FR SAMUEL RAYAN: MY MENTOR IN THEOLOGY

I consider Fr Samuel Rayan as my mentor in theology. There is a little history behind it. My then Provincial Superior Fr Joseph Aizpun attended my priestly ordination in the famous Gesu Church, Rome on June 21, 1977. After the ordination Fr Aizpun asked me to continue my studies in Gregorian University for a Master’s degree (MTh) in Theology. A few of my friends and a professor friend too had suggested me to pursue my MTh there. So when Fr Aizpun asked me I was prepared with my answer.

I told him that I would do whatever he would tell me; but I have a proposal. I told him that I have been out of Gujarat for six years including 3 years in Europe. I was sent to London In the first place to study Journalism in London School of Journalism in view of editing the Jesuit-run Gujarati family magazine DOOT, the Messenger. I am losing my mastery of the Gujarati language. So it may be better for me to return Gujarat, take up DOOT and do the Masters in Theology as an external student of Vidyajyoti (VJ), Delhi.  Fr Aizpun who was my spiritual guide while I was studying in St Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad, readily accepted my proposal.

I returned to India in October 1977 and took up a second time editing DOOT from January 1978. Then I went to VJ and registered for MTh programme and the register Fr Gisbert Saunches, SJ suggested and I took Fr Samuel Rayan, SJ as my guide for my MTh studies. I told Rayan that more than a degree in theology I am interested in doing further studies for deepening my understanding of the Bible and the knowledge of theology. As an able guide and mentor Rayan suggested to me the theological subjects which I should pursue under different professors. I do not remember the different subjects but I studied the Acts of the Apostle under Samuel’s direction and the letters of St Paul and Transactional Analysis under two professors of Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune.  After a few years of regular visits to Delhi and Pune I submitted most of my study papers which were approved by the concerned professors.

Then on a visit to VJ, Delhi I had a memorable meeting with Fr Rayan. I told him that for me theological studies and reflection is an ongoing process. But as formal studies are concerned, I think that I have enough of it. Now if I continue and finish my MTh, then there is the ‘danger’ of being appointed as a staff person in the Regional theologate at Ahmedabad and consequently my press media works getting neglected!

Fr Rayan understood and appreciated my point of view and he said that it is okay. Subsequently I stopped my occasional visits to VJ, Delhi. But Gujarat province continued making financial contribution to VJ on my behalf as a registered MTh student. After two-three years then my Provincial Fr Stanislaus Fernandes (now Archbishop Emeritus of Gandhinagar) called me one day and told me, “Varghese, since you are not continuing and completing your MTh studies, let us call it a day. I am writing VJ Registrar to take out your name for the students’ list. It was like the Malayalam saying, “Dad wanted and the Doctor prescribed are one and the same, milk”.

But my contact with Fr Rayan continued with occasional meeting and reading his articles and books wherever they are published in India or abroad.  Then, in 1998 when I was the Secretary of the Association of Catholic Enquiry Centres India (ACECI), I invited Fr Rayan to give us the Keynote Address in the ACECI General Body Meeting at Indore on March 8, 1998, which he readily agreed.

Fr Rayan’s keynote address was so enlightening and inspiring for me that I got the written text from him and preserved it as a precious treasure all these 20 years. Early last year while I was clearing my files in view of possible transfer from the Catholic Information Service Society (CISS) I read Samuel Rayan’s paper and decided to circulate it among the ACECI members. Now that I am out of CISS from July 2018 and settled down in my new residence I started typing the more 5300 words-strong paper. Now with the news of Fr Samuel Rayan’s death at 98 years on January 2, 2018, I wish to circulate it as soon as possible.

A few years back I met Samuel Rayan at Lumen Institute, Ernakulum before he was transferred to Christ Hall, Kozhikode. He was well then as a model senior Jesuit with a clear, sharp mind. He was able to take care of himself. A wide circle of people know him from all over India and abroad. He started his priestly ministry as a teacher. Then he was the chaplain of Catholic Students’ Union first in Kerala and then of All India Catholic University Federation for 11 years. Later holding a doctorate in theology from Gregorian University, Rome Fr Rayan was appointed a professor of theology, Vidyajyoti, Delhi. After three decades of teaching theology and writing, he returned to Kerala in 2010.

I learned basic theology with Indian and Asian perspective from Fr Rayan. For him Gospel-inspired theology was man-centered. As an original thinker with deep spiritual insights he was often identified as a radical humanist and a Doyen of Asian Liberation Theology. He was totally committed to Jesus and his kingdom values.

I enjoyed reading Rayan’s articles and his books not only for their rich and inspiring content but also for the music of his language and the lucidity of his thoughts. His writings are for me always thought-provoking and challenging like the keynote address entitled EVANGELIZATION 2000 AND THE CATHOLIC ENQUIRY CENTRES INDIA which he delivered in the general body meeting of ACECI at Indore in March 1998.

Fr Rayan was a living encyclopedia of theology. His statement that you do not give Jesus Christ to any one, shocked me and others at Indore. For, he said: It should by now be clear that nobody brings God to the people; nor do we bring Jesus to India. God who loves the world and its people into existence and calls them to share His life and be Her children is always with them, accompanying them, speaking to them the Word of truth and love, guiding them in the Spirit, giving them the revelation and the grace they need. God is ever at work in the hearts and the histories of all peoples in order to save them.”

Then giving an example Fr Rayan said that you are evangelizers claiming to proclaim Jesus through the printed literature to people of other faiths. But no one goes to sell mud pots to a potters’ colony.  Then Fr Rayan added: “Jesus is in every human person, every race and culture.”

Let me quote again the concluding words of Fr Rayan from his keynote address given at Indore: “Let us never forget that Jesus is already and always present in all lands; is active in all cultures, and in all people’s quest and in the heart’s yearnings for justice and love. Here and now the Spirit is urging us to shine with the light of Jesus, to radiate Jesus’ gentleness and warmth, to cling to the truth at any cost, and to surprise the world by the newness and beauty of our group life and the fragrance of our relationships. And let surprise and wonder lead people to inquire, to come to know Jesus, and encounter God in Him.”

                         ( contact: vpaulsj@jesuits.net (M) 09428826518 www.varghesepaul.org  )

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Changed On: 16-01-2019

Next Change: 01-02-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019

 

NOEL MEANS BIRTH OF LOVE

The Cold season begins in December. In the early morning the sun rays come through my window and endear me. The sight of the morning sun warms me up. After the rainy season the sky is clear. Slowly a red-hot ball in the sky spreads its brilliant rays. The green vegetation and the animal world come alive with new energy.

The sun shining brightly at a distance of 930 lakh miles from the earth nourishes every living beings and the whole vegetative life on earth. Imagine the earth without the sun! What will be the condition of the earth without the sun? Without the warmth of the sun-rays there will be no animal and plant life on earth! The earth-globe will be an enormous ice ball!

We experience the light and the warmth of the sun. God’s love for us, human beings, is like the sun. When we did not know God’s love for us, the Son of God, Jesus became a man and lived among us! Christmas is the birthday of Jesus who took the human form in every aspect except, as St Paul says, in sin.

The Almighty God takes the form of a humble, vulnerable human being when we cannot even imagine such a feat before it happened! The Almighty and omnipresent God become a weak human child! See the dependence of child Jesus. Like any child He is completely helpless on his own as he has become a humblest and simplest human child! The poor, simple shepherds were the first ones to hear about the birth of Jesus and came to have his ‘darshan’! They experienced joy and peace in his ‘darshan’ in a cow-shed!

But the same news of Jesus’ birth brings a totally different reaction in the palace of King Herod. The king and the whole court experienced panicky and terror! With the fear of losing his crown and his kingdom King Herod ordered the killing of all male children of two years and younger at Bethlehem and its surrounding areas! Learning that King Herod wants to destroy the child Jesus, his parents Joseph and Mary flee with the child to Egypt at the dead of the night.

