Monday, November 30, 2015

The new 'normal'

Man exists in relationship with God whether he knows it or not. In our relationship with God, you are either embracing Him or denying Him. There is no neutral zone.

Sometimes we hear people opine, "I don't over do my spirituality". They are careful not to be seen as religious extremist or a fanatic. They are concerned they might offend fellow humans by being one. The question arises "what is normal? Active involvement is spiritual affairs or moderate or little involvement? Are those who seem to be walking talking only about God, heaven, hell, eternal life and spirituality crazy? Are they over doing things?

The above concerns arise from an immature understanding of God. If we believe God exits to distribute goodies to those who please him and punish those who displease him, then for him God is someone whom he must keep a safe distance from. He concludes if God has given him intelligence, knowledge, talents and other capacities to achieve his life’s ambitions he should not disturb God. It is enough that I 'pray' to God that he blesses my fabulous plans. It does it also so that God does not become angry and thwart his dearly plans.

God is not human nor does he think or act like one of us.  Human intelligence or logic cannot fathom the essence of God. It will be like a toy robot trying to understand the man who created it by the artificial intelligence it is given. But as far as humanity is concerned what sets us apart is that we are created in the very nature of God himself. So we are not orphans on earth but children fostered by a Father whom we call our God. God must be understood from the mouth of Jesus – the son of God who is the mind of God, the word of God and the human face of God.

What is normal then?  Active involvement is spiritual affairs or moderate involvement? Let us analyze:

Imagine you have an employ who has taken only 10 days leave in the last 10 years (in additional to eligible leaves). You will speak highly of him and he will be called faithful, sincere, hardworking despite of his being absent for 10 days. Because for you 10 days out of 3650 days seem insignificant. You will be happy to honor him with a ‘the employ of the decade’ award.

But if I ask a woman, if her husband can sleep with the women next door just one day out of the 3650 days (10 years) what would be her answer? As we know this husband has been faithful to his wife 3649 days out of 3650 days so he should be given ‘husband of the decade’ according to our previous example.

What is the difference? Why one is ok and other is not?

As far as a husband is concerned ‘normal’ is the one who loves his wife and is faithful to her all the days of his life. Even the meager one day of disobedience makes him unfaithful. Partial obedience is disobedience. We cannot remain in the neutral zone in our relationship with God because there is none. You are either faithful to him or not faithful to him. It is because as St. Paul says we become one body with our spouse in marriage. Their souls are knit together inseparably.

As we know the relationship between husband and wife in marriage is only an earthly sign of our eternal relationship/communion with God. Like St Paul says in another place “Jesus is the head and we are his body” – inseparably united. Nothing physically separates man from God but he can choose to live in denial of the obvious truth. It would be like my hand saying it does not belong to me while it still remains in my body. Jesus said “apart from me you can do nothing”.

The more you love your wife the better husband you become. Similarly the more you love God the more human you become. Scripture says “Love Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength”. When we permit God to lavish his love upon us, we get better at loving God. His love perfects us. His love in us overflows to others and that is the human goodness we see in the world. There is no goodness apart from God.

So in our relationship with God, the ‘normal’ is one that is “passionate, intimate, inseparably united and unceasing. Religious extremism on the other is an evidence of inner emptiness and a desperate attempt to justify self governed actions in the name of God.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Do I really love Jesus?

Do I really love Jesus?. What would be an indicator that can show me how much I love him?

My love for Jesus is not measured in the success of my ministry or the extraordinary God experiences I may have. Those are nothing but the direct result of God's immeasurable love and mercy for us. God gives himself to us in a measure that we are completely unworthy of. Gods love is not a reciprocation of what we do to him. We are incapable of doing any Good work except when he does it in us and through us. How then will I know how much I love Jesus?

In our spiritual life, we do many things as part of a routine. If not as a routine, we could be doing them for the love of self and justification of self. As we know one Holy Mass is powerful enough to transform a person into the likeness of Christ. One confession is enough to make us as pure as I ought to be. But we walk out of every Mass pretty much the same way. Sometimes some thoughts or feelings may linger for a while but they soon fade off into oblivion. That would mean the Holy Masses I participate in, or the Confessions I make does not give me an indication of how much I love Jesus.

