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January 31st, 2012

Do You Love Jesus More Than Anything?

Love jesus more than anything

The weight of the Cross will increase as love decreases in our life.

Once while talking to youth, I asked them a question, if somebody gives you 1000 Dollar or 1000 Euros and ask you to follow them by leaving Catholic faith, will you go? Few replied that they would consider. What about good position in the society? And a few would go because they are poor.

If a young man, handsome, powerful, wealthy or a young woman, beautiful, job holder proposes you with only one condition to leave your catholic faith, will you? Few will go, because they do think good family is made in the unity of heart, and to live with a partner as one wish and loves gives meaning to life than at times after waiting for long within the religious tradition, marrying a person who is a drunkard, not faithful, useless, etc…

Yes, Jesus is asking the question to each of his follower very personally, “Do you love Jesus more than these?” “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Jn. 21: 15).

Jesus asks this question to Peter three times. He confirms Peter’s love for Him, only then Peter is entrusted with the particular mission. Following Jesus demands love. The greatest act is love which the world ever has seen, and that was on the cross.The followers of Jesus are too demanded of love, even though it is painful. The disciple has to imitate the master, and that is possible by becoming one with Him.

Only the one who follows Jesus closely will be able to love. For that one has to know the heart of the master; in fact Jesus’ heart is full of love. Peter was following Jesus closely and often he was the spokesperson for the group, he declared Jesus identity loudly, and the Church was entrusted to him. The depth of Peter’s love is tested by the Master. He wants to know whether Peter loves him more than others.

Only the mother will be able to tell how much love she shows towards her child, and she expresses it. If the mother really loves the child, she will give completely herself to her child, forgetting herself fully. She takes care of the child and at times she is even ready to die for the child.

The followers of Jesus too should have that same love. They have to forget about themselves completely for of love for their master Jesus, and be concerned only about following him. Everyday they have to think only one thing as disciples; how can they follow their Master closer than others? And this demands greater love for Jesus than others.

Jesus is asking Peter to “follow” Him (Jn.21:19). Although Jesus was asking the same question to Peter three times, the intensity in which the question was asked was deep. And Peter’s answer reflects that it comes from the heart level than from lips alone. The real love comes from the heart, and it goes beyond borders. It has nothing to do with the world or its desires. The husband who takes care of his paralyzed wife affectionately is the example of real love of the husband. He understands the bond of love, which he pledged to keep up till the last breath, during holy matrimony. It demands great love.

There are wives who are being beaten up by their own husbands who are addicted to alcoholic. Still they love their husbands, with whole heart. True love can be painful but graceful. Even though there are times the crosses appears to be heavy in family lives, once carried it faithfully, they could see crucified Jesus on them. Love demands sacrifice in daily lives.

One would be allowed to carry physical, mental, social, spiritual crosses, but the depth of love towards those crosses gives new dimensions in one’s life struggle. In family lives, the husband and wife share the true love each other more than any thing in this world. And the husband can declare to his partner, who might be bed-ridden for years, that he loves her than anybody. The wife too, whose husband has become an alcoholic addict, still loves him with faithfulness.

Christ’s followers are given crosses as a sign of love for the glorification.When one turns towards Jesus, He will ask them by calling out their names, ‘do you love me more than others this moment?’ And only the faithful disciple completely surrendering themselves could answer, ‘Yes Lord, I am’.

Listen to the song: More Than Anything

Greater love towards the master makes the cross lighter. Or when the weight increases the love can decrease and decrease. Today, many wish to call themselves Christians provided their crosses are made of gold, silver etc. Sometimes, even so-called ‘chosen ones’ prefer not to see crosses and thus they try to be blind when those situations come and go behind positions, or golden crosses, or worldly way in a cunning manner. Embracing cross as a sign of real love, and loving cross and the crucified Christ is the way one has chosen as his vocation is often being forgotten by many. Seldom people like to take the heavy wooden crosses, on account of love.

Jesus is crucified on this wooden cross, which was not so polished but rough, and heavy. There are times, the life situations become crosses in the life, and only the disciple of Christ will be able to discover Christ in those situations and lovingly embrace those moments, and others will curse them and look for small, fashioned, beautiful golden or silver crosses to hang as a decoration to the flesh. The disciple of Christ has to confirm his or her love towards the master in daily life; only then one can follow Him as a faithful disciple, with the given responsibility.

After confirming the faith, Jesus is giving the mission to peter. “Feed my sheep”. Peter is entrusted with the care of the Church. Like Peter, every disciple who are confirmed in their love towards the Master, is given responsibility. This demands great sacrifice. Jesus says to Peter, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (Jn.21:18).

– – – written by Fr. Biju Maramkuzhackal SVD

January 30th, 2012

Why We Cannot Listen To The Word Of God

Why We Cannot Listen To The Word Of God

We cannot listen to God since our minds are too noisy.

This verse in the Bible baffles our minds and arrests the attention of our hearts. Why did the Hebrews in Egypt not listen to Moses their leader? What had prevented them to do so? What would be its significance for us today? Can our sufferings, sicknesses and pains prevent us from paying due attention to the Word of God. It is possible that a life of misery can switch off one’s ears to the inner voice of God?

Bible unfolds to us a two-fold factor for the inability of the Israelites to pay attention to the words of Moses. One factor seems to be spiritual (internal) and the other, physical (external) one.

