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

 

 

 

Is it God’s Miracle?

Kandhamal is a backward district of Orissa State. But today due to the persecution of Christians the Kandhamal has become a well known name in the whole world! Swami Lakshmananada Saraswati created a great controversy by his ‘Ghar Vapsi’ (Return Home) programme of reconverting tribal Christians back to Hindu fold. Then, the Swami has been caught up in many court cases against him. The people in Kandhamal say that Swami Lakshmanananda was killed when the Swami became a liability as the court verdicts were expected to come against him!

My journalist friend Anto Akkara has visited Kandhamal 25 times. He has written and published news reports and research articles in many newspapers and other periodicals in India and abroad. Then, as an in-depth reporter he has also authored much acclaimed 3 books on Kandhamal. I have with me all three books. His third book is entitled “Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?” the book published first in May 2016 has since saw 4 editions by December 2017!

Here I do not wish to write about the 3 book but I want to describe one concrete instance of the persecution of Christians in Kandhamal. A journalist- writer friend of mine Fr. Cassian Parichha hails from Raikia in Kandhamal. He has written an article named “Kandhamal, Ten Years after the Persecution” in a weekly newspaper “The Herald” published from Kolkata on July 6, 2018. Fr. Cassian Parichha went for holidays to his native place Raikia in May 2018. Raikia is the nerve centre of the Catholic Church in the District. There in the massively built Church Fr. Parichha was ordained a priest in April 1964. The specious Church with two wings built in 1957 was attacked by anti-Christian forces. Let me quote the story in the words of Fr. Parichha as he has described it in his article.

“The church had been desecrated and vandalized on the 6th August, 2004 by the anti social and anti-Christian young men of Raikia and around recruited and instigated by the controversial Swami. Over hundred untruly young men, led by two police constables, opened the gate and at first smashed the statue of Lady’s Lourdes grotto, then pushing into the church, ransacked whatsoever they could and set fire the sacred books, musical instruments and some furniture, having piled them up together. They toppled the two statues of angles at both edges of the altar.

“Then two boys, having climbed the altar, put down the tabernacle, spat upon and urinated on it. Meanwhile one of the boys pelted a stone aiming the head of a Lord Jesus of a large painting kept reclined against the wall, at the side of the altar. The stone, hitting on the wall bounced back and hit the boy’s head who fell down bleeding. Others collected him and all rushed out panicked.”

Meanwhile, two boys who had spat and urinated on the tabernacle, felt strange scratching and burning sensation in their genitals. Doctors expressed inability to do the needful and referred them to the nearest Medical College Hospital at Berhampur, at a distance of 145 km. There too doctors said the same thing. On their way back to their village Luhuringia, about 10 km from Raikia, the boys died. These are not myths of stories, but hard facts! Several such startling incidents did take place. All Compassionate God and Merciful Saviour is also Supreme Lord, Master and Irrevocable Judge of everything and everybody, all need to know!”

Today big and small, hidden and not so hidden attacks against Christians and Church institutions are going on all over India! A Christian organization listed more than 500 cases of anti-Christian persecutions in India during the six month from January to June 2018! Records show that the persecutions against Christians have steadily gone up during the last few years!

In this context I am reminded of the then USA President Barak Obama’s call to all Indians in his address from Siri Fort, New Delhi on 27 January 2017. Obama without referring to the persecution of Christians or of any minorities called all Indians to appreciate the religious, cultural, linguistic, regional differences of the people and challenged us to go forward with mutual tolerance on the path of progress and development.

Quoting appropriate articles from Indian and American constitutions Obama gave us a clarion call to make progress on the path of democracy celebrating unity in diversity without quarrel and strife. Obama said that we are all the children of one God… We are a variety of colorful flowers in a garden… We are different branches of one tree… We are all the brothers and sisters of one another.

Ignoring our sacred Constitution the people who persecute the Christians should know two things. First, the Christians are much concerned and worried about the ongoing persecution because they are the victims of the persecution. But they are not frightened about the persecution. They do not run away from the persecution. For, they know that the Truth is in their side. God will help them in the long run. So being firm in their faith they are even ready to sacrifice their lives. The victim of the persecution can say with St. Paul, “I shall bring honour to Christ, whether I live or die. For what is life? To me it is Christ. Death, then, will bring more” (Philippians 1: 20-21).

Second, a converted Christ Tertullian (160-220) who has written much in the defense of Christians and their faith wrote “Whenever you cut us down then as often our number increases”. The same thing has been said by a church scholar Jerome: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. This has been proved in the case of Kandhmal.