The birth of Jesus and his childhood revel that Jesus is indeed a man sharing human life in every way. St Paul exhorting the followers of Jesus to walk in the footsteps of Jesus explains to us the sum and substance of Christmas saying: “He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to become equal with God. Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like man and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death – his death on the cross.” (Phil. 2: 6-8)

The sinful man on his own can never reach the perfect God. There is a great unbridgeable gap, a bottomless pit, between us human beings and God. But the Son of God took a great step to fill the pit, to bridge the gap. The Creator of the whole universe, the entire creation chose to become just a part of the creation! St John has beautifully described the story of Jesus becoming a man. “The Word was in the world, and though God made the world through him, yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own country but his own people did not receive him.” (John 1: 10-11)

The Jewish people were expecting for years for the coming of the Redeemer. They were eager to welcome the Redeemer. They believed that as a chosen race by God the Redeemer will come from among them. But when Jesus came as a perfect human child, the Jewish people did not recognize him as their expected Redeemer! They did not welcome him as their Redeemer! They did not welcome Jesus but continue to look forward to the coming of the Redeemer, the promised Messiah!

The Creator of the whole universe and the omnipresent God is present in our midst as a simple, helpless child! Upanishad says: “The great Soul is like the salt melting in the water. We cannot see the salt mingled in the water. Still we can know that the salt has been mixed with the water by tasting. Whether you know him or not, whether you accept him or not, whether you follow him or not, Jesus, who was born of a woman, is present in every person like the salt melted in the water.

The different, big and small characters in the Bible are models for the followers of Jesus. Like the biblical characters all the people with open mind and with God’s grace are able to recognize and welcome Jesus in their lives. Similarly we too can recognize Jesus with open mind and with God’s grace. We can accept Jesus. We can follow him. All those who seek Jesus with open mind will find him.

Jesus’ incarnation, yes Jesus’ coming among us human being is continuing today in our midst. The entire universe proclaims God’s love for us. The Babe of Bethlehem sleeping in the crib invites us saying: “Do come and recognize the infinite love which God the Father has for you in the child Jesus. His unconditional love is for you. God welcomes and accepts you as you are without any condition. He wants to make you as his own.”

Truly we can say that Christmas is a feast of love. It is indeed a celebration of God’s unconditional love for each person. So Christmas or Noel means the birth of God’s love in the person of Babe Jesus. Jesus is the personification of God’s love.

TO FOLLOW MY CONSCIENCE IS MY NEW YEAR RESOLUTION

On this New Year I imagine myself being on a cross road. In front of me there are four roads for me to choose from. Which are the four roads? First road is one of laziness and inactivity. Second road leads you to follow the leaders living selfish life without any moral principle. Third road is one that leads you to unjust and untruthful life. The fourth road leads you to true life on the path of justice and morality. Which road you will take is a vital question.

Certainly I will take the fourth road of justice and morality leading to truthful living. I feel that to be steadfastly on my chosen path a New Year resolution will be a great help. Then comes a question. What resolution of the new year will be helpful and encouraging me to be on the chosen path of justice and morality? My new year resolution is to follow my conscience. Yes, I know that on the cross roads of my life most suitable resolution is to follow my conscience. Even if the other choices at the cross roads of life are attractive and tantalizing but they eventually lead me to unhappiness and destruction.

Behind my resolution to follow my conscience there are my telling experiences. For instance, I went to New Zealand in October 2016. My nephew Shaju, who lives there, has been inviting me for years to visit him. “Uncle, you travel so many times abroad, why don’t you visit me in New Zealand and spend your holidays with us?” I have been telling him that I have been going to foreign countries only to attend international meetings and seminars but not for holidays.

Then one day late in 2015 I told Shaju that I have an invitation to attend the World Conference of International Christian Organization of the Media (ICOM) at Philippines as a resource person. So there is a possibility of my going to the world conference.

“Uncle, then you can visit me either before or after the World Congress at Philippines,” Shaju said. Then after inquiring the details of the World Congress and my availability, Shaju booked my air ticket via Manila to Oakland and back to India. Consequently from October 16th I was able to spend 11 days with Shaju and family in New Zealand.

Two things of the people of New Zealand impressed me deeply during my trip to that great country and I got the inspiration for my new year resolution. Shaju is working in the Social Service Department of the Health Ministry in New Zealand. His wife Mini is working in the biggest government hospital at Oakland as a nurse. Speaking and discussing with them about their life in New Zealand I learned two things about the New Zealand people. First, the people’s appreciation for human life and second, the trustworthiness of the people.

First, the appreciation of human life and the concern and care for life concretely shown in charitable, loving services. A few years back when a few people died in an accident in a coalmine the people in entire New Zealand were plunged into sadness and bereavement. The people felt the sorrow not just for a day or two but for a long, long time and expressed their concern and care not only in the mass media but also in their daily lives. I heard often about it from Shaju’s phone calls and letters for a long time.

This time on my visit Shaju narrated to me a concrete experience. As part of his service he drives an office van to visit recovered or recovering patients in their homes to enquire and assure their welfare after they have been discharged from the hospital. The patients take regular medication, do physical exercises themselves, and that they have sufficient-social life, outdoor games, etc. are Shaju’s concern as a social worker. Often he himself takes groups of them in his van entertaining them in sports grounds and public parks.

One day Shaju was driving his van to the house of a patient. On the way a car driver coming very fast from a roadside bungalow hit his van making it spin and overturn. Both the vehicles suffered much damage. But fortunately both the drivers escaped unhurt. Shaju immediately phoned his office and informed about the accident.

After medical test Shaju was told that he may go home and take two-three days of rest before resuming his duty. Shaju told the officer above him that he is mentally and physically fit to continue on his job and he took another office vehicle and went on to do his routine responsibilities.

Later the investigation revealed that the car driver was under the influence of drugs and that he has been punished twice before with imprisonment for similar offences. Narrating the incident Shaju said, that there was no differentiation between a local citizen and a foreigner like him but the authorities treated all people with a sense of equality, justice for all and with equanimity. He did not feel that he was a foreigner there.

With the appreciation of human life by all people in New Zealand the second thing which impressed me most was the trustworthiness of all the people. In other words the people in New Zealand are truthful and straight forward. I will give you an example. When I was in Auckland Shaju’s son, Jovin, was on his way to Auckland University. He stopped his car at a traffic signal. Then a car hit his car with some force. Both the drivers escaped unhurt but both their cars suffered some damage; but they could proceed to their destination.

Back home Jovin narrated the incident to Shaju. My nephew said to his son. “You are safe so there is nothing to worry. The car has insurance. Tomorrow when you go to the university take the car and give to a garage to estimate the damage and do the repair work. In the evening I will pick you up from your university main gate.”

On the third day Shaju got a call from the car insurance. “Your car is damaged so much that it is not worth repairing. We will get you your full insurance money in 2 days time. The money will be transferred to your bank account.”

“Uncle,” Shaju told me, “Here people do not do any cheating in anything. They don’t tolerate any falsehood. They fully believe in the people and in what they say. Like in India there is no controversy and search for truth and negotiation.”

My experience is that here many of us tell lies without any shame or prick of conscience. People stealthily take bribes and do underhand dealings. Among such people my New Year resolution to follow my conscience, I believe, is a great challenge for me and for all people. But such a difficult resolution is necessary in the long run to make our lives more loving, peaceful and enjoyable. Let us then decide to take this difficult New Year resolution and firmly decide to adhere to it rising up as often us we fall. In the final analysis if you want to live a peaceful life and enjoy the love and respect of other people such a resolution and adhering to it resolutely is absolutely necessary.

In such a situation I am firmly convinced that the ideas expressed in an ancient hymn will be realized:

“Love and faithfulness will meet,

righteousness and peace will embrace.” (Psalms 85: 10).

Wish you a Happy New Year 2019.

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Changed On: 16-12-2018

Next Change: 01-01-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

ACHIEVEMENTS OF HARD WORK & EXPERIENCE

Pablo Picasso is one of the best known and widely appreciated artists of the 20th century. He is called an epoch-making artist of his time. The Spanish born artist spent most of his productive years in France. I have been privileged to visit his paintings in well known museums like Louvre at Paris, Prato at Madrid, National Museum at Barcelona, Offici at Florence. My eyes have also feasted on Picasso’s art works in museums at cities like London, New York, Chicago, Washington and San Francisco.

April 23, 2017 issue of a Malayalam daily published an article on Pablo Picasso by my friend and writer Fr. Jose Panthamplathotiyil. In it the author has narrated the story of woman encountering Pablo Picasso.

