THE SPIRITUAL CONTRIBUTION OF CISS

 “I have always said that building walls is not a solution: we have already seen one come down, during the last century. Walls solve nothing. We must build bridges. But bridges are built intelligently, through dialogue and integration”, said Pope Francis. The Pope was answering a question asked by a journalist Hellena Pinardi in a press conference abroad Papal flight from Lebos (Greece) to Rome on 16, April 2016.

Pope has never heard about Catholic Information Service Society (CISS). But his counsel of not building walls but building bridges applies 100% to CISS. For, the service of CISS is not to build walls but build bridges between different religions, faiths and cultures. CISS strives to establish inter-religious harmony and unity. CISS believes in the understanding of “Vasudaivakudumbakam”, that is, the whole world is one family.

Thanks to the modern achievements and facilities like electronic media, communication tools and international travel facilities the world has become one global village. Still the open secret and the naked truth is that there are much prejudice and misunderstanding about various different religions, cultures and races.

When CISS was established in 1984 we offered our services advertising them in the news papers. During the initial years there was much appreciation of our services.  With letters of praises for our services there were also a few letters of hatred and enmity. A few times we have also received letters of threat and enmity. Such letters were received often from anonymous sources without senders’ addresses. But I was alert to reply all letters with sender’s address.

Once in 1996 CISS office received four letters from Bhavnagar region. The four post cards coming from four different addresses have one common request. The writers wanted to receive our advertised free literature on Jesus Christ and the Bible. The letter writers also wanted to receive baptism and to know if on receiving baptism the person will get educated Christian girl to marry along with a car and bungalow to live a new life.

Even if they are exception, I used to get such letters. I made it my practice to reply every such letter. I tell the person that we send only the requested literature free of cost. Baptism is not something to be taken lightly. A decision to receive baptism is usually taken after much prayers, meditation and study. In the final stage it is a matter between God and the man/woman concerned. I also tell such person clearly that we have nothing to do with providing for the person educated Christian life-partner, bungalow and a car.

After sending my such love letters, my Assistant Sr. Devkripa who has been the principal of a big school and who also kept track of our correspondence courses, called my attention to the four post cards, “Father, look at all these four post cards, the addresses of the senders are different. But see: not only the content but the handwritings are one and the same, there are no differences but similarities”.

We in CISS believe in Jesus’ words, “Whatever is hidden away will be brought out into the open, and whatever is covered up will be uncovered” (Mk 4: 22). I believe that my letters are private and confidential, still I know even if my letters are read from the village market or town square, there will be nothing objectionable or offensive. I do not know the four post card writers did receive satisfactory answer to their quarries. But between us there were no further correspondences.

In such situation I always instructed my co-workers in CISS office that, when they received offensive letters, phone calls with thread and hatred, respond to them with as much love as you are able to communicate taking their threat and hatred as a pleading to tell the truth, to clarify their ignorance and prejudices. We know our true situation. So we respond anger and hatred with love and forgiveness.

The sum and substance of our advertisements in newspapers and bill boards, is “Believe or do not believe, but know Jesus Christ”. Our services have no string attached. Our advertisements have always our postal address and phone number.

During last 34 years we have registered more than 44,000 Enquirers/students for our different free correspondence courses from whole Gujarat. Usually people see our advertisements in newspapers or hear from our ‘old’ students or directly from me and then ask for our free correspondence courses. Those who are curious or inquisitive to know about Jesus Christ and the Bible contact us and we send them our free correspondence courses.

We always send our literature, the beautifully printed “Meet Christ” (Isune Malo) booklets to all who ask for them. We used to send our students 10 booklets plus Fr. Valles’ booklet on Christian Religion (“Khrist Dharma”) originally published by Satvichar Parivar.

Now we have revised our 10 booklets and reprinted them in 5 booklets. In 2017 we reprinted 2000 copies of the 5 booklets. The five booklets have question-answer papers in each of them. Students can study and then fill the question-answer sheet stitched in the middle, which can be detached and send to us. When we receive them we correct and issue each successful student with certificate and a gift of a biblical book or a copy of New Testament.

Some of our students write to us sharing their inner spiritual experiences in studying our literature. When our students tell us about their transforming experiences we are energized and encouraged in this service. For instance, I am happy to share with you a few such  experiences of few students.

Prathumanbhai from Tapi: (Regd. No. 27373) wrote to me on July 28, 2010: “Through your “Meet Christ” booklets I experienced the fulfillment of my need to know about my Lord Jesus; so to say, you have given the companionship of Lord Jesus to me.”

Rajubhai from Bhavnagar (Regd. No. 788) wrote to me on 29 November 2011: “I believe that I have received the gift of inspiration to cultivate virtues like love, service and forgiveness in my life through studying Lord Jesus.”

Kanubhai from Surat (Regd. No. 29900) wrote on 27 December. 2011: “From reading your booklets I have received inspiration to live a good life. In a true spirit I will observe all the advices which I have received from the booklets.”

Prakashbhai from Vadodara Central Jail (Regd.No.785) wrote to us on 31 December, 2011: “A great change has come upon inside me after studying correspondence course booklets. I used to get angry very quickly. Now I am able to control my anger.”

Rasibhai from Ahmedabad (Regd. No. 791) wrote to us on February 1, 2012: “I liked very much the study of St. Luke’s Gospel. I got very good message of mercy and service to humanity from it. I came to know that we should forgive those who do evil to us”.

A pen friend Dr. Sudhakarbhai Hathy wrote to me on October 15, 2011 from Jamnagar: “Your thoughts as well as your writings are of superb quality. As you describe, the celebration of Divali is very beautiful. All in my family welcomes your thoughts and reflection. Everyone in my family read your two leaflets.”

Another pen friend and journalist-poet Pritamlal Kavi from Nadiad wrote on December 20, 2011: “I received your two thought-provoking phamlets: “Vision of Jesus at Christmas” and “One day with my Mother”. You have described very well the importance of the vision of Jesus’ incarnation. Much thought for life is there in your article on Mother. This article will serve as a guide to those who insult and misbehave with their parents.”

Jayeshbhai from Bhavnagar (Regd. No. 28339) wrote to me on July 7, 2010: “Reading your books I got to know the true way of living life. You have caused to raise a new sun in my life!”

Rajeshbhai from Bhavnagar (Regd. No. 535) wrote to me on February 7, 2006: “After reading your small book ‘What Does Jesus Means to You & Me’ I have to say this much in verse,

‘Jesus came to the door of my heart

The darkness in my heart flew away

I have joy of good works to offer at his feet’.”

 

An eminent senior writer friend Yogendra Vyas from Ahmedabad wrote to me on October 20, 2010: “I did not know the Sikh tradition of celebration of the freeing of Guru Govind at Divali is narrated in your article on “Religious Feast Divali” in verse I liked your essay on ‘Let us Enjoy Peace in the New Year 2067”. In it you have described 7 interior steps to be taken. They are very important and necessary.”

 

A pen friend Govardhan Soratiya from Amreli wrote to me: “I am impressed by your loving letter and the article on ‘Good Friday’. In it I see heartfelt devotion towards Lord Jesus. I appreciate /admire your courage to refer to Modi and Yeyrrudappa in writing about Godhara carnage and other communal terrorists.”

 

As on March 31, 2018 CISS has registered a total of 45962 Enquirers/students and sent them our free literature. Some of our beneficiaries have acknowledged that they have received much wisdom and knowledge from our free correspondence courses. I have quoted a few chosen randomly samples. They speak about their experiences like change of values, conversion of heart, receiving spiritual wisdom etc. In the Bible a disciple of Jesus, St. Paul says, “For the benefit of knowing my Lord Jesus I count everything else useless.” (Philipp 3: 8).

 

The letters from our enquirers proclaims from roof tops that they have received much from the Bible, Jesus Christ and the Christian Religion. Then, much ignorance and prejudices against Christian religion and the Christians have been cleared. Their lives have been influenced by the values, messages and the life of Jesus Christ. In other words, instead of building walls and remain distant from the people CISS has succeeded to establish inter-religious harmony and inter-religious dialogue. In deed CISS is doing successfully in building bridges between different religions, races and cultures. (Words1681)

 

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Changed On: 16-05-2018

Next Change: 01-06-2018

Copyright: Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MISSIONARY HERITAGE IN GUJARAT’S DEVELOPMENT

There is a telling picture about the contribution of missionaries not only in Gujarat but in the whole of India.  The colorful picture appeared on the cover page of a monthly ‘Sadhana’, March 1999. The artist has drawn Bharatmata in the grip of a large python. The picture is drawn in such a way that Bharatmata is wailing to be liberated from the grip of the huge monstrous python. In order to drive his message crystal clear for everyone the artist has identified the devilish python in large letters “Missionary” and the python’s tongue is drawn as cross. The sari-clad Bharatmata needs no identification. The picture reveals two things for me. On the one side, there is the acknowledgement of the contributions of missionaries in the development of India and on the other side, there is hatred of a section of people for Christian missionaries. There is also the envy of the missionary influence on Indian people and antipathy for the missionaries!