People know that after the murder of Swami Lakshmanand Saraswati his body was carried in a zigzag way to cover the entire district of  Kandhamal which was followed by murderous attack on Christians as well as looting and burning down Christian houses, Churches and other Christian institutions. About 100 Christians became martyrs of faith in the persecution apart from houses and other properties worth cores of rupees destroyed.

Fr. Cassian Parichha says that the persecution have made the Christians strong in faith and even better off in socially and economically as many people migrated to cities and studied and are earning a living better than before. Even in some cases the persecutors of Christians have recognized their folly and a few even got converted to Christian faith!

Finally, I end this essay recalling once more St. Paul’s words. Concerned with the deteriorating situation of the Corinthians Paul wrote; “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies.” (2 Cor. 4: 8-10).

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Changed On: 16-08-2018

Next Change: 01-09-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

Gandhism Vs Modism

A Gujarati dictionary has given the definition or meaning of the word Gandhism. Gandhism means “the vision or philosophy shown by Gandhiji of human life and of whole social system based on the foundation of Truth and Non-violence.”

The word ‘Modi’ is there in the Gujarati dictionary meaning “a merchant of grains, ghee, species etc.” The surname ‘Modi’ may have come from such occupations. But there is no such word like ‘Modism’ in the dictionary. So how can one find a definition for Modism in the dictionary!

Modism word is in circulation in internet. But there is no definition. A famous bilingual writer and scholar Vidyut Joshi has written thought provoking article on Modism, which I read in the net. Here I am trying to make a definition of Modism based on the article. Modism means Acquiring absolute power through mesmerizing speeches on development as the king of Hindu hearts, the messiah of the poor and on Hindu nationalism. It is the art of escaping even serious crimes through self promoting advertisements in the style of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Pol Pot.

Only in one thing Gandhi and Modi are similar. Both hail from Gujarat. There is no similarity between the two in anything else. Gandhism has specific philosophy while Modism has no specific philosophy or vision. For, Modi has only one goal. That is power. In the words of Vidyut Joshi, “Modi has only one consideration power, power and more power.”

Modi may try to follow Gandhism; but it is easy to see Modism is far from Gandhism. Gandhiji through his life has shown that the dignity or importance of a person consists in reducing the difference between one’s words and actual life style.

But Modi’s life proclaims that the differences between what he says and what he does are ever growing. For instance, Modi speaks persuasively every now and then about his readiness to sacrifice himself for the poor, the Dalits, and the Tribals. But his life shows that I don’t care for the poor, the Dalits, and the Tribals. I don’t do anything for them. So under his rule and authority basic things like basic health care, under nourishment, child mortality and deaths due to hunger get neglected. In other words, Modi is against the whole round development of the nation, even though one can hear often his clarion call “Sab ka Sath Sab ka Vikas”.

Modi wears suits worth several lakhs. He changes clothes every now and then costing crores of rupees for the tax payers. Modi’s vestments are an affront to the poor people who do have enough clothes to cover their nakedness. Compare Modi with Gandhi who was satisfied with his waist clothes till the crores of Indian poor people got sufficient clothes to wear.

Gandhi has specific purpose in developing khadi and hand-woven cloths. For Gandhi khadi was a means in promoting self sufficiency among ordinary people. For, from the cultivation of cotton to producing cloths innumerable people are employed. From cotton to making cotton-rolls for spinning, then from spinning to cloths and then stitching dresses people are gainfully employed; and they earn to be self sufficient. This was Gandhiji’s vision in using and promoting khadi. Gandhiji found much success in it as on one side ordinary people found earning and food through Khadi enterprises and on the other side cloth mills in England began to be closed down.

Without understanding this effort of Gandhiji to make people self sufficient, the power hungry people make laughable attempt to put their own photos replacing Gandhiji in his famed symbolic picture of Gandhiji spinning on a Charka! In the original picture Gandhiji is spinning Charka squatting on the ground with wrapped in khadi cloth on his waist. In the new picture dressed in most expensive cloths Modi makes a show of spinning on a specially made so called Charka for the photo-opportunity! This is not only debasing the value of Charka but it is also an insult to Gandhi and all his followers in khadi cloths.

Obviously Modi’s ways are far from the ways of thinking and doings of Gandhiji. In fact, there is nothing common between the two. When we see a person dressed in most expensive cloths spinning Charka and gets photographers to take photos we see the picture of person’s hunger for power and publicity. Gandhiji never cared for publicity and power. So we see no similarity but one versus the other.

