A token or a sacrifice

This Easter is a time to reflect on what God offered to ransom us. The sacrifice of the Cross, the sacrifice of the death of His Son.

Mar 24, 2023

While moving house 10 years ago, my late mother came across two shiny marbles in my room. She was about to discard them, thinking it silly for a grown-up man like me to keep childhood possessions. I remember telling her not to throw them away for there was a story behind those two marbles.

The story of those marbles began sometime in the mid-90s on a rail ride in the blazing Indian summer. The sweltering heat seared bodies as the train made its way from station to station.

At one particular station, my reverie was jolted by the sudden appearance of a tiny outstretched hand. I looked at the intruder. It was a boy of six or seven years of age, begging for alms. This is a common sight in India. But something about the boy made me take a closer look at him, and I was startled.

Why, if he had been scrubbed clean, hair plastered, in St John’s school uniform, he could easily have passed for me at that age, sitting in the back seat of a Mercedes, being chauffeured to school. He looked so much like me at that age that I thought I had met my young alter ego. Instead, here he was pleading ‘paisa, paisa’ (money, money). I thought no more, dug into my pocket and handed him two rupees.

He was delighted. In exchange, he took two marbles from his pocket, placed them in my hand and ran off as the whistle blew for the train to move on. I watched him standing on the platform, gleefully looking at his money. As the train chugged out of the station, I watched him until he disappeared out of sight.

For a while, I sat and looked at the two marbles in my hand. Marbles were a precious possession for any boy. I should know. I had played with marbles before. They weren’t cheap to buy, and were hard to win in a game. You had to be skilful to win and you certainly don’t give them away easily. The poor boy had parted with his prized possession for a mere two rupees.

Not only did he remind me of myself, he reminded me of the widow, in the days when Jesus walked on earth, who, poor as she was, gave of all that she had — two coins. Jesus praised her for her sincerity in giving and condemned the Pharisees for giving a small fraction of their plenty and making a great show of it, hoping to impress people.

Which leads now to the fabled conversation between a chicken and a pig in a certain land experiencing great famine. Everywhere people were starving and dying of hunger. The chicken hatched a scheme and called her friend, the pig, to discuss it.

“Mr Pig, I have a great idea how to help these hungry, starving people. I will lay the eggs, and you provide the bacon, so these people can have bacon and eggs,” said the chicken.

“Fine with you, chicken, what you are offering is a token. What I am offering is a sacrifice,” replied the pig.

In thought, word and deed, what are we offering God today? Is it a token or a sacrifice? Is it such as the giving of my two rupees, the giving of the Pharisees, or the “hard labour” of laying an egg?

Or is our giving like two prized marbles (which I still have in my possession), like a widow in abject poverty giving all her wealth, or like a pig being asked to be sacrificed in exchange for bacon to feed the hungry?

This Easter is a time to reflect on what God offered to ransom us. The sacrifice of the Cross, the sacrifice of the death of His Son. In exchange, is whatever we offer to God today a token or a sacrifice? It is a time for us to reflect, to think of the worthiness of our giving in the light of the sacrifice of the Cross. It is a time to consider, in the span of our time on earth, of what really counts and of what really matters to us and to God.

(Christopher Fernandez is a parishioner of the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Kuala Lumpur.)

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