I may have a Word of God on my lips for anyone who comes to me, or have prophecies for those who come to me for help. I may sing in angelic voices or write like a veteran theologian. I may receive a standing ovation after every one of my speeches, I may be a living saint in the eyes of those around me but these things are seldom an indication of how much I love for Jesus.

Think about it. Strip yourself off every thing that God is doing in your life. That is His business. Let God do what He wants with us. He loves us because He owns us. For in him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28

Our fallen nature has presented us a weakened self. We are being tempted in every way throughout our days. At the doorstep of every sin, I'm given the freedom to choose Good or Evil. We know the consequence of the choices we make. One choice leads to life and the other to death. The evil I choose leads not only to the death of my own soul but the death of a member of the body of Christ. It is a part of the Body of Christ that is being annihilated because of the wrong choice I make. Christ's body is not independent of His person. He is his body. He and his body are united in a one flesh union just as our head is united to the rest of the body. Every sin cuts us off from the vine i.e. Jesus - the head of my body. He says apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

In the lives of saints we see them undertaking acts of mortification. These acts properly understood are not self mutilation but a sincere effort from their part to consciously wrestle against the power of the sinful nature within that compels us to sin. Acts of mortification we privately undertake is a way of announcing to ourselves that we choose life in God over the satisfaction of our carnal desires which kills my body and soul.

Then, the true indicator of my love for Jesus can be measured by the sincerity of the effort I put in to completely uproot sin from my life. The problem of sin exists not in my body, or in the world or because of satan. It exists deep in my heart. The efficacy of the grace of God that redeems and transforms out heart is proportional to the genuine desire I have, the sincere effort I put in and the tireless perseverance I resort to, in order to avoid sin starting with the ones I fall into most frequently.

Do I really love Jesus? Or should we ask; do I really love myself? If I love myself, I would not choose sin. I love Jesus therefore I love myself.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Inextinguishable Happiness


Our happiness here on earth is an indicator of how happy we will be in eternity. Eternity in heaven is unquenchable happiness and it begins right here.

Happiness is not the absence of pain and anguish, but the Inextinguishable joy we receive in Jesus Christ. This is the joy of having 'found ourselves' in Christ. This very joy is what Jesus displays on the cross. Happiness is to be found in Christ crucified.

Jesus on the cross is not a sad person. Jesus is happy because he is detached to wealth, power, pleasure and honor, the very things in which we seek our happiness. Jesus has nothing to lose but only gains, immeasurable gains. What Jesus does on the cross is growing out of himself, surrendering himself totally to the will of the Father, and embracing what it takes to set his children free, for them to be eternally happy.

To be happy, we must despise what Jesus despised on the cross and love what Jesus loved on the cross.

Jesus said if you want to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me. Happiest person is a disciple of Christ. The cue to happiness is to be found in understanding how Jesus handled his cross.

Jesus was a happy despite the visible pain, unbearable suffering, unreasonable abuse and the mockery. His inner peace is evident from his reactions. Look at him! He is calm, he is not provoked, he is resolved and he is willing. He prays 'father, may your will be done'.

He is in control. No amount of afflictions take away the joy within him. He is not seeking to be comforted, He is comforting us instead. 'Look mother, I make everything new' He tells his mother.  'Do not cry for me, but for yourselves and your children' He reminds the sorrowing women of Jerusalem.

He not only unconditionally forgives his persecutors, but intercedes for them to the Father ' Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do'. He wishes them well in the midst of the writhing pain. He knows what he is doing. He said to the thief crucified with him 'you will be with me in paradise today'. He does not curse anyone. He is composed. His joy is inextinguishable.

On the cross, He is in a constant dialogue with the Father. He is concerned about his duties. He entrusts his mother to his disciple John and John, is youngest disciple to his mother. He does everything according to his Father's will, nothing more, nothing less.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Rom 8:28

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.