Gandhi had a passion. He always did what he thought to be true. But there was no pride in it. For, whenever Gandhiji realized that what he sincerely did was proved to be wrong, he not only apologized saying, “That was my mistake,” but he also did voluntary penance to correct himself and took steps to improve. In his autobiography “Experiments with Truth” there are many instances of Gandhiji repenting and making amendments for his mistakes.

These types of Gandhiji’s experiments are totally different from the thoughts and actions of our Prime Minister Modi. Under Modi’s Chief Ministership thousands of people were mercilessly butchered in Godhara train burning crime and Post-godhara pogrom against the Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Like a crystal glass one thing is very clear. The state government used both the police force and executive officers in favor of the ruling party. Besides, strong punitive steps were taken against the police officials and the excusive officials who prevented the 2002 murderous communal riots   in their area against the Muslims.

It was in such context IPS officers like Kuldeep Sharma and Shree Kumar fought cases against the government and got justice for them through the Supreme Court. So there is no trace of seeking forgiveness and doing penance in Modism. On the contrary Modism goes all out to trash and destroy anyone coming on the way.

If one examines like this, we see many instances of Gandhism versus Modism. God has not created any two persons equal or alike. So Modi can never become (another) Gandhi. For Modism is running away from Gandhism in life style, in being transparent. Gandhi gave a lot of importance to be responsible and accountable. Modism will be welcomed and acceptable only when he becomes transparent and responsibly answerable and help others to be such, a man of true development.

I do not desire that Modiji become another Gandhi. But as the elected Prime Mister of India, I pray daily for Modi that the great gap between his talk of development and the actual practice of development    may ever decrease and that Modiji really become a true nation builder and leader of this country through hard work especially for the welfare of the 40 percent poor people of India.

 

Finally I recall a verse from a famous Gujarati poet Umasankar Joshi:

 

“I am tired of seeing the smallness of the great people

But I live seeing the greatness of the small people.”

 

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Changed On: 01-08-2018

Next Change: 16-08-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

MY CELIBACY

Some years back a young friend Meghul used to come to meet me. With him I have discussed many things. But recently when he came to meet me unexpectedly I did not recognize him and I was very busy.  He greeted me very enthusiastically and gifted me a costly ball pen.

Usually when someone comes to meet me I leave all my works aside and respond to the person with much warmth and love. But god knows why, I was able to do so on that day!

Perhaps the question, he asked me, put me off. Imagine a stranger asking you a personal question as he did. “Father, what do you think? Can a person live without sex?”

“Sex is a very natural thing in human beings. A man or a woman with his/her appropriate partner enjoy sex at suitable time and place and thus make their lives enjoyable and fruitful. This is the usual natural way of sex. But with god’s grace a man or a woman can stay away from sex for a noble cause which he/she has embraced”, I said.

Then I explained   to Meghul about the celibacy embraced by a religious person like me after long training. I explained him that during the training or even later a person feels strongly that he/she cannot live a celibate life. Then he/she leaves such a life and choose a life-partner and lead a family life.

I guess that Meghul was not very happy with my short explation of sexual life and  celibate life. I was not happy myself with my brief presentation of sex. For, Hindus and Christians have very different ideas of celibate life and married life and totally different views of life. But that day I did not have the time and leisure to discuss all aspects of celibate and married life.

Both the celibate life and the married life are inspired and prompted by love. Love the most powerful force in   human life.  None can live without love. Both celibate life and married life are led by love. But life with love is very different from in married life and in celibate life. Love is lived in different ways. In Christian vision of life in both kind of love life one is not superior to another. Both kinds of love life are dignified life. In both the kind of life there is God’s love, sharing God’s love.

In the love-life with God men/women expressed sexual union with one’s life-partner. But in loving and experiencing God’s love in celibate life no other human person comes on the way. In celibate love-life God is everything. A celibate life is God centred life.  Married life and celibate life are complementary. They are not superior or inferior to one another.

But people often compare both kind of married love-life and celibate love-life and people hold celibate life superior to married life! How do you feel if you compare your right hand with your left hand? Both your hands are equal in everything. With training and practice each hand may have different facilities or capacities. For instance I can write letter with my right hand; but by nature both hands are equal. They are not superior or inferior to one another. Celibate love-life and married love-life are something similar. A person leading a married love-life is more involved worldly matters while a celibate person is more concerned with godly spiritual matters. But there is no need to compare them and consider superior or inferior to one another.

Personally speaking while I was in primary school, that is, from the time I began to think I have felt special attraction to celibate life. I consider it today as divine inspiration. I faced  many obstacles and difficulties on the way of this attraction. As the eldest son of the family my parents did not want me to be a missionary priest going away from home. While I was in school final year, with my insistence my parents were prepared to grand me permission to go for priesthood but only in the local diocese in Kerala. They wanted me to become a diocesan priest like my maternal uncle, who was an efficient and ideal priest besides being a great friend and counselor of my parents.