One day Picasso was taking a walk. A woman met him and recognizing him as a well known painter. “Sir, I am your fan. I love your art pictures and adore them. I like your pictures very much,” the woman said.

Thanking the woman for her words of admiration and appreciation Picasso continued walking. “Sir, in memory that I met you, please draw something as a souvenir for me”, the woman pleaded with Picasso.

“What can I draw on this road? I do not have paper, brush and colours with me to draw something for you!” Picasso said.

But the woman was not one to take a ‘no’ easily. So she entreated him insistently: “Sir, Please draw a few lines on a piece of paper as a souvenir for me.” The woman persisted.

Appreciating the woman’s enthusiasm and eagerness for a souvenir, Picasso took out a piece of paper and a pencil and drew a small picture for her. He gave it to the woman saying, “Take this picture. It is worth ten million dollars!”

Picasso did not even take 10 second to draw the picture. So the woman could not believe that, that picture would be worth ten million dollars! Still the woman profusely thanked the Picasso and went her way.

After sometime the woman took the small picture to an art connoisseur to know the real price of the picture. The connoisseur recognizing Picasso’s art picture and said to the woman: “The cost of this art work of Picasso would be more than ten million dollars!”

Sometimes later after hearing from the art-expert the woman met Picasso and told him, “Sir, I have come to know that the picture which you drew for me really costs 10 million dollars! Now I would like to be your disciple to learn to draw pictures of great value in a very short time.

“The picture which I drew in a very short time costs ten million dollar. But bringing value to my pictures I have worked 30 long years and gained invaluable experiences. Are you ready to work long years and gain valuable experiences like me?”

The woman was silent to answer Picasso’s question!

Picasso’s father was an artist and professor. Picasso was not born as an artist. But from early childhood years he got training and practiced as an artist. And he became a world renowned artist with long years of valuable training and invaluable experiences.

Here I would like to share with you the long years of hard work and invaluable experiences of a person who has become a model for achievement for our times.

There is a famous military engineering college at Pune. A young man reached there to give interview for admission in the post graduate in electronic engineering. Hundreds of young people from all over India came to give interview. The interview time was given at 8 AM. The gate of the military engineering college opened exactly at 8 AM and admitted for the interview all those who were at the gate. Those who came even a few minutes’ late for interview got eliminated at the gate for turning up late!

One question in the interview was who was his/her ideal person? As one young man told me many youngsters gave the names of well known personalities in political and cine world or others who have made a name in their chosen field.

The young man’s turn came and he was asked who his ideal person was?

“My Papa is my ideal,” the young man replied.

“Why your Papa is your ideal?” asked the interviewer again.

My Papa served in the Air Force for 15 years and then took voluntary retirement so that he can take care of his ageing parents. Then, as an occupation he started an automobile garage with the name ‘Jawan’. He started Jawan with 4 motor mechanics and today my Papa employs 44 motor mechanics and others with good pay and incentives. My Papa with hard work and experience learned a lot and helped his employees to grow and live happily. Consequently he became the leader in his field. Behind his achievement I find his commitment to the profession and hard work.

I do not need to say that, the young man got selected in the interview. He did M.Tech. for two years and then in campus selection he got a prestigious job at Mumbai.

The owner of Jawan Automobiles Vincent Paul is my younger brother and his son, the young man who gave the interview Sunny Vincent is my nephew. As a Managing Director Vincent has been doing excellently well especially committing himself not only to the steady development of Jawan Automobiles but also for the caring for Jawan’s mechanical workers and clerical staff personnel working with him.

With steady hard work and gaining valuable experiences of years people like artist Pablo Picasso and Vincent Paul are outstanding examples of great achievers in our midst. Their life and achievements are inspiration and encouragement for people who cares for values like love and service to humanity. They are ambassadors of true development and achievements.

There is a saying in English and I agree 100% with it that great achievements are 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. The Bible tells us, “You will have to work hard and sweat to make the soil produce anything until you go back to the soil from which years were formed. You were made from the soil, and you will become soil again.” (Gen. 3: 19)

Finally let us remember the words of American President Lindon Johnson (1908-73). “What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.”

 

 

ENJOY THE JOY OF GIVING

On various auspicious occasions we light a lamp or burn a candle. When I see a lighted lamp or a candle I think of the sentiments and ideas behind it. Hence the question: Why do we light a lamp or burn a candle?

Here I am reminded of a poem by Poet Ravindranath Tagore. It says:  “Go not to the temple to light a candle before the altar of God.  First you remove the darkness of sin from your own heart.” I like this stanza of Tagore’s poem because of its relevance to all people of all times.

We light lamps on Diwali feasts. The lighted lamps call us to look into ourselves and remover from our lives the things which bring darkness like selfishness, jealously, neglect of the poor, hatred, hoarding of wealth and attachment to them. These are sins both internal and external. We need to get rid of them all. They need to be replaced by good works, which light up our hearts and our whole lives.

Let us not miss any opportunity to do good. I am on the road. At the Income Tax cross road at Ahmedabad I stopped my car and I saw an autorickshaw stopping close by. As the auto stopped a child with protruding ribs extended both his hands before a beautiful young lady in the auto. The lady looked at the child and then opened her purse putting her right hand in it.

Like me the boy might have thought that she would take out a five rupee coin or a ten rupee note to give as alms … But instead, she took out a small looking glass and began to adjust her eye-brows and curly hair. The child continue staring at her and stretching his hands. Meanwhile, thinking that the disappointed boy may come to my car I hurriedly took out a ten rupee note from my purse. But then the red light turned into green and I took a U turn to go to Stadium 6 road crossing.

At Stadium cross roads when I stopped my car at red light signal I saw a pregnant woman. The emancipated woman was carrying an undernourished child in one hand and begging bowl in the other. I usually do not help the beggars at cross roads as they could not only obstruct traffics but also cause accidents. The woman was away from me and still I opened my car window and took the 10 rupee note. The woman seeing me opening the window came quickly to me and took the money saying something like “God bless you” and moved to the next vehicle.

On any and every occasion we can enjoy the joy of selfless giving. For instance, smiling at the person looking at you, you can share your joy of being happy with a fellow human being. The poor people are always there in our midst. Helping them in their needs without expecting anything in return gives us unalloyed joy.

Recently I heard a story of sharing joy of selfless giving. My nephew Sanu Vincent was driving my sister Sr Lissy Paul and me to Ernakulam railway station. To cover a distance of less than two hours, we started three hours ahead from home as some times heavy traffic might prolong the journey. To my inquisitive sister Sanu was telling about his works and how his 45 workers in his automobile garage are happy without any problem.

“I am happy to hear that your workers and their families are happy as they get regularly good salaries and incentives. But do you help any poor people?” Lissy asked.

“Yes, Aunty. I help two-three needy families,” Sanu said.

But the inquisitive aunty was not satisfied with the short reply. “Whom are you helping and what sort of help you give them?” Lissy asked.

There was not much traffic on the way and Sanu was driving and talking in a relaxed way. He narrated one after another not two or three but five poor people whom he helps on a regular basis. Here I remember the fifth family whom he was helping.

One day a boy came to his garage to sell home appliances.  An automobile service station is not a place to sell home appliances. So before his secretary send the boy away, Sanu called him to his cabin and enquired about his business. The boy narrated his story. He has recently left the school to help his mother to run the house after his father, a daily wage earner, got paralyzed on one side and was  bedridden at home. His mother runs the home with her meager earning by cleaning and doing other household works of three families in their neighbourhood. His younger sister is still studying in school.

Sanu felt that he should help the boy to continue his study. Still not to be cheated Sanu visited the home of the boy in the following Sunday and found that everything was true as the boy had said. So he told the boy’s mother that he would help regularly her with their house rent and the boys school fees. So he was helping the family with a fixed amount every month.

The joy is great in helping a needy person without expectation of getting anything in return. Someone has said that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. As if a proof of the saying Sanu concluded his narration of selfless help saying, “Aunty, what we give away is our true wealth”.

