The first reading for Sunday
The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
The Israelites said to them,
“Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt,
as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!
But you had to lead us into this desert
to make the whole community die of famine!”
Then the LORD said to Moses,
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow my instructions or not.
“I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.
Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh,
and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,
so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”
In the evening quail came up and covered the camp.
In the morning a dew lay all about the camp,
and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert
were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.
On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?”
for they did not know what it was.
But Moses told them,
“This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”
Ex 16:2-4, 12-15
I grew up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood and went to Catholic schools from pre-school through high school. I attended a Lutheran College and graduate school also in Christo-centric towns. As an adult, I have just completed five weeks at an all girls high school in Nairobi, Kenya. About half the of the students are Christian, the other half are Muslim.
It is easy to tell the two groups apart. The Muslim girls wrap their hair in pretty head wraps and wear pants under their uniform skirts to keep in line with their practice of modesty. On Fridays, the Muslim girls are able to go to mosque since the school has a Christian Religious Studies teacher, but is currently looking for an Islamic Religious Studies teacher. I am encouraged by how much the two groups of girls respect, admire, and intermingle with each other effortlessly.
At the crescent moon, in Kenya on July 21, Ramadan started, or the month of fasting for Muslims. While the Christian girls each lunch, the Muslim girls sit on stools in the courtyard chatting and laughing. They will not eat until sun down for a month. When I ask the girls about their fast, they genuinely like it. “I look forward to it,” one said. “It gives me more time to sit and think.” Another added, “When I get hungry, I pray, and God gives me strength. It is easier to see blessings this month.” Their parents have eased them into the fasting when they think they are old and healthy enough to handle it. They wait a little longer into the day to eat every year, until they are fasting until sunset. It makes them feel like adults in their worshipping community. I was most struck when one young woman said, “Fasting is good for the mind, body and spirit. It is important in our community because there is so much poverty here. After fasting, when someone tells me she is hungry, I really know how that feels. If everyone in the world fasted, we wouldn’t have hunger because there would be more compassion. People would understand why the hungry beg for food.”
Have you ever taken part in fasting as part of your faith practice?
What other practices of the Muslim faith are you aware of?
Do you live in a community of religious diversity?
Photo courtesy of maxnathans via Creative Commons License