Obviously the artist is well informed and impressed by the missionary contributions in the developments of Gujarat and India. Unfortunately the artist who seems to despise missionaries does not understand the deep meaning behind the missionary contributions. As a disciple of Jesus Christ a missionary is bound to selflessly serve others especially the poor and Dalit people. For, a missionary follows in the footsteps of the one who told him/her to love others including the enemies and also offered himself on the Cross for others.

But the artist and like-minded people are not able to accept the missionaries, who walk on the path shown by Jesus. All the same it is our good luck that most Indian people without distinction of caste and creed do accept and appreciate the missionary heritage of selfless love and service. Moreover, impressed by the missionary spirit there are people who imitating the missionaries do engage themselves in the service of others with much love. Here I would like to speak specially about the missionary inheritance in Gujarat.

The missionary inheritance is experienced mainly in five areas or fields. In the overall development of Gujarat the contributions of the missionaries are outstanding in the fields of education, medical services, social works, literature and socio religious awakening. The vast majority of the people may not know but people living in interior villages in north and south Gujarat know well that the first kacha roads in their area have been built by missionaries with their limited sources like food for work projects. Most of these roads have been later converted to pacca (tarred) roads by panchayats and other   government authorities.

I have edited with my journalist friend Mr. Navin Macwan a bulky volume in 2011 in Gujarati “Vikasna Hamsafar: Gujaratna Vikasma Missionarino Pradan” meaning the contributions of Missionaries to the Development of Gujarat. A reader of the volume will find a short description of the missionary contribution in different fields to the development of Gujarat.

According to the traditions and the historical written evidences are available from the 3rd century that in the first century, that is in AD 52 one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, St. Thomas came to India and spread the teachings of Jesus Christ in South India. But according to available information the missionaries’ arrival and spread of Jesus’ teaching begins only in 14th century in Gujarat.

Gujarati people by nature are adventurous in travelling and doing business in India and abroad. Foreigners came to the west coast of India and made Khambath and Bharuch important ports for trading in cinnamon, pepper, clove, cardamom, ginger and other such spices.Then, using the travel facilities missionaries too came to Gujarat and Christianity took root. Dr. Ishanand Vempeny quoting the Christian Encyclopedia wrote in “Vikana Hamsafar” a historical article entitled Planting of Cross in Gujarat. He quotes, “Landing in Thana in 1321, the French Dominican Jourdin Cathala de Serversae found a small community of Christians were told that there were several Christian communities further north and concretely in Bharuch.”  An British traveler Willkim Hedges has written about the priests of different Christian denominations in his diary in 1666.

Some people think that the encounter of Gujaratis with the Christian religion is as old as Christianity itself. For instance, a scholar like Dr. Gamang Jani says in his newspaper column in Sandesh dated 21 Dec 2007: “The contact of Gujarat with the Christian Religion is as old as Christianity itself.”

The Christian Religion has mainly two branches Roman Catholics and Protestants.  The Protestants made their beginning when a Catholic Priest reformer Martin Luther (1483-1540) revolted against the evil practices that had crept into Christianity of the time symbolized by Rome and became the founder of Protestant Christians.

These Protestant Christian missionaries were the first to spread Christian Religion in Gujarat. As recorded in ‘Vikasna Hamsafar’ a Protestant missionary William Faivi started the first printing press at Surat.  It was the beginning of printing in Gujarat. William Faivi published the first book in Gujarati language in 1820. Then, from Vrajalal Kalidas Sastri of Surat, Joseph Van Somaran Taylor learnt Gujarati in the 1860s and Taylor published the first Gujarati grammar in English alphabets in 1862.Later in 1870 the Gujarati grammar was published in Gujarati alphabets.

In the development of Gujarati literature the Christian missionaries as well as the local Christian writers and poets have made noteworthy contributions. In the literary section of ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’ the articles of eminent writers like Rajvin Chandhari, Kesubhai Desai.Yeshwant Mehta Chimmanlal Trivedi, Yeshwant Trivedi, M. Dalal etc. give a fair idea of the contribution of Christian missionaries and other Christian writers. Then there is Fr. Raymund Chauhan who has written bulky volume of “The grammar of Gamit Language” and “The grammar of Dangi Language.”  His article in ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’ entitled ‘The culmination of tribal culture’ has highlighted the contributions of missionaries in promoting the tribal language and culture. Then the names of Novelist Joseph Macwan, Poet Yoseph Macwan, Essayists Frs. Carlos Valles, SJ and Varghese Paul, SJ are well known names in Gujarati literature. All have been honored with many literary award and honors.

Many people may not know the contribution of Christia missionaries and other writers to Gujarati literature. But all know well or have heard about the contribution of missionaries in the field of education. When missionaries came to Gujarat the Dalits and the poor people were kept out of education. Missionaries from the beginning took trouble to educate those opening schools for them wherever they went. Once an old missionary Fr. Basil Lala Parmar told me, “Fr. Varghese, in Kheda A Gilla (Present Nadiad and Anand Districts) alone we had more than 100 primary schools. Missionaries opened primary schools in interior villages and educated all children without making any distinction of caste or creed. Dalit people in large number got educated. Many of them embraced Christianity because the missionaries accepted them as their own irrespective of their castes or socio-economic background.

I have heard from Fr. Herbert D’ Souza the first Principal of St. Xavier’s college which started in 1955 that in the beginning St. Xavier’s college was one  in which no one wanted to join and study. But in no time it became the best college not only in Ahmedabad city but in the whole of Gujarat.

Two things stand out about the missionary education. First, the standard of the missionary schools started in the cities like Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar etc. stood out as the best schools for others as challenges and inspiration; and second, missionaries contribution to spread education in the villages and interior places like Dediapada, Ahwa, Subir, Jhankvav are without equal. The missionaries opened schools and hostels for boys and girls and educated specially the Dalits, the Tribals and other poor people.

True, there were a few government schools in tribal area. But till the missionaries opened their schools no tribal boys or girls had passed the SSC! For, teachers and government officials were saying that the tribal children are not interested in education as they wanted only to roam about in the jungles.

But what is the situation now?  According to newspaper reports Vidhya Kiran High at Unai school in Navsari District has been named as the best school both boys and girls.  Most of the teachers in the school now are the products from missionary schools in their own villages. With the declaration of the award the school also received 5 lakhs rupees in awards and prizes. I am happy that I was invited twice by the school principal Sr. Suhasini Parmar and I addressed school children on two different occasions about the importance of “Forming Reading Habits in Education.”

I remember some decades back the same missionary sisters, who run the Vidhya Kiran School at Unai, started a School in Sanand. The sisters visited the villages around Sanand and brought boys and girls and put them in their school and hostels. The missionaries often paid the bus fare to the parents to bring their children to their School and boardings. The village people did not want their girls to be educated then! But now! Now there is rush to get admission. I know the situation well because when the school started my two sisters Celine and Lissy were there serving one after another. They offered medical services to the children and the villagers.

Like in education in the field of medical services too the contribution of missionaries are outstanding. There was a time in Gujarat when 99 percent of the nursing care was given by Christian nurses. A well known writer and novelist Dr. Kesubhai Desai has written about the missionaries in the book Vikasana Hamsafar. He writes, “The concepts of nursing and midwifery were given exclusively by Christians.”

My sister Celine stood first in Gujarat state in her nursing studies. Some years back she worked in the interior tribal villages under Bardiapada and Subir missions. With the Dispensary at the two mission centers she also managed a mobile dispensary driving it herself to interior tribal villages. Once I joined her in her mobile van which she drove through bullock cart roads. In a particular village through her health workers she called all mothers with children two years or younger. Some 30 plus tribal women came with their babies. Celine declared a competition to decide by the mothers themselves which one was the most healthy baby boy or girl. “All children are to be  evaluated one by one with the same standard. The hair, nails and the whole body of the child should be clean. The cleanliness of the clothes also will be considered. Torn clothes have no problem provided they are clean”, she said. After congratulating the winners and giving them colorful toys, she declared, “all the children who participated in the competition are also winners”. Then she gave away toys and colorful children’s dresses to each child and congratulated the mother. She explained to them the importance of cleanliness of not only the children but also themselves, their whole house and surrounding. “We should take care to prevent disease than treating sickness.” Sr. Celine concluded.