Everyone knows that in giving there is joy. But people have hundred and one reasons for not selflessly helping needy people. Some say, “How can I help anyone when there is not enough for me and for my family?”  Someone else will say, “The poor people are lazy; they do not want to work. So they remain poor.” Still others will say, “The poor people suffer much because of their past life or of the evil they committed in their previous birth! There is no escape as they have to pay the debt of their former births!” Some people even have advice to the poor and needy people: “They should share even what they have recognizing others as their own brothers and sisters.”

People who are generous in their hearts will find ways and means to help needy people even when they do not possess much wealth. Let me recall here a well know story of the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. He was from an aristocratic family. But with a noble heart he was very kind and generous towards poor and needy people.

One day Tolstoy was walking on a road. On the way he met some very poor people. He helped every one of them generously giving some money. Then, he saw a miserable looking man in rags with an extended hand. Tolstoy as usual wanted to help him. He put his hand in his coat’s pocket and he realized that his pocket was empty. There was not a coin left! The man in rags was looking at him with great expectation. Tolstoy embracing the man with much love and said, “Brother, please forgive me. I do not have even a small coin left in my pocket to give you!”

The poor man’s eyes brightened up. “Sir”, he said, “You have embraced me with much love and you called me ‘Brother’! It is much more than any money you can give me!” (A M D G)

Changed On: 16-11-2018

Next Change: 01-12-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR LIVES

 There is an old, popular prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit. Perhaps some of you may know it by heart. I learnt it by heart when a retreat preacher began his talk with this prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit. Many Christian daily prayer books have it. It goes: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of divine love. Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and you will renew the face of the earth.”  This prayer speaks about three significant things about our Christian Spirituality:

1)      We are asking the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts. Here we acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in our lives;

2)      We are asking the Holy Spirit to kindle the divine fire within us. Here we acknowledge that the Holy Spirit within us as a fire;

3)      We are expressing our faith that the Holy Spirit will transform our lives and renew the face of the earth.

 

1)      THE HOLY SPIRIT IS ALIVE AND ACTIVE IN MY LIFE

When we are in the state of grace the Holy Spirit dwells in us. When we love God and fellow human beings the Holy Spirit shows forth in our lives. In the final parting discourse or the last prayer of Jesus in the Gospel according to St John, the Evangelist quotes Jesus:

“If you love me, obey my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever.  He is the Spirit who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive him because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you.” (Jn 14: 15-17)

 

St Paul also tells us the same thing in his letter to the Romans: “This hope (God’s approval) does not disappoint us, For God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.” (Rm 5: 5) Here St Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit has been given to us and that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. We are not mere flesh and blood as an atheist, agnostic or a rationalist tells us but our body is the aboard of the Holy Spirit.

This St Paul clearly indicates in his first letter to the Corinthians. He asks, “Don’t know that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God?” (1 Cor 6: 19) Both in the letters addressed to the Romans and to the Corinthians St Paul speak often about the Holy Spirit swelling and acting in our lives.

In the letter to the Romans St Paul tells us, “For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live. Those who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For the Spirit God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God’s children, and by the Spirit’s power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!” God’s Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God’s children. Since we are his children, we will possess the blessings he keeps for his people, and we will also possess with Christ what God has kept for him. For, if we share Christ’s suffering, we will also share his glory.”(Rm 8: 13-17)

In the first letter to the Corinthians we hear Paul telling us: “Surely you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit, lives in you! So if anyone destroys God’s temple, god will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you yourselves are his temple.” (1 Cor 3: 16-17)

 

2)      THE HOLY SPIRIT WITHIN US AS DIVINE POWER

We see the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles and other disciples as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. “When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. There were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.” (Acts 2: 1-4)

Fire is an image for the reality of the third person of the Trinity. It is a physical image to express a divine reality: A tongue of fire rested on each one of them! The image of fire is inspiring, igniting, illuminating the presence of God. We see the transforming changes taking place in the lives of St Peter and other apostles and disciples.

Those who were hiding behind closed door fearing attacks from those who crucified Jesus, not only come out in the open but also they boldly proclaim the Risen Lord Jesus in the Temple and in other public places. Not only the apostles and disciples but all the followers of the Way, the Christian community, are transformed and energized!

Acts tells us that God show no partiality. The Holy Spirit comes down on all including the Gentiles! The Gentiles are non-Jews. The Holy Spirit breaks the barriers of only Jews becoming the followers of the Way. So in the first letter to the Corinthians St Paul writes, “In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives different gifts to each person” (1 Cor 12: 13)

In his talk St Peter says, “I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Whoever worships him and does what is right is acceptable to him, no matter what race he belongs to. (Acts 10: 34-35) We can imagine the situations in Jerusalem after the Jews and Gentiles heard Peter. Most people irrespective of Jews or non-Jews have jumped and danced expressing their joy. They heard Peter and other apostles spoke, each one of the listeners heard them in their own tongues, languages or dialects.

The devoted Jews must have been puzzled as they knew that the apostles were like them but now they are speaking in different tongues! So they accused the apostles being drunken babbling thinking which they, the speakers themselves, might now have understood! But Peter speaking on behalf of the apostles then defended themselves clarifying that they were not intoxicated with drinks in the early morning. Yes, they were intoxicated with the Power of God, the Holy Spirit, working through them.

Imagine the joy of a woman receiving her child just after she has given birth with immense pain and suffering. But with the child in her hand she is experiencing heavenly bliss! She is delighted with great joy. Her husband may also feel same heavenly joy. Imagine the ecstasy of the young couple! Imagine the joy of an young man/woman much sought-after, prestigious job with a more than expected pay-packet!

The Apostles and the disciples who received the Holy Spirit were on fire. They became fearless and daring people ready to face any situation and proclaim Jesus and his message of salvation. We know that the Apostles and early Christians challenged the then prevailing Greco-Roman culture. They proclaimed the values of Christ, very different from the worldly values of the time! In short they transformed the world with the values of Jesus Christ.

 

3)      THE HOLY SPIRIT TRANSFORMS OUR LIVES

The Holy Spirit transforms not only our lives but also the lives of everyone who receive the Spirit. So we say, the Holy Spirit transforms the earth. In the words of our prayer, the Holy Spirit “renews the face of the earth”. The Holy Spirit is given to you and me not just to keep it under lock and key or to bury it somewhere like the foolish servant in the Parable of Three Servants Mathew 25: 14-30 and in

Luke 19: 11-27.

In our Catechism class we have learnt about the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Do you remember them? They are 1) Wisdom, 2) Understanding, 3) Counsel, 4) fortitude, 5) Knowledge, 6) Piety, and 7) Fear of the Lord. Let us try to understand them.

1)      WISDOM is the first and greatest gift. Wisdom acts upon our intellect and our will. It illuminates our minds and gives us an attraction to divine.

2)      UNDERSTANDING helps us to grasp all truths and their purposes. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the Scripture and religious truths.

3)      COUNSEL is a sort of super-natural intuition. The Holy Spirit through counsel enables a person to judge correctly and fast.

4)      FORTITUDE means courage, endurance.  Fortitude enables to stand up for thing things we think right and just and true.

5)      KNOWLEDGE gives us the ability to see things in God’s perspective. The Holy Spirit enables us to know the greatness of God revealed in everything in the creation.

6)      PIETY here means reverence especially for godly people, godly things. It is not religiosity but seeing God in others and respecting all people as brothers and sisters.

7)      FEAR OF THE LORD is something close to awe and wonder before God. It is an awareness of the Glory of God.

These seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are for our daily living. We have to cultivate and nourish these gifts by knowing them and cherishing these gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives. No one can concretely direct you how to cultivate and nourish these gifts of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit will tell us and guide us how to love where there is hatred, how to overcome injustice with justice, how to spread truth where there is falsehood, how to spread joy of the Spirit where there is sadness. Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and discern constantly what is good from evil. The fire of the Holy Spirit can light up the darkness within us, around us. The Holy Spirit is the fire of love in your life.

The Song of Song in the Bible tells us: “Love is as powerful as death; …. It bursts into flameand burns like a raging fire.” (Song of Song 8: 6)  We have to be aware of this raging fire which is the Holy Spirit in us, working through us, through our superiors, through the Church.

Once late Archbishop Alan de Lastic of Delhi told me, we may have different opinion in the Church but when we follow the teaching of the Pope, we can be sure that we are on the right path. No one is an all-knowing person. So obeying your superior and doing things under a superior’s direction you can be sure that you are on the right path.

