation of the spirit and the word of God, our bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.  With this, he not only feeds us, but empowers us to feed the whole world. In a world filled with needy and hungry people, Jesus taught us to share food, water, money, shelter, clothing, medicine and education.  But even the wealthy in their marble palace can be experiencing a hunger of the soul. It is so easy to make excuses for not sharing…not enough time, not enough money, not enough faith…imagine if the Albanian nun Teresa had walked into the slums of Calcutta to minister to those dying in the streets and said, “No Lord, this is beyond me.”

Has this Lent season been a time in which you have grown in love? As Fr. Richard Rohr says, there is nothing we can do to make God love us more…and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.  And we need to know, God does not love us because we are good.  God loves us because He is good.  He instructs us to become a more loving person in mind, heart, body, and soul.  Are you more loving today than you were on Ash Wednesday?  And what does love let us see in one another, in the world, and in ourselves?  If everyone just share the little they have, that little will add up to a love of love going around. Jesus is our bread for the hungry, our bread for the soul.  We needn’t worry that there will be enough to go around, because as the story tells us, the left overs from those who love and trust, will fill many, many souls.

On the Jewish holiday of Purim, it is the custom for neighbors to visit each other’s homes with gifts of fruit. One Purim, three men on a business trip found themselves miles from civilization, with but one orange between them.  One man took the orange in his hands, held it close to his heart, turned to the other man and said,  “My dear Chaim, with this orange I give you all my love, and I pray that God grants you a life of peace and plenty.”  Chaim appreciatively accepted the orange and faced the 3rd man, saying, “My brother Yosef, this is a symbol of my deepest thanks for your friendship in my life.  I wish you all the happiness your heart desires.”  Yosef, nearly in tears, received the fruit and turned to the first man. “Beloved Jacob, you are a true man of God. May the angels of mercy walk by your side and return to you a thousandfold all the good you give.”  Jacob received the orange and, brimming with ecstasy, gave it to Yosef again with an additional blessing.  So the 3 men went on all night, adding more and more love to the orange until their souls were filled beyond measure.

The only gifts we truly have to offer one another are the gifts of spirit.  Physical objects are but cups we will with love.  A gift, no matter how expensive, is not a gift unless it is given with sincerity and kindness.  Even if your physical gift seems meager, if we imbue it with intention, it will bless the received in the deepest way.  When we give from the heart, we, too, are full.

As Rabbi Siegel said, “From you I receive, to you I give.  Together we share, from this we live.”

So I wonder…can I feed all of us with this 1 orange? Even if we were starving? In the interest of time I will actually share two…So I ask you, to please pass it to your friend sitting next to you, giving them a blessing…a few words…perhaps one word…perhaps a silent prayer…as you see we can fill our spirits and still have 2 oranges left over.