Monday, January 19, 2015

I'm a sinner

When we sin and lose the sanctifying grace, there seem to be a futile attempt from our part to ascribe false holiness and false righteousness upon us and pretend to look alright. Eventually we end up having to manufacture fake goodness because pride prevents us from accepting the failure and return to the mercy of God.

When we lose the state of grace we are in a state of fear and rejection. God becomes a merciless judge and we stay away from His sight. We begin to doubt the goodness of God. We assume God is angry. So we stop praying, we cave in and start doing useless things, we act weird, our daily duties are postponed, daily prayer is rescheduled, happiness is lost, people around us seem unkind, we find excuses for not doing things we ought to do, And these excuses begin to look serious and original - the church will be noisy, traffic is bad, I have a headache, I must catch some sleep and the list is endless. The best word to describe the post sin drama is 'procrastination'. We do everything else except what we ought to do to return to the state of grace.

The best status/identity every Christian must ascribe to himself in humility is that 'I'm a sinner'. When we confess we are but a poor wretched sinner, we are likely to reconcile with God in less time. Jesus restores and grants us the state of grace through the ministry of the Church, in the sacrament of confession, when we approach the throne of mercy with a sincere and contrite heart, resolving firmly to sin no more.

The following passage from the bible speaks about how the tax collector Mathew (who is in sin) responded to the invitation of Jesus to be his disciple (to embark on a journey of holiness).

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mathew 9:9-13

If we meditate this passage in the light of the Caravaggio painting, [see here] it becomes clear that for Mathew, following Jesus was not an easy decision. He would have been tempted to hold on to the coins, friends, position, comfort etc and pretend to ignore the invitation. He is caught between two worlds. He has to choose Good or evil, comfort or greatness, life or death.

This is what saints call the 'crucial moment'. Jesus never ceases to call us to 'come' to him. A decision in favour of life, excellence, greatness is easier if I acknowledge I'm a sinner. If I have accepted my own fragility with all humility and know I'm none but a poor wretched sinner, I leave what is sinful and throw my life into the hands of Jesus, who can save me and give me abundant life.

When we are at the 'crucial moment', faced with the challenge of ignoring or accepting the gentle divine call, we must not rely on emotions or senses. They always work in favour of our human condition. They only try to appease what the body desires. Our 'will' must therefore rise above the human nature that pulls us in the opposite direction, and let out a conscious 'yes'  to the Truth thats calling us. If we miss the crucial moment we sink deeper. But Jesus never ceases to invite us. His hands remain stretched toward us and his lips gently calling - 'come.'

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Prayer

If we ignore prayer, or if prayer is a burden, the only reason is that we possibly have misunderstood prayer.

Some feel prayer is a useless activity that only the ignorant and the weak resort to. Some feel prayer is an unfair demand religion forces upon them that robs their time and freedom, while some surrender concluding prayer is an unfortunate, boring exercise, having to please an egoistic God in order to receive their daily needs. For some others prayer has become a meaningless habit or just a feel good thing.

Our appreciation for prayer will grow only when our understanding of God grows. When we seek to know God more personally and intimately, our prayer too grows into a wonderful love relationship with God.

Prayer is the means by which we develop this deep relationship and communion with God. When we come to know God's true nature, and who we are in God, prayer becomes the most cherished, joyful and fulfilling experience that we never want to part from.

Prayer is nurturing in the relationship with God. It is the secret path of becoming God like. It is the secret path to unite with God, It is the secret means to become one flesh with God. Prayer is uniting with God as the vine and the branches are united. Prayer is inheriting the character of God. Prayer is sharing in His divine life. Prayer is enkindling the Holy Spirit in us. Prayer is how we are filled with the gifts, fruits and charisms of the Holy Spirit

Prayer is the time our soul interacts with God. It is the time our soul receives directions and understands its purpose. It is in prayer that we garner inner strength. It is a time of rejuvenation. The one who prays learns to depend on God and not on his own strengths, which would be futile.

We are like the moon. The purpose of the Moon is to shine at night and spread the light. In order to shine at night, the Moon needs to expose itself to the Sun as it cannot shine on its own. Similarly, we need to fill our love tanks by exposing ourselves to God, the never drying source of pure love, in order to be able to love others. We need to receive light from God, the ultimate light in order to give light to those in darkness.