On returning in her mobile jeep after she had examined and distributed medicine to some sick people, I told Celine at the wheel, “Celine, now I understand why the people call you ‘The Jungle Queen’, and also your popularity among the tribal people.”

Today the missionary sisters run a few hospitals in cities like Rajkot, Anand, Vadodara, Sanand with very good facilities for medicare. But in the field of medical care the missionaries’ contributions are in interior villages and Tribal areas. Hence writer Dr. Surendra Asthavadi wrote in ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’: “In inaccessible places in Gujarat where there are no roads and electricity the Christian missionaries somehow reached by foot with medicine and other services and guidance which others never even thought of. They also helped the poor in interior villages by   feeding and educating their children through hostels and schools.”

Some years back the missionary sisters were running leprosy hospitals and rehabilitation programmes at places like Ahmedabad (Narol), Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Surat and serving the leprosy patients. Besides they were offering training to cured patients in stitching and tailoring, making them self-employed with tailoring machines, push carts for selling vegetables and fruits, carpentry equipments and like.

I would like to recall here that some years back Dr. Sister Anette Fernandes of Daya Sadan Hospital, Jhankhvav was awarded by the Health Care and Medical Education Department of Gujarat State for her outstanding services to tuberculosis patients. Similarly Sr. Lissy Paul was awarded by the State Health Care Department for her eminent services in treating sickle cell anemia patients and spreading awareness in tribal villages for treating and preventing the disease.

As I see, one of the biggest contributions of the missionaries in the development of Gujarat is in the area of concentising people about their unhealthy and unproductive customs and blind faiths which keep them backward. The missionaries empowered them to be self sufficient socially, religiously and economically for their own development. For instance, Daudbhai Ousephbhai Macwan wrote in ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’: “The missionaries have contributed a lion’s share in giving a true identity of the Gujarat”.

Fr. Joseph Idiakunnel gave for the first time in Gujarat the idea of ‘Free Legal Aid’ as an ideal.  Later through the Supreme Court Judge Bhagavati the idea of Free Legal Aid was accepted at national level for the whole of India. Fr. Joseph and his colleagues through Free Legal Aid got a few police officials punished for gang raping a tribal woman by name Gunthaben fighting her case up to the Supreme Court. The case made history for the first time police criminals were punished. The case helped as awakening of the tribal people that they are not helpless.

In the words of Navin Macwan, one of the two editors of ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’, “The missionaries have taken the initiative in the empowerment of 80 lakhs tribal people in Gujarat.” Today the new generation tribal youth have made a name for themselves in many fields such as educators, advocates, physicians, government officials, co-operative experts, etc.

Finally, one of the contributors of ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’, writer Dhanananth Oza in his article entitled “The Constructive Activities of the Missionaries” has taken note of the positive contributions of the missionaries. He concludes, “There should not be any opposition to the positive contribution of the missionaries. In Gujarat too the missionary activities have contributed positively to the love and enlightenment in many areas of life. The contributions of the missionaries in the renaissance of Gujarat certainly deserve honorable mention in the history of Gujarat.”

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Changed On: 01-05-2018

Next Change: 16-05-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

BE A LEADER NOT A PUPPET

 

Everyone world over knows that Blessed Mother Teresa was canonized as a saint on September 5, 2016. The news of Mother Theresa’s canonization was highlighted in the print and audio-visual media in the whole world.

Similar news, perhaps more important news was published in a governent press release in 2016. But that news was treated as insignificant news publishing it in an inside page of a few news papers! The news was that the BJP government has cancelled the permission of 13 orphanages out of 16 orphanages run by Mother Teresa’s Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity in India.

To understand the importance and the significance of this news three things are specially needed. First, you need to be a lover of fellow human beings. Second, your sensitive heart needs to feel the heartlessness of some people and the want of social equality so much that your heart prompts you to do something to change this criminal situation. Third, your merciful heart wants to do something for the poor and the needy.

These three qualities or virtues are seen in abundance in Mother Teresa and her Sisters. Hence they are able to serve selflessly the poorest of the poor. The people who are volunteers or are witnesses of the loving services Mother Teresa and her Sisters will agree with me hundred percent.

Mother Teresa was fully possessed by these three qualities or virtues. She loved of fellow human beings, with a burning desire to serve the poor selflessly with a loving and merciful heart. That is why Mother Teresa dared to leave of the prestigious Loreto Convent School as a much respected  the Principal and a much loved teacher. Still she ventured into the slums of Moti Jeel and started to serve the poorest of the poor people in 1948. She never looked back.

By the time of her death on September 5, 1997, that is 48 years after leaving the convent, her Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity numbered about 5000! They were serving in more than 600 institutions in 135 countries with great love and kindness. These institutions included orphanages, leprosy asylums and hospitals, old age homes and abandoned children’s homes like Shishu Bhavans.

Cancelling the permission to run the 13 orphanages out of thousands of them in the world may not matter much to the people without empathetic hearts. But for the people with sympathetic hearts the cancellation of permission to run 13 orphanages matters a great deal. For, think of the inmates of those orphanages.  For, hundreds of orphan boys and girls those orphanages are their only home, only place of refuge, the only place where they are taken care of with much love, food, shelter and other basic needs of existence. They are abandoned or separated from their unknown kinfolks. They may be sick and deformed. They are broken and helpless on their own. They have received love and selfless services from the Sisters of Mother Teresa and their kind volunteers. They help each other in the orphanage and find meaning for their existence.

Now by cancelling the permission, the heartless government has driven the orphan children to the streets! Those politicians and their executives who enjoy 5 star accommodations and services have nothing to lose in closing the 13 orphanages. They do not have the empathetic hearts like the Mother Teresa and her Sisters. Unlike the MC Sisters the government authorities and their Babus do not recognize the orphan boys and girls as their own brothers and sisters.

The decision to close the 13 orphanages run by the Sisters of Mother Teresa will add some more people to the poor number of people living on the edges of the society. But there will be no shortage of food on the table of the heartless people who orders the closer of the orphanages. On the contrary, they might celebrate that they have stopped the services of the ‘hated’ missionaries and have kept away the people who are impressed by the services of the missionaries.

Mother Teresa was very popular and was known as ‘the Saint of the Slums’, ‘the Personification of Mercy’, ‘the Mother of the Orphans’, ‘the Goddess of the Gutter’ and ‘the Refugee of the Poor’ etc. The long process before the canonization of Mother Teresa was over. There was a question. Where the official ceremony of the canonization should be held, at the eternal city Rome or in the city of Kolkata, which was very dear to Mother Teresa’s heart?

To hold the ceremony at Kolkata the BJP government of Narendra Modi needs to give an official invitation to Pope Francis as he is the head of Vatican, a small City State in Rome. This was a great puzzle for Prime Minister Modi as he has been speaking abroad about the ancient Indian culture and the very tolerant people of India.

PM Modi is the elected with massive majority as the head of the largest democracy in the world. With his innumerable trips abroad he has claimed to be a very efficient Prime Minister. This was a golden opportunity for PM Modi to prove himself that he was not a puppet Prime Minister of the Sangh Parivar as his detractors claim.

Then, by inviting Pope Francis to hold the canonization ceremony at Kolkata Modi could have achieved a number of things. First of all, Modi could prove among the foreign press and other media wrong that the Christians and other minorities are persecuted instead of just saying in defense that “the foreign media do not understand the Indian situation”. Secondly, Modi could have proved himself that he is capable of taking right decision at the right time. But his silence in this respect proved the opposite that Modi is a puppet in the hands of the Sangh Parivar and that he is not able to do what he wants. This was a great challenge for PM Modi but ,,,,

In spite of the strong opposition from the Sangh Parivar, the then PM Atal Behari Vajpai proved himself an eminent politician by inviting Pope (now saint) John Paul II in November 1999. John Paul II proclaimed an inspiring document entitled “Asian Church” on 06-11-1999 from Sacred Heart Cathedral, New Delhi.

The ceremony of canonization of Mother Teresa or for that matter any Saint is an international event. Long preparations go into declaring a person saint in the Catholic Church. Later the decision was taken to hold Mother Teresa’s canonization ceremony at Rome and Pope Francis was not in a situation to accept PM Modi’s invitation for the occasion.

