Sunday, March 23, 2014

To be God conscious!

Most pleasing experience of the human soul is to be at the fountain of the sweet presence of God the father, drinking non stop from the perennial source that offers joy, peace, a great sense of purpose and a life of gratitude.

As children, we live in the father's house and His presence is never absent in the house. It is certainly our right and privilege to be in the Father's presence always. Imagine having to be confined by a schedule that stipulates this privilege to be with Dad.

Being in God's presence is a matter of being aware of God who is always present. We can call it God consciousness. We leave this most fulfilling presence of God when we turn inward and become self conscious much like the prodigal son.

To be at the fountain and not leave the presence of God requires training and discipline of the self. The fallenness of our nature pulls us away world ward. Thus we need to inculcate habits to counter this natural pull. When we repeat actions over and over it becomes a habit. Following are some of the ways we can inculcate this habit of being with God:

Repeated short prayers

One of the best ways is by repeating short prayers like the Jesus prayer [ Jesus, the son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner] which the desert fathers trained themselves to say incessantly. If we start doing this, in matter of days, we do this without any effort and even in the middle of sleep, we will find ourselves praying unceasingly as St. Paul exhorted us to do in 1Thes 5:17.

Being conscious of our actions

We can remain in the presence of God by consciously resorting to do only what pleases God and avoid all actions that does not please Him. We thus become aware of our actions and begin to discern well the motives of our actions. We learn to modify or avoid actions directed towards selfish ends.

Being always in the presence of God throws ourselves open to the action of God that makes us holy and Christ like. Every pain and suffering God gives is to purify and purge our imperfections. It is the God consciousness that helps us to reconcile with pain and suffering. Pride also makes us turn inward and become self conscious.

Being conscious of the Trinity within

Another way to remain in the presence of God is to be aware that just as in the Trinity there are 3 persons yet one God, we also, by virtue of having created in the image and likeness of the Trinitarian God, have the presence of divine persons right within us. So each of our actions needs to consulted with all the three persons and cannot be selfish. We will ask this fundamental question to ourself prior to every action, does this benefit my divine nature. The three areas that represent the divine within us are the Will, Body and Soul (life). Every action is initiated by the will. The inclinations of the body cannot supersede the will. The soul is affected by these actions. When our will is enlocked in the presence of God, we are transformed holistically.

John 15.4 says "remain in me". 

Let us discipline ourselves to be in his presence always.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lenten tears - Part 2

Same are the tears that roll out of our eyes but reasons for it are many. Tears fall when we get hurt, when we fail to achieve, when expectations are no met, when we lose someone dear to us and also tears fall when we are sympathetic to the predicament of a fellow human being.

Lent is a season ear marked once every year for tears!. Question is which of these kind of tears do we cry during lent? 

Most of the time, when we think of the events that led to the crucifixion of Jesus, the emotions that run in our veins are a crude mixture of sympathy and righteous anger. It does opportunistically move us to tears. We feel good and self content shedding these lenten tears as though we have done our part to sympathise with God who met with a misfortune. 

"Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children" [Luke 23:28] 

Crucified Jesus is not a victim of unfortunate circumstance or someone's vengeance or cruelty but a victor and liberator who embraced joyfully and willingly, the death on the cross to "set me free". Jesus turns to us who are content shedding the above lenten tears of sympathy, looks into our eyes, just us he did when peter denied him, says "child, weep not for me but for yourself and your children".

Don't we hear the crock crow in the background?

He wants us to be concerned about salvation, first our own and then others. He wants us to make full use of what he is achieving for us on the cross. 

Let us look closely into the deep recess of our hearts. Realise how unworthy we are, realise the number of masks we wear, realise how we put up a straight face and walk as if nothing is wrong with us, realise how quick we are to judge others and find faults, realise how we want to decide for ourselves what is good and evil, realise how we have lost the sense of sin, realise how our generation have mastered godlessness and made themselves their own gods. 

If you feel you are perfect and have nothing in you to repent for, probably you are away from light, the true light that shines and convicts - Jesus. You may be basking in the little lights you have created for yourselves that shows you only the sins of others and none of yours.

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us". [1 John 1: 8]

Let our hearts be broken and spirit be in grief in sincere repentance. The word of God says "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" [Psalm 34:18] If there is pride in us, our grief will turn to guilt and self denial. Be confident of the love and mercy of Jesus who is waiting to accept us as we are. No need to pretend. He wants to make us like him. Waist no tears except for true remorse and to return to the Father who is waiting. Wishing you tearful lent!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Communion to Community

Communion is to hear the voice of God. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [John 10:27]. The communion is also what Jesus refers to as abiding in Him. Jesus said I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 

The invitation God extends to have communion with Him is an open invitation to liberate oneself from the need to fit in, the need to prove one's self-worth and the need to achieve or to be successful in order to be be accepted and loved. To have communion with God is to experience a true liberation from the slavery of self-centredness, in other words, freedom from the needs and concerns of our own self.