In my childhood my grandfather was my ‘great friend’. One day my grandfather came to my house and told my parents, “If Varghese wants to become a missionary priest in North India, let him go. If he does not like there let him come back”. My parents loved and respected my grandfather. So willy nilly my loving parents gave me permission. In the process I lost one year and I come to Gujarat in 1963. Then, after long training I received ordination to priesthood in Rome, Italy on 21 June 1947.

From the time I put my first steps in Gujarat I have felt that I have reached my destination on earth. For the last 54 years I have been living a very happy and contented life as a celibate missionary priest. In this, I believe that it is not my power or achievement but a divine power and inspiration is continually leading me in celibate love-life.

On that day when Meghul asked me about sex life, that is if a person can live or not live without sex, I did not think it proper to share with him as then I did not have the leisure time. Besides, I know well if I am able to live a celibate love-life, it is not my merit but God’s power and mercy working through me.

Perhaps we can understand better this from a biblical perspective. The creation story of the Bible says, “It is not good for a man to live alone.” (Genesis 2:18). Early in the creation story “God said, ‘And now we will make human beings, they will be like us and resemble us. … so God created them male and female”. (Genesis 1:26-27). God has created human beings with sexual instinct/power. So life without sex or free from sexual union is a step against God given natural instinct. It is like swimming against the strong current. So by mere human effort sex-free life is not possible.

Here we need to understand well what the Bible says. Jesus speaking about celibacy, that is, a life free from sexual union says, “This teaching (life free from sex) does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it… and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so” (Mathew 19: 11-12). Jesus has identified three kinds of people. (First) “Some, because they were born that way; (Second), a few others, because men made them that way: and (Third) some others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 19: 12).

Like myself all Christian celibate (religious) men and women who are living free from sexual union know sex free unmarried life is a gift of God.  That is to say, men and women living without sexual union know that their celibate life is a special gift of God. They are able to live such life only with divine power. To those who are leading such committed life Jesus says, “You did not choose me; I choose you; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures” (John 15:16).

In the Old Testament God has chosen the Prophets in variety of ways. Similarly a celibate religious person like me knows that God has chosen him in a unique way.  So a religious person – a Sanyasi or a Sanyasini – with great humility dedicate himself/herself completely at the feet of the Lord. And God becomes everything for him/her. Usually a Religious person commits himself/herself publically on a particular day. That lifelong commitment is to be lived daily through taking recourse to daily prayers, meditation and other spiritual practices. In Religious life a person lives a life of sacrifice and seeks and gets spiritual counsel from experienced elders.

In married life husband and wife use their sexual urge to submit to each other and make happy and create new life. A Religious person in a very different way surrender himself/herself completely to God and dedicate himself/herself to the chosen path of service with total commitment. In this a religiously committed person knows very well that it is not his/her power and strength but divine power is at work in his/her life. So a Religious person’s life is completely dependent in the hands of God. He/She is totally dependent on God.

A person who has embraced Religious life in Christianity has an idea, a model, and a goal that is Jesus Christ. Jesus during his earthly life was totally dedicated to the will of his Father-God. Those who read the New Testament of the Bible know well that the only desire of Jesus was to do his Father’s will.  So surrendering himself completely to his Father-God Jesus embraced the ignonimous death on the Cross. The enemies of Jesus believed that with the death in the Cross the end has come of Jesus life and his message. But Jesus rose from death on the third day. During his life as well as through his post Resurrection appearances Jesus gave the message that there is a life beyond death. A Religious person not only accepts this life after death but also prefigures that life and tries to live that life.

Here the words of St. Paul are very appropriate regarding my celibate life. He writes to the Church at Corinth, “An unmarried man (& woman) concerns himself with the Lord’s work because he is trying to please the Lord. But a married man concerns himself with worldly matters, because he wants to please his wife; and so he is pulled in two directions” (1Cor 7:32-33).

Finally my answer to Maghul’s question is that, a person cannot live without sex, that is, love. But when sex that is love is God centred then a Christian Religious person can live without surrendering his or her sexual urge. For his/her sexual life is lived in complete surrender to his/her Lord God.

