Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ
Sometime back I presided a conference in which
Dr. (Sr.) Angela, F.C. addressed the gathering
on “Wholesome spirituality”. Some sixty five me
mbers of the Conference of Religious India
(CRI), Ahmedabad diocesan unit li
stened to Dr. Angela’s talk w
ith rapt attention. The speaker
explained with examples and anecdotes that th
e childhood experiences ha
ve great impact in
shaping a person’s life. The fe
elings and experiences of l
ove, fear, hatred, neglect,
disinterestedness, appreciation, etc.
during the first three years of
a child remain w
ith the person
all his/her life.
After the discourse of Dr. Angela, Bro. Samuel
Macwan raised a question. “A person’s life goes
according to his fate. A person cannot do anything ag
ainst his/her fate. So isn’t it useless for a
person to work hard to achieve something or for
a particular goal? What is the use of a person’s
efforts if everything is going on according to his/her fate?”
Knowing a little bit
of the Bible, Bro. Macwan quoted some
texts from the Bible to prove his
point. John says in his Gospel, “Even though Jesu
s had performed all these miracles in their
presence, they did not believe in him” (Jn. 12.
37). Then, as Bro. Macwan said, John gives the
reason for the unbelief of the people, “And they we
re not able to believe
, because Isaiah also
said, ‘God has blinded their eyes
and closed their minds, so that
their eyes would not see and
their minds would not understand” (Jn. 12, 39-40). In
other words, the reas
on for the unbelief of
the people is God himself. That is to say, the people did not have faith in God because of their
Quoting such passages from the Bible people lik
e Bro. Samuel Macwan who believe in fate say
that God has blinded their
eyes and closed their minds so that
they cannot put their faith in God.
God has predetermined their fate an
d so people have no faith in God.
Here it looks that the Bible also supports the fate
theory. But that is not
true. Bible scholars says
that the Jewish people do not make
the distinction between the cause
and its effect. So in Jewish
mentality the people do not distinguish between
a person doing something and the person being
an occasion for someone else doing something.
In the Jewish language Hebrew, someone doing
something and being an occasion for someone
else doing something (or permitting someone
doing something) is one and the same person, same doer.
We know that there is a great difference between a person doing something and a person being
an occasion for someone else doing something. For
instance, a father teac
hes his son his lessons
and his son does well in his examinations. Here it
is the father who teaches his son to do well in
his examination.
Imagine another case. A father provides all faci
lities for his son to
study and do well in his
examination but he does not force his son to study
but allows the son to do whatever he wants.
The father allows him the freedom to study, play
or roam around with his friends and waste his
time. The son spends his whole tim
e playing and roaming with his fr
iends. That son fails in the
examination. Here the father is not the cause of th
e son’s failure. But the father is an occasion for
his failure as he had given him complete free
dom to use his time in the way he wanted. The
father knew that if his son wasted his whole ti
me in games and in the company of his friends
instead of studying, he would fail. Still the father
does not take back the freedom which he has
given his son nor he forces his son to study. So the
father is not the cause
of his son’s failure but
he is certainly an occasion for
it. There is a great difference in
doing something as a doer and in
being an occasion for someone else in becoming a
doer. It is one thing to be a doer and totally
another thing in being an occasion for someone else becoming a doer.
Similarly to have the knowledge of somethi
ng and to be doing something are two different
things. There are great differences between knowi
ng something or allowing
something to happen
and doing it oneself.
When big or small calamities occur in our live
s, we cry to God. Why did God do it? Or how
could God permit such a thing to happen in my li
fe? Some believers in such dire situation accept
them as they are, and console themselves sayi
ng “God has done what pleased him.” Such people
find consolation in their belief in Fate.
God being omniscient, he knows everything before
anything happens in the universe. Nothing
happens outside his knowledge. Bu
t we cannot make God the author
or the doer of everything
just because he knows everything from its beginni
ng to its end. It is one thing to know something
and it is totally a different thing to be
a doer or an author of something.
We believe that God has created human beings as
the masters of the universe with the unique gift
of intellect and freedom. A person can use the facu
lties of intellect and freedom for good or bad.
But God does not restrict his gifts of intellect
and freedom because a person misuses them. God
does not put a limit on his gifts. Yes, God has certa
inly given every person a conscience, an inner
voice, knowing good and evil.
When we give a gift to our relatives or friends, we
wish that they make the best use of the gift.
But we do not put any condition or limit on gifts gi
ven with much love and generosity. If we
supervise the use of the gift and put conditions on its
use, then the gift is not a real gift but an
exhibition of selfishness. A gift like an object,
one’s time or one’s service given to another
person is not a gift if any
condition is attached to it.
We have the complete freedom over all the gift
s given to us by God. The gifts from God given
out of love have no conditions whatsoever. So
God does not pull any st
ring on his gifts of
intellect and freedom to us, his beloved human
beings. God has given us the freedom even to
misuse his gifts of freedom and intellect! And we do misuse them.
A person with his finite intellect
does not understand the secret of
the whole universe. A Person
is not omniscient like God. Still
a person can use the best of his
intellect and freedom to make
his/her life happy and joyful. A Person is expected
to make the best responsible use of all gifts
which he/she has received from Go
d and lead a worthwhile life.
Still, when faced with man-made or natural ca
lamities we console ourselves saying “It’s God’s
will”, “it’s divine destiny”, “w
ho knows, it’s God’s doing”, “it’s fa
te”, “it’s God’s game”. In a