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit we are inspired to live for others. We live for others through various things we do in our community, through caring for others, through cleaning our rooms and the house, through working in the garden and through buying things for the community.

As we began this reflection let us also close it with the age old prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of divine love. Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and you will renew the face of the earth.”

Changed On: 01-11-2018

Next Change: 16-11-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

MOTHER MARY, MISSIONARY OF JOY: VISITATION

Let me recall a concrete event of history.

The Second World War was at its height. A group of USA soldiers were camping in Japan. Most of them were Christians. The 1944 Christmas was just coming. Some soldiers expressed their desire to have the celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Christmas Day. Someone said that there is a priest among the people taken as prisoners. The Captain sent for the priest and told him that the soldiers wanted a Holy Mass on Christmas Day. The priest joyfully accepted the request.

During the Christmas Day Mass the priest preached on Child Jesus as Prince of peace and his Mother Mary and her joyful “Magnificat”. The priest explained the ideas contained in Mother Mary’s song of praise. And the Japanese priest prayed that, May the all powerful God bless both the Americans and the Japanese with love, peace and joy, which Baby Jesus, the Prince of Peace, brings. And they really became peace-loving friends! This is the power of Mother Mary’s song at her Visitation to her relative Elizabeth.

We are going to visualize and meditate on Mother Mary’s Visitation and her joyful Magnificat. The theme or the topic of this Novena Mass is “Mother Mary, the Missionary of Joy”.

All, at least most Catholics, daily say a universal prayer: The Rosary.  Twice a week on Monday and Saturday we say the joyous mysteries.  In the second joyful mystery we meditate on Mary’s Visitation to her close relative Elizabeth.  Today we are going to prayerful reflection Mary’s Visitation.

Only Evangelist St Luke gives us the Biblical account of Mary’s Visitation to her relative Elizabeth.  We have the beautiful biblical text  in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel from verse 39 to verse 56 including Mary’s wonderful hymn known in Latin “Magnificat” –that is, Mary’s joyful song of praise.

The Visitation takes place immediately after the Annunciation, that is, God’s message to Virgin Mary that she is chosen to be the Mother of Jesus, Most High God’s own Son without a human father. It is a very mysterious announcement!  But after seeking and getting clarification Mary said her “Fiat”- her “yes” to God’s wondrous   plan.

With the Annunciation Mary also got the news that her relative Elizabeth has conceived and that she is in her sixth month of pregnancy! We do not know if Elizabeth was Mary’s cousin, aunt or any other relative. But the subsequent events show that Elizabeth was a very close relative of Mary.  That is why as soon as Mary gets the joyful news that her kins woman Elizabeth is in the sixth month with pregnancy, Mary hurries off from Nazareth to a city in hill country of Judea.

I made two pilgrimages (1st in Oct 1977after my studies in Gregorian Univ. Rome & 2nd after in Sept 1988 after an International Press Meeting at Paris) to the Holy Land of Palestine, that is, today’s Israel. Then, I have traveled between the two places of Nazareth and Ein Karim.  Luke does not name the town or city to which Mary went. But biblical scholars have identified the Judean town to be Ein Karim as the home of Zachariah and Elizabeth. It is situated 5 km south of the Holy City Jerusalem.

That means, Mary traveled a distance of about 150 kms between Nazareth and Ein Karim!  In those days people traveled either by foot or on the back of a donkey.  Remember “WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR” story; that is, the parable of the Good Samaritan. We read it only in the Chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 10:25-37).

In those days with halts at wayside villages for night rest, an adult person may take about 6 days to cover the distance of 150 kms.  We can imagine Mary accompanied by one or two of her relatives/ neighbours traveling on foot.  The route is familiar because the Jews traveled at least once a year to the Holy City of Jerusalem.  But the last 5 km route from Jerusalem to Ein Karim may or may not be familiar for travelers of that time.

While Mary and her companions hurrying to cover the 150 km distance, we can pause and ask a question: why did Mary undertook the arduous journey?  What is the purpose of the meeting with her relative Elizabeth?

According to the biblical scholar William Barclay, Mary may have several reasons or purposes in meeting her relative Elizabeth.  We can presume at least 4 reasons for Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.  First, Mary wants to share her great joy with her close relative Elizabeth.  The Angel Gabriel has told her that Mary is most favored woman, most blessed woman, among all women in the world; and that she is to conceive and bear the Son of the Most High God!

This is indeed great news of tremendous joy!  She cannot contain the great joy but she wants to share it with someone who will understand her. Who is a better person than her close relative Elizabeth!  God has blessed Elizabeth too with the conception of a child in her old age!  So Mary hurries to meet Elizabeth and share her joy.

Second, Mary may have wanted to confirm the unbelievable news of her own conception without a human father together with confirming the news of a barren woman – her relative Elizabeth – conceiving in her old age, now in the six months of her pregnancy! Both Mary’s conception and Elizabeth’s pregnancy are tremendous privileges to them, blessedness of great joy.  They can be confirmed in the personal presence of each other! Their conversation and their joyful songs of praise reveal and confirm their unique privileges and their blessedness.

Third, William Barclay says, “Mary may be intimately attached to Elizabeth”. After telling Mary that God is gracious to her and that she is to bear Jesus, the Son of God, the Angel Gabriel tells her also that her relative Elisabeth is six-month pregnant. Mary knew that Elizabeth is childless woman and cannot conceive as she is very old. So Angel Gabriel assures Mary that, “There is nothing that God cannot do”. Mary believed in the message of the Angel and has said her “Fiat”, her “Yes” to God.  Now Mary wants to share the joyful news with her close relative Elizabeth.

Fourth, Mary undertakes the strenuous journey to seek the understanding support of her relative Elizabeth. Mary’s heart is wondering with tremendous joy that she is chosen to be the Mother of the Son of the Most High God! A thing that no one thought of is happening in her life. The news of Virgin Mary’s conception without a human father may be unthinkable for people. But surely Elizabeth will understand her as her relative herself is experiencing unbelievable intervention of God in her life.

Now Mary has reached her relative Elizabeth and Zacharias’ house. The close relatives recognize the voice of each other. Their voice is enough to bring them great mutual joy. But apart from the voice the meeting each other has much significance! What are they?

In meeting personally Elizabeth and greeting each other Mary and Elizabeth are sharing their great joy. Both of them know that they are uniquely privileged persons in God’s sight. Both of them are subjects of God’s special intervention in their personal life. Mary is specially chosen to be the Mother of Jesus, God’s own Son! Similarly Elizabeth is singularly privileged to be to conceive a son in her old age after being barren all her life!

When we have something of great joy like achieving a much sought-after goal, we cannot contain ourselves but we want to share the news with our close relatives and friends. In visitation Mary is sharing her great joy with her relative Elizabeth and Mary is also partaking in the untold joy of Elizabeth in conceiving first time a child in her old age! We see that in the mutual sharing their joys they are singing with grateful hearts the praises of Almighty God.

St Luke describes very picturesquely the scene of the mutual greetings of Mary and Elizabeth! We can easily visualize the scene in an old village background! We can read the passage as narrated by St Luke: “She (Mary) went into Zacharias’ house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greetings, the baby moved in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit. ….” (Lk 1: 40-45).

This narration clearly shows that they are two mothers and the two mothers are meeting and greeting each other. This shows that the two Conceptions are closely linked. The two sons in their mothers’ womb encounter each other! Elizabeth acknowledges that in her womb: “The baby moved within her”.

This shows that the Visitation of Mary to her relative Elizabeth, first of all, affects John in the womb of Elizabeth. Mary’s visitation has transforming effect on John because John in her mother’s womb encounters Jesus in his mother Mary’s womb! Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit and now with the Visitation Elizabeth too gets filled with the Holy Spirit. So Elizabeth is transformed to recognize in Mary not only as her relative but also as the Mother of God! And so she exclaims: “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the Child you will bear! Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord’s Mother comes to visit me?”

Elizabeth recognizes Mary as the most blessed of all women! She recognizes Mary as the mother of her Lord. She recognizes that she herself has the rarest privilege of being visited by the Mother of her Lord, by the Lord himself in his Mother’s womb!