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Changed On: 16-07-2018

Next Change: 01-08-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

My Experience as a Teacher

Beginning with my eldest sister and a brother one of my uncles and two aunties as well as a few of my close relatives have made name as teachers, headmasters and headmistress In their foot steps there was possibility for me to become a teacher. But I choose to become a Missionary priest. I came to Gujarat in 1963 and joined the Jesuit Religious Order. Then, led by circumstances I became a journalist and writer. Still I have engaged myself as a teacher sharing my knowledge and experiences with interested students and others in seminars and workshops.

I did journalism studies in London in 1975 and returned to India in 1977 after some work experience in a magazine office in Cincinatti: USA. Then, there were not many people in India with professional training in journalism. So at the request of Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) I conducted a month-long workshop in journalism and creative writing for 36 editors of Catholic periodicals in Xavier’ Institute of Communication (XIC) at Mumbai. I gave professional training to people who were fully involved in the print media. As I trained them news reporting, writing and editing my name because famous as a professional journalist in India. With that beginning I was called to conduct two-three journalism and creative writing workshops of two weeks duration every year in different parts of India.

Then from 1980s being elected as a Council Member of the International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP) I was called to conduct seminars and workshops in journalism and creative writing in our neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Then, I was appointed as the Founder Director and Chief Editor of South Asian Religious (SAR) News service for four years from 1980 to 1983 inclusive. While I was Editor of SAR News I took every year two young person interested in journalism and trained them as professional journalists with both theory and practice. I am happy that my in service training in journalism produced a few journalists who have made name and fame in the field.

After my first year teaching one of the two journalist trainees Tony Joseph went to Secunderabad for an interview to work in an English daily newspaper there. After the interview Tony wrote to me, “Father Varghese thanks to your training I performed well in the interview and I got selected for the job in preference to journalism graduates from Poona University. Thanks”.  Today I read Tony’s name in some newspapers and national periodicals as a journalist author of in depth articles. I am happy that people in India take note of Tony’s writing. With Tony the second in service trainee Mr. Jose Kavi is also became a well known journalist as the India Bureau Chief of an Asian News Service UCAN.

After returning from New Delhi I was appointed again as the Chief Editor of DOOT family magazine in 1980. In DOOT office I used to take three to five in-service trainees in journalism and office management. As a teacher of journalism I insisted on two things. Choosing in-service trainees I selected young people who are interested in journalism and are ready for hard work. Second, with my teaching of journalism theory I insisted that my students do a lot of practical work. I used to tell them that with knowledge the ability to perform in writing is most important. I made very clear to them that your skills and ability to put down in black and white is more important than your degree, certificate or a diploma.

I remember that when Bhaskar group newspaper chain started its Ahmedabad edition one of my in-service trainee Mr. Vinod Parmar went for an interview and got an appointment letter with a salary double of what mass circulated ‘Sandesh’ and ‘Gujarat Samachar’ were then paying to their reporters.

Then, St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad got permission from UGC to start journalism course as a Career Oriented Programme, I was called to prepare a syllabus and the college principal asked me to conduct the programme for interested college boys and girls. In the first few years I enjoyed teaching journalism to the students as only interested students signed for the journalism and they attended lectures did home work regularly.

Later one or other Career Oriented Programme became compulsory for Arts Faculty students and many without any interest signed up for journalism. I lost interest in teaching such students, who did not attend lectures regularly. I was happy then that by then a dynamic Jesuit Fr. Vinayak Jadav came and took over the responsibility for conducting the journalism programme. After continuing to give lectures in a few more years I gave up teaching journalism in the college spending more time in my reading and writing hobbies. But I continued conducting journalism and creative writing workshops and seminars for short duration to interested youth in Gujarat and other parts of India.

Apart from teaching journalism in the college and conducting workshops and seminar I was also writing articles and essays on different topics of journalism and creative writing. As a result in 2008 I submitted a collection of such articles to a well known publisher, Rannade Prakashan who published my book entitled “Writing and Journalism” in Gujarati. Reviewing my book an eminent writer-critic and poet Mr. Yoseph Macwan wrote critical essay, which the literary magazine ‘Parab’ published it. In the review Mr. Yoseph Macwan wrote, “Without any doubt Fr. Varghese’s book ‘Writers and Journalists’ may be considered the bible of those who wishes to become journalists.”

As a teacher I am delighted to share my knowledge and wisdom with interested students. For me education is not mere sharing my knowledge and experiences. My greatest joy in teaching is my contribution to the shaping and moulding the character of my students. I wish that my values, my ideas help my students to lead a value-based and cultured life. For instances, my joy is to live for others. The success of my life is in living for others. Hence the goal of my teaching is that my students make their lives happy and fruitful by living for others. (Words1024)

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Changed On: 01-07-2018

Next Change: 16-07-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018