Even at that stage PM Modi could have redeemed himself leading the Indian team going to attend the canonization ceremony. But nothing of the sort happened. The Foreign Minister Mrs. Sushma Swaraj led the Indian team and came back after their lack luster presence in the canonization ceremony at Rome.

According to recent newspaper reports the highest Church authorities in India had specially met PM Modi and requested him to invite Pope Francis this year. I hope that PM Modi will do that to make up for not inviting Pope Francis in the earlier occasions.

Finally our politicians should know that in a meaningful Gujarati verse a well known Poet Yacub Parmar has beautifully expressed the current situation of the country.

“Someone is shaking the foundation of democracy

Some people are hammering away at the dome

The democracy is not able to shout or cry

Some men are burning the facade of democracy.”

(Words 1258)

What Will Happen after Death?

I was coming from Secunderabad in a second class compartment of Ahmedabad bound train. When I got up in the morning after a sound sleep, I started reading from the Bible according to my usual custom. People reading a book has become a rare sight in the train. In fact I was the only person reading book in my compartment. Then, I realized that some co-passengers were watching me. After closing my Bible I was in a meditative mood enjoying the sceneries outside from my window seat. Trees, creepers and other plants were running at break neck speed in the opposite direction of my super fast train.

Then, a young man sitting next to me asked, “Sir, Is the book which you were reading is the Bible? I saw you reading it yesterday too before you went to sleep. Are you a Christian?”

“Yes. I am a Christian. The book which I was reading is the New Testament of the Bible”. I gave a short response to my co-passenger as I was not in a mood to talk as I was pondering the Gospel passage.

But my young friend must have felt encouraged by my short, clear answer to his question. So he asked me again, “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yes, you may ask. What is your name?”

“My name is Ramakrishna Reddy. I am an Engineer working in a company at Jamnagar. I would like to ask you, what happens after death?”

I was reading my Gospel book in Gujarati. But our conversation so far was in Hindi. But I felt that to give a satisfactory answer to my young friend’s question my knowledge of Hindi is inadequate. “Mr. Reddy, you are an Engineer. So you may know English. My Hindi is not powerful enough to answer your question about what happened after life. So is it okay with you if I speak in English?

“Yes, Okay Sir. What is your name?”

“My name is Fr. Varghese Paul.”

“So you are a Priest?”

“Yes, I am a Christian Priest. Among Catholic Christians there is a Religious Order (group) called Society of Jesus’ and I am its member. Thus after giving a short introduction about myself I told Ramakrishna that in Catholic religion according to the Bible we believe in a new life after death.

In our creed we Christians accept and proclaim that, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”. So for us Christian’s life does not end with death but life is only changed into an everlasting life. We Christians believe in three different stages of life.

The first stage is the life on earth. We are all travelers in this life trying to lead a good life, combating our evil tendencies and the evil. The second stage is that of saints who have led a good life on earth and have attained salvation or heaven or eternal life enjoying the company of the Risen Lord Jesus. The third stage is called purgatory. It is a stage of spiritual cleansing after death before entering heaven. Purgatory is for people who have not done any deadly sin or have repented of their deadly sin; still they have died without being completely atoned for the offenses they have committed against God and fellow men.

Then, the Christians believe that these souls in purgatory cannot help themselves but the Christians on earth can help them through their prayers, sacrifices and good works on their behalf.

In other words, we Christians believe in new, changed new life after death. So we have great respect for death and we show it by taking care of their tombs. We pray daily for them; we sacrifices and do good works on their behalf.

For instance, we read the biblical book of Maccabees, “They begged him that this sin might be completely blotted out. Then, Judas, that great man, urged the people to keep away from sin, because they had seen for themselves what had happened to those men who had sinned. He also took up a collection from all his men, totaling about two kilogrammes of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for sin-offering. Judas did this noble thing because he believed in the resurrection of the dead. If he had not believed that the dead would be raised, it would have been foolish and useless to pray for them. In his firm and devout conviction that all God’s faithful people would receive a wonderful reward, Judas made provision for a sin-offering to set free from their sin those  who had died” (2 Maccabees 12: 42-45).

I did not have the Bible with me to read the above passage to Ramakrishna. So I told him that I have a small booklet, “What Does Jesus Mean to You and Me?”  The story of Jesus’ death on the Cross and his glorious Resurrection on the third day will give you a fair idea of Christian belief in life after death. I have the booklet in Hindi and in English.

From my bag I took out one copy each of the booklet.

Ramakrishna took the booklet in English. A third fellow passenger, who was keenly listening to our conversation, took the Hindi booklet from me. Some other passengers too wanted the booklet on Jesus. But unfortunately I did not have any more copies.

Bible in the New Testament clearly speaks about life after death. Once the Sadducees who did not believe in the life after death asked a question to Jesus about resurrection. They told Jesus the story of seven men who one after another married a woman and died without leaving any child and finally the woman too died. Now, they put the question to Jesus:  “when they all rise again, whose wife she will be as all seven had married her? “

“Jesus answered them, How wrong you are! It is because you don’t know the Scripture or God’s power. For, when the dead rise to life, they will be like the angels in heaven and will not marry.   Now, as for the dead rising to life: haven’t you ever read what God has told you? He said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is the God of living, not of the dead” (Mt 22: 29-32).

In another instance Jesus speaks about Resurrection when Jesus meets his friend Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary. Both the sisters believed in the resurrection after death. After the death of his friend Lazarus Jesus reaches the house of the two sisters. Then, Martha complains to Jesus, “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died”. Then she acknowledges before Jesus, “I know that he will rise to life on the last day”.

“Jesus said to her. ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies’.

“Then Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’

“The dead man came out wrapped in grave clothes. ‘Untie him and let him go’, Jesus said” (see John 11: 1-44).

A disciple of Jesus, who proclaimed Jesus’ life and message far and wide, Paul writes in his letter to the Romans explaining the life after death to the new Christians, “For surely you know that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptized into union with his death. By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live  a new life” (see Rom 6: 3-4).

Christians believe that they will receive reward after death according to their life on earth. In the last judgment the people living sinfully will get eternal damnation and the good people will receive eternal life with Jesus. (see Mt 25: 31-46).

Finally, let me end this essay with a quote about death from a famous Spanish poet and writer, Federico Garcia Lorca, “Everywhere else death is an end. Death comes and life flies away. But in Spain the dead are more alive than the dead of any other country in the world”. This quote is seen as a reflection of Christians’ belief and culture in the life after death. (Words 1398)

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Changed On: 01-04-2018

Next Change: 16-04-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

Question without Answer

“Your words are like medical ointment on open Wounds. You are dishing out traditional word power from your position as a known writer. May I request you for more daring thoughts and programmes in the service of the people?” Wrote to me a friend, Mr. Vinay Trivedi responding to my article in the mouthpiece of Gujarati Writers’ Association, “Lekhak ane Lekhan”.  I liked much my friend’s critical and advisory letter. In the same letter he added his own poem proving that he himself is a poet daring to express challenging thoughts as per his advice to me.

Vinay Trivedi’s hand-written poem made me to think a lot. He started his poem with a question:

I am hungry-

But do not have bread in my hand,

Bread is in the hands of the distributor

There may be fifty loaves

In his hand.

His face has a contented smile,

A careless look too.

Why not he distribute loaves

To the hungry people?

 

Everyone leading a routine life should ask this question. The poet has described a realistic but unjust situation. A person is very hungry. He has no bread to eat. But an over fed person has fifty ‘loaves in his hands’!  He does not distribute and satisfy the hungry persons! Poet shows his social consciousness. He has also a sense of justice. So he believes that it is the duty of the man in the possession of bread to feed the hungry.

Perhaps you and I may think like this poet. We may raise such questions. But my friend poses more challenging and thought-provoking questions:

 

“Why did Destiny put fifty loaves

In the hands of the unjust person?

Does the Destiny with a thousand eyes

Like to see the hungry persons

Crying for food

And punching in the air uselessly?

Why does Destiny defeat the deprived?

And give victory to the undeserved?”

 

Those who need bread do not have them while the overfed persons have them! Here in this undesirable and evil situation the poet has posed three more questions. Those questions reveal the poet’s own mentality. For this unjust situation the Almighty with thousand eyes is responsible. But the Almighty here is not different from a person who rejoices in the suffering of others. So he asks, “Does the Destiny like to see the hungry persons punching uselessly in the air and crying for food?”

