Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Does God Punish?

Often we think, God was punishing Adam and Eve when He sent them out of the garden of Eden. We also think, God was cursing them when He said to man "you will live by the sweat of your brow," and to the women "you will suffer the pain of labour".

God did not cast them out of the Garden. They distanced themselves from God when they sinned. This distancing is the natural result of sin. Nobody can come into the presence of God without holiness. We see how Adam and Eve hide themselves behind the bushes. We see them trying to cover themselves with leaves. Thats what sin does to us. It distances us from the presence of God.

Sin is not an act but a condition. The condition where man looses his capacity to know, love and serve God, and also his neighbour -if not fully. The acts we commit are the fruit of this condition.

Are we not then, confessing only the fruits and not the condition itself!

We also see how God covers Adam and Eve with animal skin. We can assume that, an innocent animal had to give up its life to cover them. In the act, God also covers them with the blood of the animal. This is probably how Cain learned the kind of sacrifice that would make him righteous before God.

God did not intent man to labour or suffer pain. Labour in the field and labour in child birth are also the direct effects of the original sin.

God the father sent His only son to save us from sin and the suffering it brought us. Through baptism God removes the effects of the original sin, and sets us free. The liberation nevertheless is experienced only when the grace received is applied in real life in faith. This means we are set free only when we live according to the word of God/Spirit.

We should not blame God but ourselves for the cruelty, suffering and disasters we see in the world. But God in His mercy turns even these suffering for our good. The innocent sufferings of our brothers and sisters in many parts of the world causes God's grace to fall abundantly. It is because their sufferings is joined with the suffering of Christ just as it is mentioned in Paul's letter to the colossians "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" [1:24]

That is why it is said "But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. [Rom 5:20]".

The suffering will cease and peace will be established when all of humanity believes in Jesus Christ and orders their lives according to God's word. Or at the end when the Lord gathers the wheat and leaves the weeds to be burned in eternal fire!.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Growing out of sin

Even though a man sincerely chooses to follow Christ, the sinful nature in him remains. He is able to follow Christ not because he is already free from his sin but because God loved him first.

When we repent and turn to Christ, the grace that God weaves around us is much like a cocoon. Grace is the loving, living presence of God. This unconditional love and the faithful presence of God provide us the right condition to grow and emerge into a beatiful butterfly. When we begin to live in the grace of God, we live no longer by the law of flesh but by the law of the Holy Spirit. We experience freedom.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. [Rom 8:2]

This cocoon around us is weakened when we commit venial sins and it is completely destroyed when we are in mortal sin. As we know little sin draws us to little more sin. It is so because sin weakens our ability to experience the loving presence of God. [Ref CCC 1863] When we prolong in sin, the external world enters through the pores in the cocoon and awakens the deep-rooted yet dormant sinful habits within us.

It is our responsibility to reject sin and be faithful to Christ by remaining in the state of grace [presence of God] despite the pull of concupiscence. It is our constant communion with God that redeems us from sin. The rate at which the redemption takes place in us is proportional to our cooperation with the grace already made available. When we get accustomed to superior good, we begin to value earthly good as worthless and futile. This experience of the superior good deepens and shapes our thoughts and deeds. It creates new habits. It instills in us new virtues. It influences our thinking, It changes our perceptive, It grants us wisdom. It gives us the grace to remain steadfast.

Do not despair when you sin. Waist no time! Realize God still loves you unconditionally. Announce this Truth loudly to all the voices that accuses you. Return to the loving father. Let his love redeem you. Ask God to give you the strength to press towards the confessional just as the prodigal son arose and made the first step. The cocoon will soon be restored. The robe and the ring awaits. The table is set, the feast is ready. Let us rejoice!

We shall surely fly into eternity, fluttering our beautiful wings.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [Thes 5:16-18]

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Heal, Restore and Rehabilitate

Christ offers healing, restoration and rehabilitation of our body, mind and soul. He will bring it to perfection when He returns in Glory to take us home.

Jesus, the Son of God, became like one of us, except in sin. He took our brokenness, sicknesses and sinfulness upon himself and gave us his perfect body in exchange. He distributes the merit of the the finished work on the cross through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation - healing, restoring and rehabilitating us. Christ comes to dwell in us. And thus we can say:

It’s no longer I, but Jesus who lives in me. He Heals me, Restores me and Rehabilitates me

During the last supper, breaking the bread, Jesus said, this is my body given up for you, take and eat it. He did the same with his blood. Jesus reminded us that He is the bread from heaven. His is the blood that will be poured out for the remission of our sins. He chose to let his body be mutilated for our sake so that we can be healthy and free from sickness. 