When we pray, especially with the scriptures, we get accustomed to the mind of God and his character. To know the mind of God is Wisdom. Wisdom is what 'God would do'. Wisdom is the recipe for success. Wisdom is the recipe for peace and everlasting joy. We must pray always. Prayer is a lifestyle. The gift of prayer is obtained through prayer itself. Prayer is growing in friendship with God. Prayer makes us bold and confident. Prayer is surrendering ourselves for a greater empowerment. Prayer is acknowledging before God who/what we really are.

Prayer is not a time to enlist our good works or recount our achievements. Prayer is saying to God 'I care for you and I know you care for me too.' Prayer is praising God for who He really is. Prayer is worshiping Him for He alone is worthy of it. Prayer is giving thanks for the countless blessings we have received though unworthy of it. Prayer is interceding for the joy of others. Prayer is simply cherishing God's loving, caring, healing, cajoling presence and revelling in it.

The life of a praying person is an 'on the job training'. God trains us to know 'what is not God like' in us. The challenges in life are cues that God gives to reorder and align our lives to His perfect will. The height of human joy [fullness of life] consists in aligning our lives to the perfect will of God. A praying person gladly reorders his life. He knows his own weaknesses. He knows why people are imperfect just as he is imperfect. He is patient with others. He knows why they do what they do. He knows what can make them do better. He desires mercy and compassion for them. He desires them to be like him and even better than himself. He is like a shining light setup at the top of the hill. He is the one everyone wants to be around.

There are different kinds of prayers: the official prayers of the Church, liturgical prayers, devotional prayers, the rosary, intercessory prayers etc. All these are important. One does not replace the other. Each has its own degree of merits. And none of these diminish the importance of the one-on-one, intimate, personal time of prayer. Personal prayer can grow to greater levels of intimacy and union with God.

Desire to pray is already a prayer. Let us tread higher! Choose your time, choose your place. Present yourself before God without agendas. Just let go. Joyfully interact with God in your own way. There is no framework for prayer. Prayer is doing freely what you love most, in God's presence.

God's glory is man fully alive. St. Irenaeus.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holiness and Mission

Holiness is sharing in the communion that exists between Jesus and the Father.  The mission every Christian is called on to do is the very mission of Christ. The mission of Christ was to enable people to share in the communion that exists between Him and the Father – in other words share in the holiness of God.

Christ entered into this world for the sake of establishing the Way, the one and only true Gate that leads to God the Father. Those of us who enter through this gate are granted a holy desire to share this gift of communion, because at the core of divine communion is love, characterized by service and total self-giving.

When we grow in holiness we grow to be missionaries too. We become a servant of the mission of Christ and also a servant of those around us near and far. When we share the good news of salvation with our brothers and sisters, especially with those who have not known the ‘only way’, we serve them. This service is a fitting response to the great mercy and love of God, who saves us and grants us everlasting life.

There is an inseparable link between holiness and mission. Holiness does not exist without mission and mission does not exist without holiness. Only if we are united to Christ as the branches to the vine (John 15:5) can we produce good fruit. Mission is the good fruit we produce when we unite with Jesus the vine. Jesus warns, if the branch separates itself from the vine, it withers and dies.

The effectiveness of mission is determined by holiness. Holiness is the unwavering faith and reliance in the saving power of God. Holiness of a person is in proportion to the grace he has. Venial sin weakens the grace and mortal sin removes grace completely.

The life that God offers us is supernatural. So the means to this end is also supernatural. Sacraments offer us the supernatural grace to grow in holiness. No amount of human effort is sufficient to make ourselves holy or to obtain eternal life. Only the grace of Christ can make us holy and grant us eternal life. Grace is the free merit we receive from redeeming sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But Christ cannot grant us these things without our cooperation and effort. Our effort is to sincerely and consistently choose to serve Christ and Him alone. Our effort is to constantly fight the battle against the lust of the body, lures of the world and the tricks of the devil.