A famous poet Umasankar Joshi calls a poet as “a spy of heaven”. But here the poet is not merely a spy but he himself becomes the Almighty God! As the Almighty and all-knowing God or Jesus himself, the poet says in the last part of his poem that God is nothing more than or better than a good willed human being. Read the second part of the poem:

 

The question is that

Jesus/God has consolation,

Soothing words, loving blessings;

But not certainly the security

And the friendly, loving support

Of two or more hands of blessings.

Sometimes he shows partiality:

He swings the whip of untold sufferings

Not on densely populated big cities

But on innocent bodies and minds!

Why is there difference

In weighing balance,

Symbol of natural justice?

The life is a question mark

As some beings live for the sake of living.

If you have time to listen to a petition

Destroy pain, suffering and ceaseless lamentations

Or destroy the feeling of joy, happiness and pleasure

Like pictures, statues and

All your imagine forms and images.

 

Man is not God. But some people like to play God. They speak like they know everything and they have the solution to all problems of men. They give solutions to all difficulties and mysteries! Here the poet knows what Jesus/God has and what he does not have. Jesus has for men consolations, soothing words and loving blessings; but he does not have safety, friendly and loving support and the certainty of two or more hands of blessings. So men live for the sake of living. The life is a question mark.

Here we may note two things. First, when we speak about God we can speak only one thing with certainty that we do not completely know God. So we cannot say anything about God with hundred percent certainties. Secondly, all our talk about God is the expression of our human language; that is, words spoken with human limitations, that such God is no God, but only human being. He/she may be God of great wonders and miracles. We know that we human beings are bodily beings while God is spiritual being. We take it for granted that God is also a bodily being!

If I speak about my Christian faith, what ever we know about God is known through Jesus Christ. Christians strongly hold that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Jesus is the perfect human being and at the same time God, who has become man through incarnation.

The Jesus Christ who lived on the face of the earth some two thousand years before is very different from Jesus portrayed by the poet. The contemporary writers of Jesus’ time and his disciples have given a totally different picture of Jesus than the one by my poet friend. We know that the Jesus of the New Testament in the Bible is a person, who gave food to the hungry, healed the sick, raised people from death. That is not all, he instructed his disciples and through them even today continues to do the same things through people of good will and says, “go and do likewise”.

A lawyer once came to trap Jesus with a question. But Jesus made him give answer to his own question. Quoting the scripture the lawyer said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with your entire mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10: 27).

Then, the lawyer wanting to justify himself asked again: “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus answered him with the classical parable of the Good Samaritan. A traveler on his way was attacked by robbers. They robbed him everything and left him half dead. Then two Jewish leaders came on the way, saw the half dead traveler and walked by the other side of the road! The third person on the road was a Samaritan. He took pity on the traveler. Gave him first aid bandaging his wounds and then putting him on his own animal and took him to an inn and cared for him. On the next day the Samaritan paid for the wounded traveler and promised the inn keeper that on his return he would pay him whatever else is spent in caring for the traveler.

After this story Jesus asked the lawyer, “In your opinion which of the three people who acted likes a neighbour to the wounded traveler?” The lawyer answered. “The one who was kind to him”. Then Jesus said, “You go, then, and do the same” (Lk 10: 25-37).

There is a similar story in St. Mathew’s Gospel. A rich young came to Jesus and asked him a question, “Teacher, What good thing must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus asked him to keep the commandments of God and love the neighbours as he loved himself.

The young man after responding that he has done all that from his childhood days, asked Jesus: “what else do I need to do?”

Jesus answered him, “If you want to be perfect, go sell all you have and give the money to the poor … then come and follow me”. The young man was disappointed with Jesus’ suggestion: because he was very rich” (see Mt 19: 16 – 22).

Many a times we are satisfied with our comments and criticism of a situation. But we do not even shake our little finger to do something within our reach to the betterment of the situation!

In Dostoevsky’s novel “The Brothers Karmasov” there is a chapter entitled “The Grant Inquisitor”. In it an autocrat asks Jesus behind the bar, “If we hold in one hand bread and in the other hand freedom, then what will the people choose?”

There is no doubt that the hungry people will choose bread. Only after having their fill, they will be able to think about freedom. In all the four Gospels in the Bible Jesus’ message is to feed the hungry.

Thus Jesus both through his life and teaching have set an example for all of us to follow. He has specially instructed his followers to serve the poor and the needy, in our context the Dalit and the Tribal people in India. But instead of walking on the path shown by Jesus what are you and me doing?

God has created us free. We are bestowed with intelligence. We have the basic discerning power to distinguish between the good and the evil. Using our freedom and the power of discernment we can find and act solution to all our problems and difficulties. But instead of doing that we have become selfish and self centered. We find the escapist and the easiest route which is blaming God for everything.

Then, sitting on the seat of justice we declare: “There is no God”. If there is a God, then does he like to hear the cry of hunger and cause the human confusion of this evil situation? Yes, there is no guarantee of quenching the fire of hunger by his blessed hands until you and I become his hands of blessings!

Finally, remembering the words of Gandhiji, I recall that there is enough for everyone in the world; but not enough to meet the needs of the greedy and selfish people.

My good friend, you have done a good job in voicing this unjust situation. People have always deplored this evil and unjust situation. But instead of blaming God for the unjust and evil situation let us think about some bold and enterprising ways to solve the evil and unjust situation.

 

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Changed On: 16-03-2018

Next Change: 01-04-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

LOVE   EXPERIENCED BY JESUS

The teaching of Jesus on Love is unparalleled and unique. It was Jesus who first time instructed us to love our enemies.  In Jesus’ time people believed in hating their enemies. In fact, it was the custom to take revenge on enemies. In the Bible there are rules for taking revenge for wrong doing. The book of Exodus says, “But, if there is serious injury you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stroke for stroke” (All biblical references from the New Community Bible Ex 21: 23-25).

The audiences of Jesus, the Jewish people, were well acquainted with these rules of revenge. So referring to this customary revenge Jesus says, “But I tell you, do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer him the other” (Mt 5: 39).

Jesus tells us more, “You have heard that it was said: Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5: 43-44). What was the Love experience of Jesus that he gave us, the unparallel, unique message to love our enemies?

Like any other human child, baby Jesus first experienced love from his mother Mary. Before she was called to be the mother of Jesus Mary was an ordinary girl like anyone else at her Nazareth village in Palestine. She was a virgin full of God’s grace born in a devout Jewish family. In the Gospel according to Luke we read, “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was send to Mary … (with the message to) bear a son and you shall call him Jesus” (see Lk 1: 26-31).

Mary could not make the head and the tail of the message of angel Gabriel. But when the angel explained Mary’s questions and clarified her apprehensions Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said” (Lk 1: 38). Thus from the moment Mary conceived Jesus in her womb, she nurtured Jesus with much love and dedication.

After eight days of the birth of baby Jesus, according to the custom of Jewish religion, the parents of Jesus brought him to Jerusalem. The Gospel according to Luke tells us, “They brought the baby up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every first born male shall be consecrated to God” (Lk 2: 22 -23).

Then, thinking that the new born child could snatch away his throne King Herod ordered that all children of two years and below age be murdered in Bethlehem and surrounding areas! Hearing of the King’s order Mary and her husband Joseph took the child Jesus in the dead of the night and fled to Egypt. Only after the death of King Herod they came back to Israel and settled in the village of Nazareth. Thus we see the child Jesus experienced dedicated and unconditional love and protection in his childhood.

Then, according to Jewish religious customs the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem temple every year to celebrate the Passover Feast. When Jesus was twelve years old like every year they made pilgrimage to Jerusalem. After the feast was over, the pilgrims were returning home; but Jesus unknown to his parents, remained at Jerusalem. The parents thinking that Jesus was in the family group walked one day. After one day’s journey they began to look for Jesus among the relatives and acquaintances. But they could not find any trace of the teenager Jesus. So searching Jesus they reached back Jerusalem. On the third day they found the teenager Jesus in the temple sitting among the priests and listening to their religious discourse and asking them questions (see Lk 2: 41-49).

Jesus’ mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been very worried while searching for you” (Lk 2: 48). Luke says more, “Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and he continued to be under their authority. … and Jesus increased in wisdom and in age and in grace with God and men” ( Lk 2: 51-52).