Events that take place around us and the disasters we see in the nature are proportional to the sin that exists in the world. "Change" in human souls, positively or negatively influences the environment and the turn of events. We have been given authority over the nature and all it has. We decide how we want the nature to treat us. The bible says The creation is groaning and is waiting for its redemption along with us [Rom 8:22]

But when man through the gift of faith, believe with his whole heart and accept Jesus the restorer unconditionally, he allows Jesus to transform him by the renewal of his mind [Rom 12:2]. We will then have the mind of Christ [1 Corinthians 2:16]. And thus we can say:

It’s no longer I, but Jesus who lives in me. He Heals me, Restores me and Rehabilitates me

If our heart is not healthy, doubt no longer. Believe that Jesus took your diseased heart and gave his wholesome body in the Eucharistic bread. Don’t we know it is sins that lead to sickness? As we know Jesus’s body knows no sin. No sickness can ever enter His body. We must believe that our heart is now restored and it beats perfectly. Because:

It’s no longer I, but Jesus who lives in me. He Heals me, Restores me and Rehabilitates me

After recieving the Body and Blood of Jesus at the Holy Mass, It should be Jesus himself who walks out of the Church, not me, cause it is:

It’s no longer I, but Jesus who lives in me. He Heals me, Restores me and Rehabilitates me

No event or situation, however worst, harmful, or powerful can do anything to change the course of our life, the divine destiny Jesus has marked out for me, by pouring out his precious blood and paying every single debt the accuser could use against us. We must believe without doubt that this is true. We must not believe in any lie that is contradictory to this Truth. Thus we boldly say:

It’s no longer I, but Jesus who lives in me. He Heals me, Restores me and Rehabilitates me

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Healing and the Eucharist

It is the experience of “being healed from sicknesses” that makes people venture out, crossing the lake and climbing the mountain, to meet Jesus again. Refer John 6:1

On the mountain, Jesus gives them the Word and soon undertakes to give them the bread. This is clearly a sign leading to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The celebration of the Holy Mass is our participation in the perfect worship Jesus offers to the Father on our behalf. It has the Word and the Bread [body and Blood of Jesus] central to it. The barley loaves and fish the boy gives, represent the work of our hands and fruit of our labour - both good and bad, inadequate, short-lived and imperfect. Jesus receives our imperfections and gives back his own flesh in the form of the Eucharistic Bread - feeding the hungry and healing the sick.

Jesus here also presents himself as the New Moses and the New Manna. When Jesus asks Philip “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” [John 6:4-6] He was paraphrasing Moses. In the book of Numbers we read Moses saying“Can enough sheep and cattle be slaughtered for them? If all the fish of the sea were caught for them, would they have enough?”[Numbers 11:22]

It is interesting to know why did Jesus ask this question to Philip? Because it was Philip who recognized Jesus as the one about whom Moses and prophets wrote about. Read John 1.45. 

Philip responded to Jesus in despair “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough to give them a little piece each” doing precisely what any of us will do – Counting on the money. Doesn’t this happen to us? Like Philip, we too forget that the one who is asking us to feed the hungry and heal sick is the maker of the universe and the savior of the mankind

Jesus exhorts us to heal the sick and feed the hungry. Our task ultimately is to take the sick and the hungry to the Eucharistic table. It is where we receive forgiveness of sins and everlasting life on a daily basis. This is why Jesus taught us to pray “give us today our daily bread, forgive us our sins”

There are only two miracles in the Gospel of John that involves food. Chapter six is concerning the bread and chapter two about Wine. Together they anticipate the Eucharistic liturgy where Jesus who is both the "new Moses" and the "new manna" gives Himself as food for the multitudes under the visible signs of bread and wine. [See CCC#1333-35].

When we cry out like Moses “Where can I get meat to give to all this people? For they are crying to me, ‘Give us meat for our food.’ [Numbers 11:13] Jesus answers "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” “I’m the bread that comes down from heaven.”

People asked for meat - Jesus gave himself

In the Eucharist, we receive remission of our sins as Jesus the Passover Lamb takes our brokenness and sins upon himself, offers himself to the father as the perfect sacrifice on behalf of us. We receive new  and everlasting life in the Eucharist as Jesus the New Manna, now resurrected, glorified and living forever, comes to dwell within us, becoming one flesh with us. The Eucharist transforms our flesh and confirms it to His own so that we can now offer our bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God. Our transformed self becomes the seed that dies to give new life – to all.