We are the sheep of Jesus the Good shepherd. The sheep of His flock is not under pressure to prove or achieve in order to be loved and accepted. They are free to be themselves. They are free to do what they are naturally good at. Their lives are guided by the voice of the Good shepherd that they unmistakably recognise and unconditionally trust. They are sure footed in their steps and are lead to green pastures. They are guarded as by a fortress from enemies. They hear the voice of the shepherd and the shepherd hears the voice of the sheep too. There are times in the life of the sheep when the shepherd leaves the flock in the wilderness and goes searching for a sheep that is lost. The flock by now knows even if their master is not in their sight, he still is there.

A man who is in communion with God learns the nature of God's love and trusts the voice that seldom ceases to whisper "Fear not I'm with you".

In the second example of communion, Jesus calls us to abide in Him as the branches abide in the vine. The branches receive their life from the vine. The pride of the shepherd is his flock and the pride of the vine are the branches. It is on the branches that the fruits are visible. It is the sheep that become useful for others.

Community is a family of those who hear, abide and commune with God living together. They are like the flock and the branches. They hear the same voice yet recognise what it means for each of them. They do not compete but complement. They are the Church, united by the one only head Jesus and bound and sustained together in love by the Holy Spirit.

It is communion that leads to community.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Loved and Forgiven

The most important truth every human person needs to hear is that he is "loved" and "forgiven". God never ceases to whisper these words into our ears. No evil act we commit is capable of stopping God from loving us and forgiving us. If it is so, why do we fail to hear it? It is because we seek to hear these words in the thunderous roars and the monstrous cries we create and manipulate around us. But alas! this gentle whisper can only be heard in the deepest recess of our being as we resolve to seek our joy and fulfilment in God alone and in nothing else.

Man experiences God as the provider first. In the fascinating story of the prodigal we see that the lost son comes to his senses when he realises that he is missing the meals he savoured at home and that his father's servants are eating much better meals than the morsel of husk he is struggling to grab fighting the pigs. Then it is the experience of having forgiven by God that makes him abide in God. It is by abiding in God and trusting in Him that he comes to know the other dimensions of God. It is this knowledge and experience that transforms him and prepares him for a role shift - from the prodigal son to the loving, forgiving father.

It is also quite possible for a person to leave the fathers home and physically be there still. We could be a legalist scrupulously keeping the rules and yet completely fail to experience the love of the father. We see this in the case of the older son. He also measures the fathers love in terms of food. He says "all these years I have been your servant, doing your orders in everything: and you never gave me even a young goat so that I might have a feast with my friends. But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him" He surely speaks not like a son but like a servant. Though not physically left the fathers house like his younger brother, he too have wandered far from home. Here "home" refers to a place where one can clearly hear God telling him "you are my beloved and my favour rest upon you".

When we hear and become what father tells us, thats is "being his beloved"we cease to complain. We begin to dispense freely to others what we received freely. We are ready to endure persecution without desiring to revenge. And receive praise without using it as a proof of our goodness. As a beloved we are free to love and give others life and also die and still give life to others. Being the beloved is becoming father like, and becoming Christ like.

Listen now to God's voice that is whispering in your ears. "You are my beloved son and my favour rest upon you". Luke 3:22

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Evangelization for the transmission of Faith

Jesus said to his disciples  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in name of the father son and the Holy Spirit. And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”

These compelling last words of Jesus must shake us out of the comfy sofas. This is a matter of urgency. Do we heed this urgent call?

The Church exists to evangelize. All Christians without an exception are called to evangelize.

The challenge of time is to make “faith” relevant to a highly secularized society that is desperately attempting to de-Christianize the world. And also re awaken those Baptized Catholics who lost their flavor and are living merely as Sunday Christians.

Our beloved Pope Francis, during the World Youth Day at Rio, challenged the youth to courageously proclaim the Gospel with their life and word. He asked them to be missionaries. He reminded them that it is not an option but mandatory.

Do we heed this urgent call?

As we know, many great nations of the modern world were built on Christian values and principles. 1700 years of Christendom is collapsing before our eyes rapidly and radically. It has been the major influence on the law, the culture and educational systems of the western nations. But no more.