Like in the childhood during his public life too, Jesus experienced committed, unconditional love of the people. Once finding his message very difficult to follow some of his disciple left Jesus.  At that time Jesus asked the twelve disciples whom he has chosen, “Will you also go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom we shall go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6: 67-68). Here we see that Lord Jesus experienced committed, unconditional love of his disciples. Among the twelve disciples Jesus experienced special love from three of them. So on the occasion of Transfiguration and when Jesus  raised to life the daughter of Zairus as well as when he experienced agony in the garden Jesus kept the three disciples, Peter, John and James very close to him.

Among the followers of Jesus there were also a few dedicated women. They were serving him spending money from their own pockets. Among these women followers we can distinguish three women. They are the two sisters Martha and Mary, the sisters of his friend Lazarus and the third one is Mary of Magdalene.

Jesus experienced much love in the company of Martha and Mary, the two sisters of his friend Lazarus in the village Bethany. We read about them in the Gospels according to Luke and John. Luke narrates Martha welcoming Jesus in her house and Mary sitting at his feet listening to him. But John has narrated the deep love experienced by Jesus in the company of two sisters. John writes, “Now Martha her sister Mary and Lazarus were friends of Jesus” (Jn 11: 5).

When Lazarus was sick the two sisters sent Jesus the message, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (Jn 11: 3). After hearing the news four days passed by the time Jesus reached Bethany. But the conversation of Jesus with Martha and Mary give us a clear indication of his deep love between them.

Jesus cried when he reached the place where his friend Lazarus was buried. Then, the Jewish people said, “See how he loved him!”(Jn 11: 36). John in his Gospel has described in detail about Jesus bringing back to life his friend Lazarus on the fourth day of his death in the presence of his two sisters and the Jewish people.

Then, on his last journey to Jerusalem Jesus reached Bethany with his disciples. There in a festival meal Jesus experienced deep, close love in the company of his three friends: Lazarus whom he had brought back to life and his two sisters, Martha and Mary.

Among the very close friends of Jesus Mary of Magdalene is in the forefront. Her love for Jesus is unparalleled. After Jesus’ Mother Mary it is Mary of Magdalene who followed Jesus very closely from the beginning of his public ministry to his death on the Cross. When most of the disciples ran away at the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, among the few people who followed Jesus faithfully were his Mother Mary and Mary of Magdalene.

Then, in the first day after the Sabbath, as John writes, “while it was still dark Mary of Magdalene came to the tomb and saw the stone was moved away” (Jn 20: 1) and the tomb was empty. Mary of Magdalene ran to Peter and John and gave them the news. Both of them ran to the tomb and saw and returned after seeing the empty tomb.

But Mary of Magdalene weeping remained outside the tomb.  The risen Jesus appeared to Mary and entrusted to her the responsibility of giving the message of Jesus resurrection to his disciples. So some biblical scholars called Mary, “The Apostle of Apostles”. Author Albert Nolan and other biblical scholars tell us there is no proof that Jesus and Mary of Magdalene were married.

Albert Nolan says, the most deep, intimate love Jesus experienced was with his Mother Mary. Then, we know that there is absolutely no comparison of love Jesus experienced from his heavenly Father, ‘Abba’ meaning ‘dearest dad.’

I dedicate this easy on “Love Experienced by Jesus” to the biblical scholar Albert Nolan. His very popular book ‘Jesus Today’ gave me the inspiration and impetus to write this easy.

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Changed On: 01-03-2018

Next Change: 16-03-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

 

INTERNATIONAL ACCLAIM FOR “THE JOY OF LOVE”

Pope Francis studied for three years about family life in our times at world level. Two international conferences or synods on family life for bishops and for expert couples were held in   Rome 2014 and 2015. The deliberations and decisions of the two conferences were the basis of   Pope Francis’ study. Then, he wrote an Apostolic Exhortation ‘The Joy of Love’ (Amoris Laetitia in Latin).

He wrote the Apostolic Exhortation in his typical style of simple language and high thinking. In the English edition of 288 pages the document discusses at length marriage, family and children. In the beginning of the book ‘The Joy of Love’ Pope Francis says, the experience of love in the family is the same experience of love in the Church.

The ideal way is to read ‘The Joy of Love’ one chapter at a time with much meditation and reflection instead of reading the whole document at one stretch. As we see Pope Francis has taken quotations from the documents of Vatican Council II about family and also from a few bishops and from some documents of bishops’ conferences. Pope Francis also quoted Martin Luther King Jr, three poets from Latin America – Joseph Esper, Eric Francis and Gabriela Mistral. Such is the specialty of ‘The Joy of Love’.

There are many references about love and family. In the first chapter of ‘The Joy of Love’ Pope Francis has built up the context by giving a lot of quotations from the Bible. Beginning with Adam and Eve and reaching up to Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus. Pope Francis looks at the life of husband and wife and children in family life. Pope Francis considered the couple, who loves each other and lives new life, as the true and ideal family icon.

Pope Francis takes note of current realistic situation of the family in the context of experiences and challenges of modern family in the second chapter. Pope Francis says that in the ideal marriage there is responsibility, continuity and unity. Such married life may sometimes find boring and problematic. At the same time people may experience and desire for stable and truthful life together with the fear of loneliness. The chapter also takes notes of a number of things like young men and women post-phoning their marriage. They want to be free from marriage bond and from children. They also have to face the naked truth of their parents’ challenges against their attitude and free life style. In this context Pope Francis describes in detail what the country and the Christian Church can do. The chapter also has taken note of women liberation and living together and lending womb.

In the chapter three entitled ‘Looking to Jesus: the Vocation of Family’ Pope Francis makes clear the teaching of the Church about marriage,  transmission of life in the light of New Testament and Vatican Council II as well as of papal encyclicals and other documents. Pope Francis described marriage as intimate relationship of man and woman with total sharing of love and life. Pope Francis says that the intimate sexual union is naturally oriented to give life to children. He says that the Church is the family of families. The Pope exhorts the priests to work with deep discernment and the vision of truth in the context of family experiences and challenges.

The critics of ‘The Joy of Love’ say that those who do not have time to read the whole Exhortation should read the chapters four and five. In chapter four about ‘Love in Marriage’ Pope Francis says that we cannot speak the Gospel of marriage and family without speaking about love. Pope Francis quotes from St. Paul’s first letter to Corinthians about the great importance of love. He has quoted four verses from chapter 13 of the letter “Love is patient and kind; It is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail” (1Cor: 13: 4-7). Pope Francis takes each sentences and comments on them. In it we see Pope Francis’ study and understanding of love.  Here Pope Francis’ advises are inspirational not only for couple but also for all people. The couple and family people who wish to live an ideal family life should read this chapter.

Pope Francis’ quotation of the bishops of Chile calls for special attention, “The perfect families proposed by deceptive consumerist propaganda do not exist. In those families, no one grows old, there is no sickness, sorrow or death … Consumerist propaganda presents a fantasy that has nothing to do with the reality which must daily be faced by the heads of families” (No 135). In this two chapters of 4 and 5 there are practical suggestions and advises husband and wife to form and lead a perfect family.

The fifth chapter ‘Love Made Fruitful’ speaks about marital life making fruitfulness. Pope Francis says that love always gives life. New life is born in the family and it is welcomed as a gift from God. Pope explains the duties and responsibilities of everyone in a family: parents, grandparents and children. Pope Francis says “Large families are a joy for the Church”. Speaking about the importance of education for woman and developing her talents and taking up job. Pope Francis says that mothers’ presence is needed in the first months of the birth of a child. Pope Francis advocates equal rights for women and men both in the family and outside the family. And he also emphasizes that women have exclusive qualities like motherhood. The humanity should protect the special mission of womanhood.

Pope Francis says that against the spread of selfish individualism, motherhood is the most powerful medium. Pope Francis advises the barren couple to adopt orphan children and give them a bright future. In this chapter Pope Francis gives advice like an expert family councilor to children, parents and grandparents and everyone in a family about their rights and duties. Pope Francis says that for a child to love its own brother or sister and experience of taking care of him/her is precious and unparallel. So where there is only one child the parents should take special care that the child should not suffer loneliness   and friendlessness.

Pope Francis discusses the challenges of various services in Christian religion. Here Pope Francis advises that the light of principles the local Church and parishes should find solutions for the problems and difficulties faced by the people. Pope Francis emphasizes very much the importance of preparing for marriage as marriage is a long term programme. Pope Francis criticizes extravagant, wasteful expenses of marriage. Pope Francis says that there should be arrangement for suitable counseling and guidance in the beginning of the young couple’s married life and subsequent years at the level of parishes and of dioceses. Pope Francis emphasizes the training of seminarians, deacons and other religious teachers that their pastoral services should be helpful to married people. Besides, Pope Francis has exhorted the concerned people to care especially for divorced people and remarried couples and the children who are the victims of such problems, with special care and compassion.