Perhaps in the Visitation of Mother Mary, what interests us most is her joyful “Magnifcat” – her song of praise! Biblical scholar William Barclay calls it “A wondrous hymn”. We have heard it as the Gospel passage proclaimed from this pulpit. We have heard it or read it often as the great hymn of the Church. It is usually sung during the Mass of the Visitation.

The content of the “Magnificat” is steeped in the Old Testament. The “Magnificat” closely linked with Hannah’s song of praise in the first book of Samuel (1 Samuel 2: 1-10). We know that Hannah sang her “Magnificat”  after being childless in her life and consequently suffering much. In her distress she promised the Lord that if the Almighty gives her a son, she would dedicate her son to the Lord for all the days of his life. True to her promise Hannah dedicated her son as soon as the child is weaned and then sang her “Magnificat”.

Hannah’s “Magnificat” may be described as a victory song. It is a victory of the oppressed people proclaiming joy and hope in Yahweh. Yahweh will perform saving acts bringing unheard of victory to the marginalized people.

The opening verse of Mother Mary’s “Magnificat” may also remind us prophet Habakkuk’s canticle. Prophet Habakkuk says, “I will still be joyful and glad, because the Lord God is my Saviour” (Hab 3: 18). Similar expressions of joy are also found in some Psalms.

Mother Mary’s Visitation and her “Magnificat” go much further.

First of all, “Magnificat” is a song of gratitude. Mary is grateful to the Almighty for the all the things God has done for her and for humanity.

Second, Mary’s gratitude leads her to burst out in a song of praising God for all the things in her life.

Third, expressing gratitude and praising God, Mary cherishes all the blessings of God for her and for the entire humanity.

William Barclay describes Mary’s “Magnificat” “as the most revolutionary document in the world.” It speaks of three kind of revolution of God.

First,         Mary’s “Magnificat” is a moral revolution;

Second,    Mary’s “Magnificat” is a social revolution; and

Third,       Mary’s “Magnificat” is an economic revolution.

 

First, Mary’s “Magnificat” indicates a moral revolution. Mary sings:

“He has stretched out his mighty arms and scattered the proud with all their plans.”

A moral revolution has begun. Pride has no place in Christianity. We say, “Pride goes before a fall”. We have a telling example in the care of Titanic – the biggest ship ever made till that time of launching of Titanic. On August 12, 1912 Titanic left London harbor for New York.  Thousands of admirers, relatives and well wishers of Titanic were on the shore bidding farewell to Titanic.

With 2244 passengers on board the ship, Captain Smith very proudly responded to the people on the share: “No power on earth even God cannot destroy Titanic”. After being two days in the high sea on August 14 Captain Smith got a telegram from California: “A huge iceberg is floating below the surface of the water in the Atlantic Ocean from North Pole. Please take care.

But Captain Smith proud as he was, he did not care! After a little while the iceberg hit Titanic piercing the huge ship. Captain Smith ordered: “Get ready for death”. Women and children boarded the few life boats in the ship and got saved. The rest of the people abroad the ship including Captain Smith went down the ocean grave! The sad even proved what Mary sang: “He has stretched out his mighty arms and scattered the proud with all their plans.”

Second, Mary’s “Magnificat” speaks of a social revolution. Mary sings: “He has brought down the mighty kings from their thrones, and lifted up the lonely” (Lk 1: 52). This is indeed a social revolution. The values of the world is challenged and changed by the coming of Jesus Christ!

Commenting on Mary’s “Magnificat” as a social revolution William Barclay give the example of Muretus – a wandering scholar of the middle age. “He was poor. In an Italian town he became ill and was taken to a hospital for homeless wandering people. The doctors were discussing his case in Latin, never dreaming he could understand. They suggested that since he was such a worthless wonderer they might use him for medical experiments. He looked up and answered them in their own learned tongue, Latin: ‘Call no man worthless for whom Christ died.” (William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, Theological Publications in India, Bangalore, 2013, p.19-20)

Third, Mary’s “Magnificat” indicates an economic revolution. Mother Mary sings in her “Magnificat”: “He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away with empty hands” (Lk 1: 53). Bridging the gap between the poor and the rich is an economic revolution. Loving and sharing good things with the poor is very much Christ-like, divine activity.

On the other hand selfish activities like hoarding and depriving the poor people what is just is diminishing humanity, in fact, anti-humanity. The Christians with godly values should never amass wealth at the cost of others; but treat wealth as its stewards. Mother Teresa once said, “Give until it hurts you”. That is the spirit of sharing generosity. Mother Mary’s Visitation to her relative Elizabeth and staying and serving her for three months proclaim her dynamic generosity.

In his commentary on St Luke’s Gospel William Barclay says: “There is loveliness in the “Magnificat” but in that loveliness there is dynamite”. Christianity brings about a revolution in individuals and revolution in the world.    (A    M    D     G)

Changed On: 16-10-2018

Next Change: 01-11-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

When Will Aam Atmi Liberated?

This story is well known in whole world that under the law of anti-national activities the President of the Students’ Union of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were arrested and jailed in 2016. They were accused that they organized a students’ programme on 9 February 2016 and shouted anti-national slogans. According to the reports published in English and Gujarati newspapers unclear photographs were presented in the court in which both the accused and the witnesses were seen. The news has also come out after forensic laboratory tests that the video footage which has been submitted in the court as proof has been adulterated!

National and international voices have been raised against accusing the JNU students with anti-national crimes. On February 17, 2016 no less than 93 professors and international rationalists issued a public statement. The statement describes the steps taken by Modi government against the JNU students as Shameful Act and strongly criticized it.

According to the The Times of India, Ahmedabad edition of March 3, 2016 the learned 69 professors from the educational institutions like IIMA and NID   issued a public statement opposing tooth and nail the steps taken by the Delhi police under Modi government and their solidarity with the persecuted students. Eight professors from IIMA were there in signing the public statement. Yet IIMA issued an official statement explaining that the IIMA Professors have on their own responsibility signed the public state!

Like the steps taken by Modi government against the student leader Kanayakumari the Education Minister Ms. Smruti Irani through 4-5 letters sent to Hyderabad Central University brought communal pressure as some news papers have reported on Dalit student Rohit Vemula. Unable to withstand the persecution the student staying in the university hostel committed suicide. According to some newsmagazine analysis of Vemula’s suicide there are clear indication of the students’ union of ABVP and the Education Minister Smruti Iran’s hand in the suicide of Dalit student Rohit Vemula.   The intolerance and persecution started against the minorities during the last three decades are now showing at national level against the poor, Dalits, intellectuals and finally against all who are not with the BJP and the  Sangh Parivar. The unheard roar of those in power is “come with us or perish” Obviously the experience of all types of incentives, bribes and threats tried in Gujarat Laboratory seems to have extended to the whole country.

To understand this situation perhaps an incident from the communist Russia may help us. After the death of Lenin in 1924 Joseph Stalin came to power in Russia. Stalin is defamed even today in Russia for killing innumerable people with machine guns, who have raised their voice against Stalin. He was a personification of cruelty.

When Stalin died in 1950 Kruchev came to power in Russia as the leader of the Communist Party. He in the twentieth congress of the party strongly criticized the tyrannical intolerance of Stalin.

“Now you are criticizing Stalin. But why did you not oppose him then? Why did you not raise your voice?” Someone from the congress asked.

Kruchev the true disciple of Stalin got very angry. Stamping he foot he thundered, “Who asked the question? Let him up. I will answer him!” the congress filled with delegates was so silent that even a drop of pin could be heard. Frightened to death, no one moved, no one had the courage to stand up!

Kruchev said laughing, “Friends, this was the situation then, if I had opposed then, I would not have been standing here before you!”

Friends, thanks to our constitution and the visionaries like Dr. Ambedkar in the constitutional assembly, such a frightening situation will hopefully never happen India. Still people who move   among ordinary people know and experience that a situation of fright exists everywhere in the country. Why speak about the opposition. In the ruling party beginning from ordinary party workers and the members no one including central ministers dare to raise the voice against the mostly elegantly dressed globe totter.