We are witnessing a godless generation characterized by public mockery of God and flaunting of immorality almost like a new religion.

Sadly but rightly so, our Catholic Church is called a sleeping Giant. The time is “now” that we reawaken the Catholics to rediscover their friendship with Jesus. Reawaken Catholics to discover What it means to be a Catholic. And what it means to be Christians.

It was blessed pope John Paul (who would soon be canonized) first proposed the term “new evangelization”.

What is new evangelization?. According to JP2, The new evangelization must is:

New in enthusiasm
New in expression and
New in methods

The Gospel message is the same but the method ought to be new. We must utilize technology to effectively communicate.

We must take the message of the Gospel to the streets. Gone are times when people came to churches own their own. The Church of today like the Good shepherd must set out into the streets, malls, pubs, corporates, cricket stadiums, where ever people are, seeking out the lost with compassion and love. We must take the gospel forgiveness and new life to this generation that is clue less. We must make the Good news of Jesus relevant this generation.

The world is living in deception. Devil the father of lies has connived with men who lust after money, fame and pleasure and has made a pact to deceive the innocent. If we the people who have been shown the light do not march out into the darkness how can we be called the followers of the savior who came to seek out the lost.

Jesus said “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”

How can I do my part in New evangelization? How can I be an evangelist?.

In order to be an effective New evangelist, first and foremost I should have a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. To evangelize is not to share my head knowledge. But to share a relationship. You cannot share what you don’t have.

In our Churches, we never emphasize enough on the need to have a personal relationship with Jesus. The sacraments and liturgy will come alive only when one experiences the love of Jesus in a personal way. Woe to us if we are content with only the outward show of piety and compliance.

Secondly, I should be excited about the message of the Gospel, the fullness of life in Jesus, forgiveness of sin, the abundant life in Jesus. I should be someone who is excited and looking forward to spend eternity with God.

I should know the world and the culture. I should be aware of the threats posed by the secularized world on basic Gospel values.

As a new evangelist, I should be proud of the Catholic Church and its traditions. I should love the saints and want to be like them.

I should be a missionary at heart. I should be passionate for souls. There are many in the world that is lost, because they have lost contact with God their creator.  It is our Christian duty to reach out to them. It is the right of every human to be told about “salvation”.

Finally, I have got to know and use the new media. Our generation has grown up with computers, smart phones and tablets. So use them. Don’t be afraid of technology.

The only medicine for the aching world is Jesus. Let our facebook posts and tweets be edifying and liberating. Let your PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads and smart phones be transformed into instruments of peace and liberation. Let us use technology to help the ailing humanity. Let us do our bit to save the world from selfishness. Let us be the proponents of the new evangelization the Church is calling us to be.

You might ask what difference I can make alone. As mother Teresa once said, So many tiny drops make the ocean If I don’t contribute my one-drop, the ocean will be less by that one drop. Do not be discouraged, God is counting on you, so is the world.

If you are clueless how to start, go to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Tell Him that you are ready but do not know how to do it. Jesus will anoint you with Holy Spirit and speak to you in your ears the way forward. This works! Because our God is a living God. He hears and he speaks. Hallelujah!!!

Knowing your spouse

Know your self first

The key to knowing your spouse is knowing your own self first. It is only in God that we discover ourselves. As God reveals more of Himself to us we begin to understand more of ourselves. As we understand more of ourselves, we begin to understand others. If you seek to understand your spouse, begin by seeking God whole-heartedly.

The mystery of Man and woman 

The uniqueness of man and woman can only be understood in the mystery of the Trinitarian God. Creating human beings in his own nature, God made them man and woman. The union of man and woman points to the unitive and procreative nature of God’s love. The desire to give one self totally to the other is engraved in our bodies. The language, our bodies speak is that of self-donating love. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. [Mathew 16:25]

Through disobedience humanity experienced sin and it left us wounded and broken. Jesus restored and redeemed us through his self-donating love on the cross. In Jesus we understand that our spouses are as broken and wounded as we are. So we commit ourselves to love despite each other’s weaknesses. Remember, Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. [Rom 5:8]

The need to understand our spouse is not so that we can manipulate and get from her/him what we want. Instead this knowledge helps us change and be transformed so as to selflessly serve her/him as Christ served the church. 

Unique Roles

God is the initiator of love. We are able to love because God loved us first. It is always God who takes the first step. God placed man as the head of the wife to initiate love and forgiveness just as Jesus does. Woman on the other hand is the receptacle. She prepares, receives and nurtures the gift of love that is initiated by man and bears forth fruit. Woman’s role in marriage reflects that of the Church. It is love that enables man to protect, defend and uphold the dignity of woman. It is the tender love of woman that holds together the whole family and intern the humanity itself. 

