Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Is your wife beautiful?

We live in a culture where beauty of the human body is falsely defined by pornography. So if you are a person who grew up with pornographic influence, it is almost certain that you have not liked your wife's body when you saw her naked for the first time. And it would be no different even now unless you have learned in the hard way to love her for who she really is.

The pornographic culture has deceived us to seek beauty in the body divorced from the person. Beauty of the person though perceived in the body, lies in the soul. Every person that God created is beautiful. If I'm unable to see my wife's real beauty, the problem lies in my heart. The effective tool to measure ones love for his wife is his ability to see and foster his wife’s beauty (TOB 92:4). 

The onus is totally upon the husband to make his wife aware of her beauty by loving her - body and soul. A husband must find out where his wife doubts her own beauty, it is precisely there he should love her tenderly, helping her to uncover and discover her own beauty.

Authentic love seeks out beauty, finds her without blemish, and admires her thoroughly so as to get intoxicated by that beauty. This is the new wine - divine love - that Jesus restored at the wedding of Cana. The old wine of lust is now replaced with 'Agape' that ennobles 'Eros' - the pure desire for each other in man and women. Eros, in the absence of Agape turns lust.

It is this pure nuptial love, uncorrupted by lust that we see and experience in the Song of Songs. The lover in the song exults “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats moving down the slopes of Gilead” (Song 4:1).

As we know, God designed marital love to be the foretaste of our eternal union with God - the very union we await in the 'marriage supper of the lamb'. Marital intimacy points to the this profound union with God. In this union, God awakens us to see our own true, integral beauty, that we are yet to uncover. And it also enables us to see such beauty in everyone who is in communion with us. Church calls this experience the communion of saints.

We all desire to experience love in such pure form. This is why we feel violated when we are cheated on by someone in our relationships. We have not lost our capacity to love as God loves. We can indeed grow beyond the corruptions of lust and this is precisely why Jesus came. He came to redeem our heart to love as He loves. He exhorts us saying "love one another as I have loved you", because He knows now we can. 

Our culture, marred by lust has misled us into thinking that we are not loveable because our bodies do not measure up to the images that are glorified as beauty by the world. Our faith is not in Jesus who redeems the heart but in cosmetics and creams that alter our bodies and defuse authentic beauty. The problem is not with our bodies but with out hearts. The magical elixir that opens our eyes to see our own beauty in its purest form is Jesus. One who is able to love himself, loves others. The scripture says "He who loves his wife loves himself" [Eph 5:28].

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Resisting Sin

Sin destroys joy and freedom. It leaves us in fear and loneliness. Slowly but surely, we loose our self worth. The questions is how can we safeguard ourselves from the devastating consequences of sin and live joyfully and victoriously? Merely asking God to protect us from sin would not be enough because it requires our participation. It would be like asking a doctor to heal us and waiting to be healed doing nothing. In our daily struggle against sin, God expects us 'to do' a few things so that effort becomes effective and fruitful. And only in doing these things we cooperate with God's glorious plan for our redemption and eternal life.

Our situations may be unique and our vulnerabilities different. Yet it may be possible to draw out few guidelines that are applicable to all. Resisting sin effectively requires the following:

1) Great desire and will
Most of the time we fall into sin because we do not really want to avoid sin. If you are taking your  sinfulness lightly, and secretly cherishing the pleasures of sin, then know that you are in danger zone. To effectively struggle against sin we must have a strong and sincere desire and the will to shun sin.

2) Grow in a personal relationship with God 
A sense of sin and a desire for God comes from a relationship with God. Relationship with God grows by Prayer. Prayer fosters courage and a deep longing for holiness. In the absence of prayer, we become complacent and become indifferent to the symptoms of sin raised by the soul.

3) Faith and Hope in the redeeming power of Jesus
Deep in our hearts we must believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus has already delivered us from sin and we are no longer slaves of sin. We must be filled with hope that redemption from sin is difficult yet attainable.

4) Be aware of our weaknesses
From our past experiences we already know the areas where we are weak and vulnerable. If not, we must make an effort to identify them. It helps us to take adequate precautions.

5) Identify trigger situations
If we study the pattern of our sins, we will know that certain situations trigger the fall. It could be when we are alone, when we have nothing to do, when we are hurt by someone, or after facing rejection and failure. Identify your triggers and be alert when you are in such situations.