Our fallen nature draws us towards self-seeking choices. We need the grace of God to make the right choices. Our choices must lead us to life. Sin leads us to death. Every time we compromise and give in to sin, thinking God is merciful and will forgive us, we run the risk of losing the grace and becoming more vulnerable to bigger and graver sins. The same happens even when we postpone our return. In order to remain in the state of grace one must humbly admit his frailty; drawing himself immediately to the sacraments, especially reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist, which are the means of supernatural grace that Christ himself has established.

Mission is also letting the Holy Spirit in us to freely move and act according to its will. It is the Holy Spirit that turns people to the saving power of Christ.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The truth will set you free

Let the Holy Spirit open our hearts to always see and know the ‘Truth’ that Jesus revealed through the word of God, both written and spoken. We must at any point in our spiritual walk aspire for an increase of the divine life within us and never be complacent. What stagnates our growth is the ‘I already know it all’ attitude. Such an attitude will render us ignorant of the great distance one could journey when seeking the fullness of truth and divine life despite our frailty.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Cor 4:7

It is only when we know the truth that we can begin to pull ourselves to that peak of the mountain, raising the standards of our Christian life from ordinary to extraordinary.

Come let us trek to the mountaintop. The rope is the scripture. Life’s problems are the recesses in the mountain on which we firmly set foot and climb aloft. However big the mountain of struggles and challenges, God has already made it possible for us to conquer it – in Him. Holding on to the rope and climbing with the sole desire to unite with Christ is the only effort that you and I need to put in. It is God who honors and rewards our humble effort, making us more like him. Backsliding when climbing mountains can be dangerous especially if we stop making progress. All it takes is simple faith in the redemptive power of Jesus and the realization that we are incapable to do this on our own.  It is god's desire to make us like him.

Remember what we ought to do so as to advance in spiritual life is more of letting go than adding anything new. To let go we need to be freed first. Our freedom comes form knowing the truth.

Jesus said “You will know the truth and truth will set you free.” John 8:32.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Do not be Hopeless

Marriage is losing its sacredness and sacramental value. It is fast becoming a social event, a mere arrangement for better economical viability. Money rules lives and all life’s decisions. Families are losing their relevance. Children with diseases are quietly terminated in the womb, and outside the womb. People are hoping to custom design their kids! The letter ‘s’ next to the word ‘kid’ will soon be considered a violation of human rights. Money rules lives and all life’s decisions.

Our lives as well are reeling under a strategic move by those who uphold the culture of death. We too have become helpless victims of consumerism. Quality of life today is determined by seeing what our neighbor has that we don’t have. We are being trained to think that ‘our worth’ is something that needs to be purchased at any cost. We are being deceived. We have become mere ‘toys’ in the hands of the few. Our precious lives are now considered as ‘products’ for the few to multiply their money. Our ignorance is costing a huge price. We have been trained to feel nothing wrong even when our basic freedom and justice is denied. This has been much like the frog and the hot water experiment.

We are too eager to accept whatever the world proposes. Their communication has become compelling and inescapable. It’s everywhere! When they propose that children are a burden, it becomes the socially accepted truth. For those who already have kids, the few make our lives miserable by making basic accessories for education and education itself unaffordable. We have come to believe that happiness, security and peace come from what money can buy. We are encouraged to avail of bank loans and credit cards. We will be made to spend our lives slaving to repay loans at the expense of our own lives and the members of our families. Aren't they catching fish in the muddy waters? Aren't they opportunistically exploiting our plight to their advantage? This situation is much like that story in which the wolf makes the sheep fight and drinks the blood.