Know your weaknesses

When we expose our lives to the light of Christ, our imperfections are revealed. As we become aware of our own imperfections, we become more patient with the imperfections of others. God would use our spouses to shed light on many more of our weaknesses. Do not resist or react but accept the corrections in humility as if from God, and ask your spouse to help you in the process of change.

Let your mission drive you

Our primary mission is to know, love and serve God and lead others to do the same. As married couple our mission is to lead to eternal home those whom God has entrusted to us. We must become helpers to each other; helping our spouses in their weakness to hold on to God and teaching them to seek their consolation from God alone. Remember no woman or man can ever fulfil our deepest needs, except God. 

Full knowledge however is not necessary

Just as God is a mystery and we are incapable of knowing Him fully, we who are created in his image and likeness are also a mystery. Neither our parents nor our spouses are able to understand us fully. A full knowledge however is not necessary for a faithful married life just as we need not fully know God to submit and commune fully with Him.

Every person is unique and thus every marriage is unique too. Married life offers us unending opportunities to discover and rediscover each other’s uniqueness. If we are humble, open and teachable, foreknowledge of the spouse is insignificant. The knowledge we gain through persevering in love despite failures and bad responses is what is truly valuable to our marriage. The transformation this hard earned knowledge brings about in our relationship is pivotal. 

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith [Heb 12:1-2]

Eucharist - the Source and Summit of Christian Life

You and I are all called to be Holy. We become holy not by what we do but by what God does within us.

Jesus lifting the bread in his hands said “Take this and eat, this is my body broken for you. And then he took the chalice and said, drink this, this is my blood, The blood of the new covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of your sins.

It is Jesus who makes us holy like Him by giving us his own complete self - body, blood, soul and divinity. In the holy mass, during the Communion service, what takes place is a profound and mysterious exchange. Jesus takes upon himself our broken and wounded bodies and gives us his holy body. 

Our old sinful self is crucified with Jesus and we become a new creation. The old is gone and the new comes in. Because of this priceless exchange, we can now say with confidence, Its no longer I but Jesus who lives in me. 

God the father, out of his immense love and mercy, sent his only begotten son to become the worthy sacrifice and liberate humanity from the clutches of sin. Writhing in pain, Jesus cried out from the cross “it is finished” as he faithfully accomplished the mission entrusted to him by the father. What He began in the upper room the previous day, he finishes on the cross. He sacrifices himself for us. By His sacrifice, Jesus healed our wounds and reconciled us back to God. We can now call God “Our father”.

John the Baptist, the one who came to prepare the way for the savior, pointing to Jesus told his disciples, Behold, the Lamb of God who takes way the sin of the world. Jesus not only takes away the sins but also gives himself to us as a meal. Jesus said “Truly, truly I tell you, unless you eat my body and drink my blood you would have no life. 

Eucharist is both a sacrifice and a meal. Happy are we who are called to his supper every day. This meal makes us “fully alive”, This meal nourishes and satisfies our soul. This meal is the life of every Christian. This meal is Eucharist, the source and summit of Christian life. 

Jesus wants our Christian life to be “Eucharistic”. In one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican council named “Lumen Gentium” the church declared that the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. This implies that the life of a Christian emerges and culminates in the Eucharist. We are thus the fruit of the very “Tree of Life” that the Genesis talks about. Our destiny is to become like the Eucharistic Christ, emulating the self-donating love of our Lord. We are called to become the very grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies so that like Jesus, we too may produce much fruit.

At the last supper, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist as a new covenant, offering himself as food and drink to us. He said do this in memory of me. When we eat the body and drink the blood, we unite ourselves to the life of Jesus i.e. his body, blood, soul and divinity. In other words, we partake in the “divine life” of God, i.e. the very life of the Trinity itself. We become what we eat.

Jesus the head of the Church unites with his bride the Church in the sacrament of the Eucharist. We become one flesh with Jesus. This communion is real. The Eucharistic union is the foretaste of our ultimate union with Jesus, at the wedding supper of the Lamb. 

I would like to conclude with the passionate words of the Catholic mystic and saint Gemma Galgani. “Do grant, oh my God, that when my lips approach Yours to kiss You, I may taste the bitter wine that was given to You; when my shoulders lean against Yours, make me feel Your scourging; when my flesh is united with Yours, in the Holy Eucharist, make me feel Your passion; when my head comes near Yours, make me feel Your thorns; when my heart is close to Yours, make me feel Your spear.”