The seventh chapter deals with ‘Towards a Better Education of Children’. Pope Francis says that in moral and ethical formation of children parental influence may affect for good or bad. So the parent should consciously take responsibility in this regard without interfering the freedom of their children. The parents should be watchful about what their child is doing, whom he/she meets, and similar things. Family is the first school for children for their moral and value education. In the process of their family education between parents and children one need to see whether modern technology and electronic media are helping or creating obstacles.

Knowing that teenagers are not mature in matter of regarding sex the parents should   take care to give them appropriate positive sexual education. Pope Francis says that the children understand the beauty of religious faith and prayer in the family. Similarly the children learn from their parents in the family the values of loving and serving neighbors. Thus the families become the medium of proclaiming and witnessing Jesus and his Gospel.

Pope Francis in chapter eight discusses divorce, unlawful and inappropriate sexual relationship as well as sinful situation. Here some of the Pope Francis’ statements have become controversial. For Pope Francis has cautioned to be careful about evaluating different cultures and customs only in the light of accepted rules and regulations.

In the ninth chapter Pope Francis speaks about ‘The Spirituality of Marriage and Family’ as Vatican Council II has noted the spirituality is born in a family. Pope Francis says that in the family life and their relationship between members of the family spirituality is expressed. Ideal family does not descend from heaven. Family spirituality is expressed in the values, attitudes and ideals of Jesus as the way of love and prayer in the family. (Contact: cissahd@gmail.com             Mo. 09428826518)

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Changed On: 16-02-2018

Next Change: 01-03-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

Inspirational Strength of Merciful Life

A friend Daxaben Sanghvi says that she has given up reading newspaper in the morning! For, newspapers bring daily bad news. Daxaben does not wish to afflict her mood reading sad news and negative reporting early in the morning.

Shakespeare has said that our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts. When we read every day early morning sad news and reports about crimes our mind may recall the words of Shakespeare.

But as an exemption a small news item appeared in social media, which spread far and wide like a virus. Many innocent people died in a Paris restaurant where the terrorists of Islamic state fired indiscriminately and killed many people. Among the dead there was the wife of Antoine Leiris. Mr. Leiris wrote a letter to those terrorists who killed his wife.

“Friday night, you took an exceptional life — the love of my life, the mother of my son — but you will not have my hatred I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls. If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in His heart.”

“So, no, I will not grant you the gift of my hatred. You’re asking for it, but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost.”

In his letter we can note one thing. Antoine Leiris does not hate the terrorists who shot dead his wife; but he warns the terrorists that they will not reach paradise, where he has faith to reach and meet his wife. In this warning of Antoine Leiris we see his love and concern for the terrorists.

We generally hate the criminals who have been caught and imprisoned for crimes like rape and murder. With feeling of hatred and revenge we call for death and capital punishment for such criminals. In such situations hatred and revenge remain with us. The response of Antoine Leiris is a challenge for us to reflect on.

Here I would like to recall an incident of a rape noted in the 34th chapter of Genesis.  Dinah is the daughter of Jacob from his wife Leah. Dinah on her way to meet her relatives has been raped during the journey by Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, the chief of that region. Then, with the intention of marriage with Dinah, Shechem hid her in his house. Then Hamor and Shechem (father & son) went to meet Dinah’s father Jacob and her brothers.  They pleaded with Jacob and sons to give Dinah in marriage without any dowry.

Shechem also promised Jacob and the brothers of Dinah money and ornament in return for Dinah. As Shechem has violated their sister Dinah her brothers gave Shechem and his father deceitful answer. They said that it is not our custom to give in marriage our sister to people who are not circumcised. So they said to Hamor and his son and all males of his caste, “We   cannot let our sister marry a man who is not circumcised; that would be a disgrace for us.”

Hamor and his son agreed to the condition  of circumcision because Shechem loved Dinah very much. All citizens of the city agreed with what Hamor and Shechem proposed. All the males were circumsed. Three days later, when the men were still sore from their circumcision, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, the brothers of Dinah, took their swords, went into the city without arousing suspicion, and killed all the men including Hamor and his son Shechem. Then, they took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left.”  But Jacob did not like his sons, way of revenge. So Jacob took his sons all men and all his possessions and went away and stayed at Bethel.

Many years after that Jacob on his death bed called all his sons and told them what was in his mind. To Simeon and Levi, the blood relative sons, Jacob said that, the sword is the weapon of killing. “I will not take part in their company because they have killed many in their anger. For, becoming very angry they killed people. I curse their anger because that is fierce. I will scatter them in the land of Jacob and I will disperse them all among its people.” Jacob said. (Gen 49:6)

In the whole story of Jacob we can see that he was much disturbed with the rape of his daughter Dinah. But he is much more worried about his two sons who used their sword to kill not only the one who raped their sister but also  all males of his community. So he scorns the anger of his sons and decides not to keep their company.

From these words and actions of Jacob we can certainly learn one lesson. It is for God to do justice not for men to take revenge Forgiveness and mercy are proper to men. The words and actions of Jacob point a finger to Jesus’ message. For Jesus said, “Love your enemies and do good to them.”  (Lk 6; 35). We can see God’s mercy on the entire humanity. In the words of Jesus to love your enemies and do good to them. We may recognize Christmas as an expression of God’s mercy. For, Baby Jesus lying in the manger in Bethlehem is the personification of God’s mercy.

When we hate criminals and clamor for capital punishment for them and blame the authorizes that sufficient punishment is not given to the criminals such things project that show our attitude without mercy. This attitude is one of revenge and hostility. That is the attitude of a murderer. This murderer’s attitude and mentality we can see in the king of Judea King Herod’s case. History has described well the murderous mentality and attitude of King Herod. King Herod delt very cruelly with his mother and his foster father. He also killed many of his own relatives. In his attempt to kill Baby Jesus he ordered to kill all the children of two years younger and in Bethlehem and surrounding places.

King Herod was afraid that Baby Jesus would one day become the king of the Jews and overthrow his throne. We celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus, who loved even the murderous king Herod. The love with which Jesus preached we see in His forgiveness and mercy. Forgiveness is very different from hatred and revenge. In the attitude of Jesus we see love and forgiveness. So let us leave to God to do justice in the context of great tyranny and cruelty.

Let us leave the path of revenge and hatred and take the path of love and of forgiveness and of mercy, on which Jesus walked. This way we will enjoy our life; and we also persuade and inspire others to love, forgive and have mercy.

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Changed On: 01-02-2018

Next Change: 16-02-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

Let Us be Proud of Mother’s Job

A national level seminar for journalists and writers were organized at Pune in March 20156. The subject of the seminar was “Journalists and Family Values”. Speaking in the seminar Psychologist Angeli said, “I used to hate my father; for he was a drunkard. But I adored my mother.”  Then the young speaker spoke about hell-like situation of her house. Father after his job went for his drinking party with his friends and come home fully drunk late in the night. Then daily he created turmoil in the house shouting at the top of his voice as well as beating mother and me. He used abusive language for friends and neighbors.

But my mother is very loving and by nature very quiet. She served silently her drunken husband with much love and patience. She showed much love on her husband. She deals with everyone with much peace and forgiveness. She never quarreled or complained! Daily she went to church and participated in the mass. She also took me with her and we came back home before my father got up daily. Then she dealt with my father as if nothing has happened on previous night. She gave him washed and ironed dress, fed us with hot breakfast. By the time father and I finished breakfast, the tiffin for father was ready. For father everything is ready on time.

My father who was a drunkard for many years once took part in Alcoholic Anonymous programme and he was free from his habit of drinking. And then our house because like an Oasis in the desert. Our house became a heavenly shrine with much love, peace, forgiveness and understanding for all the time.

After hearing the psychologist speaking her terrible experiences of her teenage years, I decided that I will share her experience with my readers. For, in Gujarat in spite of the prohibition law the problem of drunkenness is wide spread. Many families are destroyed because of the drinking habit of the bread-winner. But as I see the mother of Angeli, the psychologist, is a loving character worth emulation. She is a person who not only upholds the family values but she also follow them very faithfully as a respectful wife, an ideal house-wife and as a women of fortitude. In the words of the Bible, she is a model women “who will not shout or raise his voice or make loud speeches in the streets. S/he will not break off a bend reed or put out a flickering lamp. S/he will bring lasting justice to all.” (see Isaiah 42: 2-3).