6) Be alert and be wise
Always be alert like a soldier who is watching the enemy movements. When you foresee a threat, revert to appropriate counter moves. Without a counter move we are likely to fall.

7) Avoid circumstances
Run away from sin as would from a serpent. [Sirach 21:2] Do not linger on when you know that you are treading the danger zone. Change course or scoot.

8) Know that the enemy has powers and is super crafty
The enemy is prowling to take advantage of our weaknesses. They can easily manipulate us into sin. Do not take them lightly at all.

9) Surrender to the mercy of God
God comes to rescue those who resist the devil [James 4:7] He is rich in mercy and is eager to save us. When you feel tempted and weak, throw yourself into the merciful hands of God. And scoot the scene or situation. And if you must continue in the situation, stay focussed on God, make sure your thoughts do not stray.

10) Seldom rely on your own strength
Our victory is in Jesus Christ alone and those rely on their own strength will surely fail. We cannot fight temptations on our own.

11) Being in state of sanctifying Grace
Personal Prayer, community prayers, reading, meditating the word of God and frequent reception of sacraments etc help restore God's grace in us. It is easier to fall prey to sin when we are not in the state of grace. Grace strengthens the soul by nurturing moral virtues like prudence and fortitude to effectively resist sin.

12) Do not be proud that you have overcome sin 
The devil is crafty and is tireless. The bible talks about how the evil one returns with more wicked ones to take procession of the house from which he was driven away, making the situation worse than before. [Matthew 12:43]. Even after every victory, we must humbly acknowledge our weakness before God, and prepare to encounter next crafty move with great faith and hope.

Resisting sin is akin to dying on the cross. There is no resurrection without death. In your struggle against sin, have you resisted to the point of shedding your own blood yet?. Jesus did, Saints did, so must we.

Our mandate is to be holy as the heavenly father is Holy. [1 Pet 1:15]

It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil. [CCC 1811] 

The moral virtues grow through education, deliberate acts, and perseverance in struggle. Divine grace purifies and elevates them. [CCC 1839]

And if at all we fall into sin again, know that Jesus is waiting to restore us. Confess your sins. Do not procrastinate. He does not judge us nor does he accuse us. May we bathe in the mercy of God.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

When whip and thorns show up again!

Rough edges are there to smoothen me
Pointed ones to poke me deep
They exist in my life to remind me
Of the distance I must tread to be good

Don't I know I'm Gods work in progress
Becoming the maker more or less
These are tools my maker uses
To chip off parts not in his plan

Holy will I be if I permit and not resist
Redeemed be my heart bit by bit
Purifying me in the furnace of love
Untill He sees his face shine in mine

Thank you Lord for the many gifts given
That makes me sad but makes me wise
They purge my still ungodly side
To abide totally as branch in the vine

Pain and suffering are there to spare me
From the surging fires of purging pyre
Love cannot hate so I'm never alone
Always by me is the shepherd so good

Your chastisement is a sweet medicine
That makes me chaste and cleanses sin
Never let me forget thy care and desire
When thy whip and thorns show up again

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The joy of Lent

The words we generally associate with Lent are the unpleasant ones like, desert, heat, dryness, wilderness, fear, beasts, hunger, thirst, loneliness etc. We may think, for Jesus, the forty days he spent in the wilderness was an unpleasant experience. But on the contrary, it may well be the best forty days in his life, spent in deep relationship with the father.

Jesus' victory over the crafty schemes of the devil at the end of his fast, is the proof of the immense strength one receives in prayer (dwelling in the presence of God).

Lent begins with a very powerful scripture passage where Jesus, soon after his baptism is lead by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. Jesus, with extreme clarity, conviction and determination destroys every one of the temptations and commands the devil to get away and at once he does. The devil presents before Jesus, practical sounding, too good to be true worldly promises, suggestions and challenges, while attempting to tempt him. Complying to devils suggestions will make Jesus a celebrity overnight because the world in sin is under devils spell. Yet without a moment of delay or doubt Jesus declares to the devil that his offers are cheap and that he has found something incomparably better in the Fathers house, namely divine life, everlasting joy, peace that surpasses all understanding etc.

Jesus who was fresh out of baptism, full of the Holy Spirit was led into the desert for a deep and intimate union with the Father - away from all earthly attractions and bodily urges. It is this deep connection with the Father that prepares Him to face the devil. The confrontation with the devil is permitted by the Father because the Father knows that the one who is in Him is granted the wisdom, knowledge and the power to refuse and reject any suggestions that is contrary to the gift of divine life that God gives.