"The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] himself is the bread who sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the over of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven." - St. Peter Chrysologus, Homilie 67’

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wrestling with God

Wrestling with God is the battle man experiences within. Jacob of the old testament is known for wrestling with the angel of God.

Genesis 32:22-28 - The same night he [Jacob] got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”

Post the fight, God called Jacob “Israel”. Is-ra-el in Hebrew means "the man who wrestled with God". What does it mean to wrestle with God? Why does one wrestle with God?

The wrestling here is “our fiery resistance”to the redeeming act of God. God wants to save us from sin and the occasions of sin and restore us. He wants to make us a new creation. When God pulls us out of the pit to wash us clean, we bite his hands and spit on his face, escape and scoot back to the filthy pit again. God waits patiently till we stretch our hands again to him.

After Jacob has prevailed until daybreak, wrestling with the angel of God, in appreciation of his perseverance, God changed his name from Jacob to Israel and makes a promise. The promise is to “restore” [and make his own], all the descendants of Jacob – the house of Israel – those who hear/believe in Jesus/his words and do it.

Jesus came to save mankind from their sins. Mathew 1:21

Only God can save us from sin. Those who co-operate with God and persevere despite strong inner pull becomes the dearest of God and the promise God made to Jacob fulfils in him.

The persistent wrestling of Jacob and the blow on his thigh that dislocated his hip represents the painful process of restoration that every Christian must go through before he becomes a part of the house of Israel. Jacob cries and prays as he wrestles with his own sinfulness, never leaving the fight.

We too must insist that we will never leave God until He blesses us and liberates us completely from our sinful habits and make us the new creation. [from Jacob to Israel - From a deceiver to the one who has conquered his own fallen-ness and gained the favour of God]

How long does God have to wrestle with you before you yield every area of your life to Him?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Healing from sin and sickness

Jesus came to save mankind from their sins. Mathew 1:21

Saving the mankind from sin also means saving them from their sickness because it is sin that causes sickness. And therefore it is forgiveness of Sins that initiate healing. [CCC 1502,1503]

[1502 The man of the Old Testament lives his sickness in the presence of God. It is before God that he laments his illness, and it is of God, Master of life and death, that he implores healing. Illness becomes a way to conversion; God's forgiveness initiates the healing. It is the experience of Israel that illness is mysteriously linked to sin and evil, and that faithfulness to God according to his law restores life: "For I am the Lord, your healer." The prophet intuits that suffering can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others. Finally Isaiah announces that God will usher in a time for Zion when he will pardon every offense and heal every illness.

1503 Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins;  he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of. His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them: "I was sick and you visited me."]
 

It is His name and faith in His Name that he has healed this man whom you see and recognize. The faith that comes through Jesus has given him wholeness in the presence of all of you. Acts 2:16

God’s salvation constitutes of forgiveness and restoration. Receiving forgiveness does not ensure that we commit the same sin no more because the circumstances that lead us to sin remain unchanged. It is then through the act of restoration that God completes the process of healing.

We often find this process of restoration painful for it demands that we are plucked out of those comfort zones that we are deeply rooted and replant ourselves in a totally new place.  Most of us resist or postpone this process, making our restoration [that Christ the healer initiates] slower or not allowing it to take place.

For he wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. I Tim 2 3-4

In order for man to be forgiven and restored to life all that is required of him is to exercise his faith. Faith is coming to know the truth [Jesus] and believing in it.  Christian life must faith lived out according to the Truth revealed through Jesus Christ. [Scriptures]

The act of faith is like believing in the doctor and his medicine except that in this case there is no physical medicine but an inner process of believing in heart and proclaiming the same with conviction. This is no mental gimmick but it is through the merit of the sacrificial death Jesus offered on the cross on our behalf that we are healed and restored. The healing Jesus offers is wholesome. It integrates healing of the mind, body and soul.

Do people suffer even after they are healed and restored? Yes! Because of the sin that still exists in the world. We are called to unite our [innocent] suffering to that of Christ for the salvation of the world because through his own suffering Christ has given suffering a redemptive power. Yes it can save people. We partake in mission of saving all mankind along with Christ when we suffer with Christ.

It is out of love for Christ that one offers to joyfully suffer with Christ

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.