People know that no stone was left unturned in harassing and persecuting those who stood up against Godhra and post Godhra massacres of thousands of innocent people. Those who prevented such massacres in their jurisdiction were harassed and persecuted. Even today such harassment and persecution continue. (The sudden death of Chief Justice Loya in November 2017 at Nagpur is an example)

Still silver rays of hope are seen amidst the situation of fear and intolerance. There are many people in our midst who protest the atmosphere of intolerance and who have returned their government sponsored awards. Sad to note, that some paid with their lives. Among them are Dr. Narendra Dabolkar, Govint Pansare, Dr. M. M. Kulkarni and Journalist Ms. Gauri Lankesh. They are Martyrs for expressing their independent views and opinions fearlessly and courageously.

I see them as people who walk in the path shown by Jesus in his life, death and resurrection. When I remember these great people I recall a great humorist of Kerala by name Kunjan Nambiar. A famous king in Kerala, Marthanda Varma died in 1758. His successor was Rama Varma. Kunjan Nambiar was a member of friend circle who always sang praises of the king.

One day king Rama Varma decided to test the faithfulness of his friends. Everyone was served food. There was sweet ‘Payasam’ (a sweet item).  After tasting it the king Rama Varma said, “This Payasam is bitter” and he got up without eating it. “Payasam is bitter.” “Payasam is bitter”, repeating it after the king others at table also got up with the king. But Kunjan Nambiar continued eating the Payasam. The king turned to him and asked: “What Nambiar?  Isn’t the Payasam bitter?”

“Your honor, the great king, your servant likes this bitter Payasam” and he ate the whole Payasam served for him.

The king’s flatterers knew that the Payasam was not bitter but sweet. But no one dared to tell the truth that the Payasam is not bitter. They did not have the courage to contradict the king. But Kunjan Nambiar very subtly told the king the truth that he likes ‘this bitter Payasam’!

Today our masters proclaim “Satyamev Jayete” (The truth will win)! But they themselves keep away from the truth and take recourse to half truths and naked lies! But when sticking to truth and seeking “Liberation in India itself” student leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar and his companions are in the open field to fight; So we can certainly hope for resurrection after death.

This faith in the resurrection after death is the foundation of Christian faith. The message from Jesus, who rose from death on the third day, is that of love, of service, of compassion and of faith. The followers of Jesus spread this message of Jesus through sharing the Bible and other biblical literature. The Feast of Easter is celebrated to help the followers to be filled with this message of Jesus. Jesus sends his disciples filled with the message to spread it to the whole world.

Love is the message of the   risen Jesus. From the day of resurrection till his ascension after 40 days. Jesus appeared to his followers with great love in different places in various forms.  The message of Jesus resurrection was first received by his women disciples at his tomb. Jesus also met them on the way. Jesus entrusted to the women to communicate the news of his resurrection to his disciples!

(Given the social-religious situation) Jesus’ disciples did not believe the women but thought that the women’s message of Jesus’ resurrection bogus and meaningless! In the words of St. Luke, “But the apostles thought that what the women said was nonsense and they did not believe them.” (Lk 24; 11) Still Jesus meets his disciples with great love and greets them with “Peace be with you” ( Jn 20: 19 & 20).

Meeting with the Risen Jesus brings about total transformation in his disciples. The meaning of human life is transformed radically. They begin to understand the meaning of all messages which Jesus gave them during his life with them. Everything good and bad gets new meaning. With the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples too receive new life, new peace, new happiness, new power. In other words, the disciples experience in their lives the presence of the unseen Jesus after his resurrection. They feel empowered to face any situation of life. So they reach the ends of the earth with the message of Jesus.

Every person who understand well the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection may hope and dream like St. Paul. A missionary in forefront St. Paul writes in his letter to Philippines, “All I want to know Christ and experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his suffering and become like him in his death in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life” (Phil 3: 10-11)

In short;  through his death on the Cross and resurrection Jesus has gifted to us, the Aam Atmi, new life and liberation from death, the conquering of sin.

Changed On: 01-10-2018

Next Change: 16-10-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

NOT MY WILL BUT YOUR WILL BE DONE

I got a phone call from an unknown person from Mumbai. The caller introduced herself as Ms Sonea. She is an Advocate by profession and a Hindu by religion. She said that she reads the Bible daily. She got a small book entailed “What Does Jesus Mean to You & Me?” from Goa. Sonea read the 40 page pocket-size booklet written by me and found my mobile number and called me.

Sonea had a question to ask: Fr Varghese, the Bible says that a person has to live according to the will of God. But God has created us with free will. So an independent person has his free will. How can a person be free and at the same time follow God’s will? If a person wants to follow God’s will, then he/she should sacrifice his/her free will. Then, where is the freedom and independence of a person? How can a person be free and at the same time do God’s will? It is a difficult question! Isn’t it?

I believe that without the freedom or free will of a person, morality and ethical behavior is not possible. The way of God is the way of ethics and morality. We know through our experiences that a person experiences an interior tug of war between following God’s will and doing one’s own will. St Paul has expressed this inner tug of war very well. He writes in his letter to the Romans: “I don’t do the good I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do.” (Bible, Rom. 7:19). Here Paul bares his soul. He shares with us his experience of inner conflict.

The ancient Greek poet Ovid has said something similar to Paul’s words: “I see the better things and I approve them, but I follow the worse” – Ovid.

A well known biblical scholar William Barclay, commending on Paul’s words about his inner struggles, has explained that the Jewish people understood Paul’s words very well. The Jews spoke of a person’s two natures called “Yester hatob and Yester hara.” God created a person with two inner forces: one for the good and the other for evil. But a person needs not succumb to the evil tendencies in him/her. The free will is choosing between the good and the evil.

In this context it is appropriate to quote a passage from the biblical book, Sirach: “Don’t blame the Lord for your sin; the Lord does not cause what he hates. Don’t claim that he has misled you; he doesn’t need the help of sinners to accomplish his purposes. The Lord hates evil in all its forms, and those who fear the Lord find nothing attractive in evil. When, in the beginning, the Lord created human beings, he left them free to do as they wished. If you want to, you can keep the Lord’s commands. You can decide whether you will be loyal to him or not.” (Sirach 15:11-15).

The Jewish people believed that a person may not yield to the evil tendencies in him/her and commit bad things. So God has given them ethical principles and moral norms especially the commandments. So when a person is pulled in opposite directions, he/she can use his/her intelligence to distinguish between the good and the evil and follow God’s commandments. For, in following the commandments a person can confirm his/her own free will to that of God’s will.

Certainly God’s will for a person and the person own free will are not one but two different things. But when a person willingly follow God’s will, then his/her will become one with God’s will. Often a person’s free will keeps him/her away from following God’s will. For as Paul said, a person experiences inner pulls in opposite directions. A person, so to say, experiences two opposing powers within himself/herself. So the basic question is what shall we do in this conflicting situation? How can a person without losing his/her free will follow the will of God?

I think that a person can follow God’s will without losing or sacrificing his/her free will by taking three concrete steps. First, know oneself; second, know God’s commandments as well as ethical principles and moral norms of life; and third, learn to discern or develop the power of discernment to be able to recognize between good and evil with love and intelligence. Taking these three steps a rational and loving person can know that his/her true freedom or free will is exercised in confirming his/her will to that of God’s will. Let us reflect a little deeper on these three steps.

First, knowing oneself. A famous Secretary General of United Nations U Thant well known for his posthumously published Diary (book) ‘Markings’ said that the longest journey of a person is the journey inward. Knowing oneself involves that long inner journey.

Jawaharlal Nehru as a political prisoner during the independent movement read a lot and shared his reflection with his teenage daughter Indira (Gandhi) in the form of letters which was later published as a bulky volume entitled “Discovery of India”. In a person’s inner journey he/she will discover many more things than a book can contain. In knowing oneself there is much to understand oneself and others. A person may discover many hidden talents, and forces at work in him/her. A person can develop all such forces and talents according to his/her time and situations. In the inner journey it may help a person to try to see oneself as God sees him/her. Knowing oneself thoroughly also helps to understand others.

Intelligence is a unique power of a human person. Through the intelligence a person can increase his self knowledge and wisdom. In knowing oneself a person realizes that knowledge and wisdom are not enough. For instance, a person is wise and knows theoretically swimming. But if that theoretical knowledge is not supported by experiential knowledge of swimming, he/she will get drowned in deep water. So knowing oneself is not limited to knowledge and wisdom but they need to be enhanced with the power of rational thinking and discernment to recognize good and evil.