We are clueless and confused. But the struggles in life offer us tremendous insights into the secrets of joyful living. Christ never ceases to talk to us. He said "my sheep listen to my voice." If we fail to distinguish the tender voice of Jesus, it is because we have made our inner being too noisy, trying to listen to too many voices.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. John 10:11-14

Hurry! Get out of being in the center of everything. Trade places with Jesus. Let Jesus be at the center of everything, be it joy or sorrow. Come to the periphery and watch what is happening there. Do not try to own the problem as if it is yours. Seek to solve it along with Jesus. Think with Jesus, seek with Jesus and act with Jesus. Do the same with success too. Be firmly rooted in the person of Jesus and in the words of Jesus. He said. "but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." Mathew 24:14

God is in control. Be hopeful! “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Romans 5:20

Eternal Life for All

Eternal Life is to share in the divine life of God. Whoever follows the will of God has eternal life. The will of God is that we believe in the one God sent into the world to save human race - Jesus Christ. If you believe in Jesus Christ, you will love Him. Those who love Him obey His commandments. In order to obey His commandments, we need God's Grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. The grace and the power of the Holy Spirit that are required to live a life according to the statutes of God are granted in Sacraments of the Church. Sacraments become effective when we receive them worthily. Sincere repentance makes us worthy. Sincere repentance is a combination of the knowledge of the gravity of one’s own sinfulness and true humility. Remember guilt comes from pride.

We seek to be justified by the good works we do. But our good works blind us from the reality of our sinfulness and unworthiness. Good works we render are the ‘work of God’. When we take ownership of our good works, it causes the pride in us to swell up. Pride causes us to become self-righteous and to be insensitive to the presence of God in others. We shut down the channels of the grace of God. And without the Grace of God, we lose the sense of Sin. Our heart hardens. Our mind becomes insensitive to the immeasurable mercy and grace freely available in Jesus Christ. We begin to hopelessly depend on our own merits to solve life's problems. We turn to the World's wisdom and the solution the World offers. We resort to believing in the empty promises of the World to find meaning in life. We become of the World. When God's presence leaves us, we become the breeding ground of evil. Greed, lust, jealousy and hatred take root in us. We unconsciously consent to partake in the vicious plans Satan has to ruin human lives.

But nothing can stop God from loving us and saving us. He is waiting. He is willing. He is ever more compassionate to us. He seldom stops knocking the doors of our heart. He shamelessly follows us. His love for us compels him not give up on us. He wants to grant us forgives and save us. He wants to make us participate in His divine life. This is eternal life. And it is for all.

All it takes is...the humility to return.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Drugs and the right to have Life

Drug abuse is the denial of our fundamental right to have life. And those who are involved in the business of providing drugs to people, especially little children, are either ignorant of the gravity of damage they are causing or they are simply blinded by the false hope money gives.

We know that our body is sacred and the Triune God dwells there. Our body is not a prison or a useless shell from which we must escape from, as some believe. But instead it is a sacrament that manifests the invisible mysteries of God. We see the true beauty of the human body on the cross, in mother Mary and in the lives of Saints. We believe in the glorious resurrection of our bodies just as Christ experienced it. Yes, it is in the same body with which we are going to spend eternity in union with God. The human body is sacred and priceless.

Man’s rejection of God (Original Sin) has caused human lives to become treacherous and painful. But God out of mercy and love towards His own suffering children sent His only son and redeemed us. Jesus paid an incalculable price on the cross and purchased our salvation. We are no longer in the clutches of sin or its consequences but instead victorious in Jesus Christ. If human beings still live in misery and pain it is because of the ignorance or willful rejection of the truth of salvation Christ offers.

Drug abuse is an act of destroying our sacred bodies. It is an act of stripping the body of its will, consciousness and sanity, leaving it half dead, hoping to escape the miseries of life. Resorting to substance abuse is similar to depriving a bird of its wings. It is left to die a slow death. A person who is tricked into drug abuse is a victim of the cruel deception of Satan in the hands of those who partner with Satan for earthly gains. Drug abuse thus becomes an act of rejecting/thwarting God’s perfect plan of salvation.

Drug abuse causes a person to:

· Become a slave
· Become financially bankrupt
· Be haunted by Guilt
· Be utilized by the greedy and the wicked
· Be misunderstood by parents, family and society
· Suffer mental disorder
· Lose the ability to return to normal life
· Be isolated in society
· Kill himself unwillingly
· Lose Eternal life
· Waste away ones precious human life

We must pray and stand up to help those who are victims and are proponents of this heinous humanitarian crime. Jesus desires to save them all irrespective of the nature of their sin.

Lets us be that hand and the voice that Jesus can use today. Let the unconditional love of God compel us to be merciful as Jesus is Merciful.