We observe abstinence during Lent. And we tend to think abstinence is the essence of lent. Choosing to abstain from food, activities or people that we are attached to is only a preparation for what is most important, and that is 'growing in fellowship with the father' - in other words prayer. Prayer as we know is a relationship with the father. In such a relational prayer, God gives us the necessary grace to obey His commandments, follow His will and reject the crafty schemes of the devil.

Lent is like spending summer holidays in the Father's house. Everything about it is exciting, challenging and fun. It is time for passionate conversations, discussions, new knowledge and understanding, experiences, corrections and most of all it is a season to experience the richness of the love of the Father. We certainly feel secure there. We feel wanted and loved there. We feel excited about life growing up. We immediately recognise our fathers' house to be 'our house' and that we totally belong there. May this lenten experience linger all through our life that the victory over the world and satan is ours not though our own strength but though the merit of Jesus the saviour.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Not without a fight

God promised the Israelites who were slaves in Egypt, Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. This land was not as we might think an unoccupied single piece of land, full of trees and cows and honey combs waiting to welcome God's people but a land occupied by corrupt, immoral people who were hardly good to mingle with let alone to live with.

Taking procession of the promised land was not a cake walk. God's people had to wage a series of wars to wipe the opposition out. Yes, God was with the Israelites yet the victory was not without a fight.

Jesus redeemed us from sin and promised the Kingdom of God for all those who believe in him yet it is not without a fight. The signs God did for the Israelites were merely foreshadows the greater works Christ would do during his time. Like the Israelites, people of the new Jerusalem - the Church would also have to fight battles to enter the promised kingdom. Jesus taught us to believe in Him and trust him. He promised to never leave us alone. He has promised us sure victory.

Our strong faith in Jesus Christ and the hope of salvation should drive us to the battle field daily to counter the enemy. Like David before Goliath we should remain valiant knowing God is fighting the battle for us. God delivered to the Israelites nations after nations until they occupied the entire promised land. Similarly those who have been called to become the children of God through baptism, received the faith through the word of God, received the Holy Spirit, will not enter the kingdom God has promised unless we wage a war on the enemy taking over from him one by one all that we have lost.

If nothing note worthy is happening is our lives right now it is because we are not at the forefront fighting the war but lazily waiting for the promise to fall from the sky. How can God give you victory for a war that is not fought?. Indeed God has reserved the victory for us but only those who fight is entitled to receive it. This fight is against our own sinful nature and the evil schemes of satan entrap us. This battle is for purity. This battle is to shun sin. Gods grace makes this possible for those who sincerely desire victory.

It is significant that God warns the Israelites not keep any spoils from the war but to destroy everything leaving no trace of it behind. This is because God knows these objects will lead his people to commit the same sins the pagans committed. When we advance in our spiritual life it is necessary that we wipe out every remains of the old sinful habits be it objects, books, devices or friendships.

All the good work that God has done in and though our lives was God's work. It was his mercy and grace at work. We know very well our true nature. We have grown too big to keep falling. Any compromise will have disastrous consequences. Today is the day to change. There may not be a tomorrow.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Don't you hear Jesus is calling you?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Why do you refuse to eat?

Are you refusing to eat the lavish meal your father has prepared and served just for me because the rule insists you must not eat unless you are washed clean. Water flows in abundance. What stops you? A weak will? Lack of strong desire? Underlying affinity to the unclean? or is it just ignorance?

Monday, November 30, 2015

The new 'normal'

We exist in relationship with God whether we know it or not. In our relationship with God, we are either embracing Him or denying Him.

Sometimes we hear people opine, "I don't over do my spirituality". They are careful not to be seen as religious extremists or fanatics. They are concerned a spiritual stand might offend a few.

The question arises "what is normal? Active involvement is spiritual matters or moderate or little involvement? Are those who seem to be talking only about God, heaven, hell, eternal life and spirituality religious extremists?

Some think that God exits to distribute goodies to those who please him and punish those who displease him. Some conclude if God has given them intelligence, knowledge, talents and other capacities to achieve their life’s ambitions they should not disturb God. It is enough that they pray that God blesses their fabulous plans and not thwart their 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 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 which is passionate, intimate, inseparably united and unending. 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.