A mother’s job is the noblest work a human being is capable of. If one has to pay for the job of a mother, then she should be paid more then CEO of an International company. Mother’s job entitled 24 hours’ service. Mother has to keep awake when there is a little child at home or someone is sick at home. A mother’s job calls for much skillfulness, much expertise and much alertness.

Motherhood is the crown of creation. But it is said that man is ot proud of a mother’s job! She is not respected for her unique job. Often it is the case that the mothers themselves do not value and take pride in their job. They do not rejoice in their unique job. A women as a mother and still her husband may say that her wife does not do anything! Her son may say, mother is at home, does not do anything.

Here I would like to speak of a mother who is working in a Charitable Trust office. As she is working in my own office I know her story well as a working mother. Only a mother can do the miracle of conceive a child in womb, cherish and nourish it for nine months in her own body. She has to take care that the child grows well in her womb through the food she takes, the exercise she does, and love the child all the time. Then, in the fullness time she gives birth to her darling child. After taking the paid delivery leave and then extending the leave further with half pay she joined duty. But she felt that with her full time service she cannot do justice to her responsibility as a mother and housewife. So she talked to me about her intention to resign from permanent job.

She has been very efficient in her works in my office. So I told, looking the works in my office which requires an efficient person like you, I would not like to accept your resignation. But I see your need to take care of your child whom you are still breast-feeding. \Then    you have also your bigger child to prepare and send him to school on time. You also have to see that your husband goes to office ready with his tiffin etc. so considering all your responsibilities as a mother, wife and house-maker, I have no option but to accept your resignation. I take this decision because I appreciate a mother’s job more than the need of my office. This may be exception but I do know that there are few in the whole world who value and appreciate a mother’s job.

There is a small booklet in Gujarati entitled “Jenet” meaning mother edited by Mita Bhargav. She has collected many quotations from eminent people’s appreciation for motherhood. Here I give just two quotations.

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother” Abraham Lincoln.

“If the whole world were put into one scale, and my mother in the other, the whole world will would kick the beam.” Lord Londale.

Finally I dedicate this article to all women deprived of the appreciation and respect for their job as mother.

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Changed On: 16-01-2018

Next Change: 01-02-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

 

Happiness of Mother’s Death

 Death is always sad and painful. When one, who lived with us till now, passes away from this perishable world then, there is grief in our hearts. A mother is a personification of love and affection. When she leaves us, it is natural that the eyes of her daughters and sons shed tears. Still, when I tell you that I am happy at the passing away of my mother, you may wonder about my feelings.

My mother at 100 years went to meet her merciful Creator on 9 June 2017. That day my brother Vincent gave me the news in a very sad tone. “Elder brother, our mother is no more. She passed away just two minutes ago!” Immediately I send a whatsApp message to my friends, “I am happy to give you a good news that my mother has gone to her Creator to receive the eternal peace and everlasting bliss which the merciful God has prepared for her.” Such was her life and loving relationship with God and with her fellow human beings that by the grace of the loving and merciful God she, passing through death, has reached eternal life. This is my faith. This is the promise of Jesus. (see John 3: 15). I have unshakable faith in the words of Jesus Christ. Hence I feel happy and describe my mother’s death as “good news”.

My mother was born on 30 October 1917 in a middle class family of a land owning farmer. She was the eldest in a family of four sons and two daughters with very loving parents. She grew up experiencing much love from her parents and siblings. In her childhood she learned to read, write and basic maths in the house of a master in her village. But she did not go to the parish school walking a few kilometers like her brothers and the youngest sister. But what she learnt from the master was useful to her all her life as she had developed a reading habit.

My Mother was at home for 16 years and learned cooking and house keeping with her mother. So she became a good cook and an expert in things pertaining to running a house as well as in dealing with servants and laborers. She got married at 16 and came to a bigger joint family with parents-in-law and six sisters-in-law. In fact the sisters-in-law close to her age were her best friends.

Cooking for the large family was done in firewood oven. The women in the family needed to gather firewood from the large farm land, collect vegetable from the farm. Once my mother and a sister-in-law were collecting cashew nuts. Then both of them drank stomach full of cashew fruit juice, plugging them from the low branches. When the mother called they ran home.  Mother told me once that both of them could hear the noise of juice in their stomach! They had all types of works from morning to night, day in and day out.

When serving the food for all in the house 3 times a day the last to be served were she and grandmother. Whatever left of the food was divided between them.

Once mother’s dad (my maternal grandfather) came to her house to meet her. Mother was busy preparing tiffin boxes for school going sisters-in-law and a brother-in-law. So it took a little while to meet her dad and spend time with him. On returning home grandfather told grandmother:  “We have given a servant girl to Chollamadam family!”

As a middle class farmer’s family we have a lot of rice fields and vegetable cultivations. So the house was never short of rice and vegetables. Then there were the cultivation of coconuts, aricanuts, pepper, ginger and similar other farm products like tapioca and a variety of plantains. So there was no difficulty in running the house. But still I reached to high school there was no electricity at home. There was no machine to separate rice and husks. So women in the house daily pounded paddy for the use of a large joint family. It was back breaking job for the women in the house.

My mother and father formed a perfect couple who could never be separated. They shared great intimate relationship and understanding. Strengthened by this relationship they fostered very good rapport with their relatives and friends. They also maintained very cordial relationship with their servants and laborers in the field and the family.

When I was very small, our grandfather built a new house. My father and mother and we children went to stay in the new house. Even then mother after finishing all her works went to grandparents’ house to help grandmother and aunties in their household works.  After a few years my uncle, a teacher, got married and so aunty was there to help grandmother and the unmarried aunties in the household works.

Still, when grandmother was ill and bed ridden my mother went every day to help grandmother giving bath, washing clothes, etc. in spite of being in a separate house of her own. Whenever grandfather or grandmother was sick my mother always spared time to look after them. So I am very happy that, when my mother herself was bed-ridden for nearly a year my sister-in-law Annie looked after her with great care and with much warmth. My mother had cordial relationship with her three daughters-in-law and other relatives. She received in her old age much loving care from her daughters-in-law and one granddaughter-in-law Deepa who lived less than a kilo meter away from the family house.

Mother had maintained cordial relationship with her servants and laborers in the field. The poor people who approached her for help found a kind and loving heart in her. Similarly relatives who visited home enjoyed her hospitality. We children like relatives coming home as they brought sweets for us and mother prepared special dishes and sweets, which we all enjoyed much. Mother enjoyed feeding us and the relatives with much interest.

Mother’s love and care were much appreciated by relatives and other visitors. Here I would like to mention one letter from Fr. Alex Thannipara who wrote to me when he received   the news of mother’s death. “Dear very loving father Varghese, I remember your mother and I dare to say one thing. I had visited your home first time in May 1972. Then I felt that I have been received as one more son in her house. Fr. Varghese, you and your brothers-sisters are specially blessed to be born as her children!”

Now I believe you will understand my happiness expressed at my mother going away to her Creator, loving, kind God the Father for her eternal peace and everlasting bliss.

God gifted my mother long life of 99 years, 7 months and 11 days. This blessings of God for her continued even after her death. She died at home very peacefully. At 11 A.M my sister-in-law Annie felt that she was on her verge of death. She called my brother Vincent. Vincent reached home in 10-11 minutes’ time and he phoned me immediately in a chocking voice Chetta,” mother is no more. She passed away two minutes back.”

On next two days Saturday and Sunday the biggest two Malayalam dailies carried the news of my mother’s death with her colorful, postcard size photo. Relatives, friends, neighbors poured in to pay their homage and pray for her. The present Bishop George Madathikandathil and the retired Bishop George Punnakottil came to know about her death presumably from my uncle Msgr (Father) Mathew Vellankal. Bishop George Punnakottil came home before the body was taken to church. He led the prayers and in his message he appreciated the inspiring life as a pious Christian and a loving mother with 9 children, five of them in religious life.

My mother was buried in the family tomb on 11 June 2017 after Bishop George Madthikandathil led the funeral prayers and gave an appropriate message appreciating my mother’s life of love and service to the people who filled the church. After the burial I said Mass in the church together with my brother Fr. Mathew and nephew Fr. Shaiju for the people who could not attend the Mass earlier.

In spite of the rainy season the funeral could be conducted without much obstruction of the rain and people could participate well in the funeral prayer services. (Words 1405)

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