Second, to follow God’s will, first of all, one needs to know God’s commandments. A person can also read Bible to know God’s will. Meditating on the life and message of Jesus Christ can also help a person to know God’s will.

In other words, meditative reading of the Bible, contemplation of the life and message of Jesus as well as the knowing God’s commandments are very important in seeking God’s will. We also need to recognize God at work in you and me as well as in the whole creation. With the help of all these we develop our power of discernment to distinguish good and evil and we are able to recognize God’s will in still small inner voice which we call our conscience or the voice of our soul.

Third, developing the spirit of discernment with the knowledge of self and God’s will, a person also needs to develop the spirit of discernment to follow God’s will. A person’s rational thinking and discernment are developed by his/her religious teachings, moral principles and ethical norms. A developed or an enlightened conscience helps a person in discernment.

A person may know well himself/herself; he/she may be well aware of God’s commandments; she/he may also be able to discern well between good and evil; still there may not be oneness of a person’s will and God’s will. A person also needs a firm resolve to follow God’s will. Still a person’s behavior is often at loggerhead with the will of God. We do not follow God’s commandment; but often break them. When such things happen, we need to recognize our helplessness and weakness and humbly turn to God in dependence and ask God’s forgiveness and continue in our efforts with God’s help to know and follow God’s will. Then we may experience oneness and unity of God’s will with our personal will.#

Changed On: 16-09-2018

Next Change: 01-10-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

Journalists’ Challenges in Our Times

Last few years socio-political the situations have changed nationally and internationally. According to the mass media I am sad to note India is in forefront in corruption and persecution of the minorities in the name of religion. Let us speak about the situation in India and specifically in Gujarat. The Amar-Akbar-Anthony situation of brotherhood and friendship exists no more. A teenager Junaid Khan who had gone to buy new clothes for Eid was brutally murdered with sharp weapons in a train amidst other passengers. The fearless journalist-editor Gouri Lenkesh was shot dead in front of her house by two burkha-clad motor cycle riders.

The situation of Gujarat is not much different from the rest of India. Author journalist Anuja Chauhan writes in a popular periodical THE WEEK dated October 15, 2017: “These days Amitabh Bachan is busy white-washing Gujarat into some kind of weird, Sanskritised Disneyland on national television.” But the people know the picture portrayed by Bhachan is quite different from the actual situation of Gujarat. According to news paper report a Dalit young man was beaten to death for watching Garba Dance from afar! A few days after that a Dalit youth was killed for the crime of keeping a mustache!

The people of good will are frightened with news paper reports like criminals not only being protected but also honored and promoted by self serving politicians. In the name of cow protection such criminals have cruelly murdered innocent people. Thanks to the fear of the terrorists of cow vigilante type, the sale and transport of cows have come to a standstill even without law. Consequently poor people and small farmers with one or two cows have now no income. Consequently we see the increasing number of deaths by hunger and farmers’ suicide.  I am ashamed to take note here that India’s position is 100th out of 119 countries on global Hunger Index! Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are in much better position than India. These realistic situations are great challenges for journalist.

Today in India journalists’ profession has become a very dangerous profession. For, as leaves fall from a tree in winter the fearless and committed journalists are falling death as the victims of people who take law in their own hands. Such victims include rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, social activist comrade Govind Panshar, educationalist Prof. M.M. Kulburgi and fearless journalist, Gouri Lenkesh. The fearless journalists with independent views and freely write, are pursued and persecuted. Such independent journalists who fearlessly practice their profession are also victims of witch-hunt.

It is in this situation that we have to examine the challenges of the journalists. As I see it journalists face mainly three types of challenges. First, A strong will to pursue the truth and stick to it; Second, The courage to live fearlessly and Third, The rationalist intelligence to recognize good and bad and differentiate between them. Let’s examine these three challenges.

First, a strong will to pursue the truth. While working this article the Ahmedabad Edition of the Indian Express dated October 18 and 19, 2017 has front news about a girl by name Santoshi Kumari in Jharkhand. The newspaper reports that the eleven year old Santoshi Kumari died last month due to hunger and thirst. According to the report Koyli Devi, mother of Santhoshi Kumari, and her eldest sister earn Rs. 40 or 50 selling fire woods which they collected from the forest. With that money and the wages they get, whenever there is works in the field, they run the house. But for eight days before the death of Santoshi Kumari there was nothing to eat or drink in their house. As Koyli Devi said before the death Santoshi Kumari was asking and crying for rice and rice-water. But there was nothing in the house to feed her.

The local activists and the journalist of the Indian Express Prashant Pandey have reported the story. But the civil officials and local medical personal of Jharkhand state are trying to cover up their own crimes saying that Santoshi Kumari died not of hunger but of Maleria! The journalist Prashant Pandey has quoted that the Chief Minister of Jharkhand Raguvar Das sanctioning to provide the family of Santoshi Kumari Rs. 50,000/- immediately. So it is clear that everything is not okay but the concerned official have something to hide.

Here I am reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples. “Whatever is covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. So then, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in broad light, and whatever you have whispered in private in a closed room will be shouted from the housetops.” The politicians and civil authorities may fail to perform their duties; but, when they are caught they look for scapegoats to hide their crimes of criminal negligence and find excuses. In such situation Journalists with determination and strong will are challenged to find the truth and bring it to the light.

There is selfishness of the so called upper class people in persecuting and keeping under control the poor, the Tribals and the Dalits with contempt and hatred. Selfish people keep the poor, the Tribals and the Dalits away from their basic human rights. They are prevented from coming up socially, educationally and economically. But we do hear ‘Sabka sath sabka vikas’ meaning development of all together with all, but nothing more! Consequently the majority of the poor, the Tribal and the Dalits are deprived of their basic needs like food, clothes and shelter even 70 years after our Independence. This reality is a great challenge to journalists through the wisdom and the courage to present to the truth as it.

Second, fearless courage to live and performs duty as a journalist. The news reporter of Santoshi Kumari, Prashant Pandey has shown the example of a fearless and committed journalist. When health officials defend themselves claim visiting the village and treating Santoshi Kumari and mother, Prashant Pande quoting the Koyli Devi says, that the health personal and government officials never came to the village. Here the journalist Prashant Pande, in the words of Bernard Shaw “has learned to honor   the truth.”

We need two things to cultivate courageous and fearless journalism. One, journalists need to be professionally competent in their field. Only professionally competent journalists can withstand and keep away from bribes, corruption and threats. In the words of Benjamin Franklin only those who are courageous can get what they decided to have. Two, to practice fearlessly journalism journalists should be ready to face the consequences even death. After reading some of my writing my sister Celine once asked me, “Brother, are you not afraid to write what you write when you read the murder of activists and police encounter deaths?” I told her that I am not afraid of death. I am prepared to face death anytime. I do not fear anyone except God who takes care of me every moment. “But please take care” she said.

Today one of the most dangerous professions is that of journalist.  People to achieve their selfish ends sitting at high position misuse their authority and money. The so called God-men in the name of religion and devotion mislead innocent people promising heaven and salvation. In such situation fearless journalists are called to reveal true facts in public interest about the sinful behavior of such people and warn the public. The journalists need to be always on their guard that they do not misuse their profession for selfish purposes. It is a challenge for journalists to be faithful to their profession and fearlessly portrait the truth even in tempting situation.

Third, the rational intelligence to know and differentiate between the good and the bad.  Journalists need to have a deep understanding and comprehensive power to differentiate the evil from the good. So journalists’ proficient in his/her own fields, needs to be sufficiently well acquainted about many other fields. A journalist is not an all knowing person but journalist need to have wisdom and the ability to know things she/he needs to know.

The journalists need to be able to express and communicate well the language in which she/he works. Similarly the journalists should also know the medium which she/he works and also the target audience for whom she/he works. Rational intelligence also called for a fair knowledge of laws concerning the profession and the general public.

 

Finally, a journalist has a great challenge to be professional and reliable in all his/her works.

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Changed On: 01-09-2018

Next Change: 16-09-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018