“They did not listen to Moses because of their broken spirit and their cruel bondage” (Ex 6:9). It is quite obvious that a soul cannot listen to the word of God due to its “broken spirit” and “cruel bondage.” In other words, a “broken spirit” and “cruel bondage” incapacitate a man/woman to heed to God’s word.

Broken Spirit

How does a man/woman’s spirit become broken? Who crushes/breaks one’s spirit? And how can we mend a broken spirit? It happens to the inner being of a person and so it is invisible. But we can observe the signs and symptoms of a “drooping spirit” in the way he/she performs his/her daily duties in life.

Once Jesus had met a group of people who were “crushed in their spirit,” “distressed” (ripto), broken hearted and “wearied” (Mt 9:36), and “he began to teach them at length” (Mk 6:34). Lengthy teaching might perhaps heal many of the broken spirited people of our time. It is the Lord alone “who heals the broken hearted and he binds up their wounds” (Ps 147:3). To do this, Jesus is empowered through the mighty anointing from above. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted” (Is 61:1; Lk 4:18). Elsewhere, Dr. Luke mentions that, “the power of the Lord was with him to heal” (Lk 5:17). And he lifts up those who are bowed down” (Ps 146:8).

“A dejected mind, a gloomy face and a wounded heart” would be the true manifestation of a “broken spirit” (Sir 25:23). It is quite natural for a soul to wander about in the world, once its goal in life is lost. And so, he/she desires to end up his/her life “in death” (Ps 109:16). It was the longing of Job (17:1), to choose death rather than life. “A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a broken spirit who can bear” (Pro 18:14). “A downcast spirit dries up the bones” (Pro 17:22).

Cruel bondage

We know from our experiences, that by the “sorrow of heart” or “a cruel bondage,” a human “spirit is broken” easily and quickly (Pro 15:13) and is unable to heed to the voice of the Lord. Even now, some sections of our human society, due to their abject poverty and age-old oppression, cannot rise above their bondages in order to plan for an egalitarian society. Even the every suggestion of it sounds to them like an utopian idea or a wishful dream for the far future.

Do you remember how the Lord had liberated a daughter of Abraham from the cruel bondage of Satan for eighteen long, years? “Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Lk 13:16). In fact, He came to “liberate” people from their bondages (Lk 4:18; Jn 8:32).

Before preaching the Good News, should we not liberate our people from various types of bondages? Or should we not liberate them in and through the Gospel message that we preach? This spiritual activity can only be performed by the Spirit of the Lord (Lk 4:18). Let us pray that God will make us humble instruments in His hands for liberating many souls from the bondages of sin and Satan.

– – – written by Fr. J. Eapan SDB

January 29th, 2012

The Pharisee Within

The Pharisee Within

We have to make a difference between the Pharisees and the Pharisaic attitude.

My imagination, very often, was captured by unnoticed, forgotten, and colourless characters in the Bible. May be it has something to do with my life, from Lot to Jonathan, Uriah to Pharisees of Jesus time. I love Pharisees because they were keen followers as well ardent listeners of Jesus. Or may be they still continue to exist through me. Only in adverse situations, very often, the best in you will be revealed. So in this sense the Pharisees helped Jesus to a certain extend to bring out the best in Him.

But how Jesus reacted to Pharisaic attitude is really frightening. We see in Mt.23:23 “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you have practiced without neglecting the others.” The most important question asked by Pharisees may be a difficult one to choose. But I feel the question they asked about the foundation of the church is most important in our time.

In the gospel we see Pharisees asking Jesus Mt.19:3 “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” As they expected, Jesus defended the family saying Mt.19:6, “what God has joined let no one separate.” So when He defended the unity and indissolubility of marriage, He was building up a bulwark for family life.

The family is designed by God to be the clearest demonstration and reflection of the unity and diversity experienced within the Trinity. Therefore it is within a family that we realize, enjoy, and demonstrate in its perfection the relationship enjoyed within the Trinity. Thus the most mystical reality in Christianity is revealed – through family – in its simplest form. So also as we see in the book of ‘Song of Solomon’, – in marriage love – there is a real triad the lover, the beloved and the unifying force between them – the love.

Philosopher Pierre Teilhard De Chardin says, “God created everything out of love.” Thus everything was created in the original covenant of love. A husband and wife in this covenant of love between them and with God ‘procreate’ new life and in their procreation there is a trace, an echo, an image and sharing in the original covenant by which God created all life out of his love.

Late Pope John Paul II too says, “Love between husband and wife must be fully human, exclusive and open to a new life.” If it is there in the basic structure of the society then the main concern of everyone will be ‘how to serve?’ and not ‘how am I served?’ In this spirit St. Paul in his letter to 2nd Corinthians 12:15 say, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for you.” Therefore the orientation of anyone to one’s own self, in any walk of life, is the reversal of the order set by God.

So the question is as Christians are we able to experience God’s kingdom? Or like Pharisees do we fail to strike a balance between religiosity and spirituality and miss out what we set out for? Very often we do miss out and I can vouch for it.

In the book of Joshua chapter 24, we see Joshua helping the Israelites to walk down their memory lane and to experience, how God was with them in order to make a new covenant between God and His people. But we know they failed. Why? The answer is there in the same chapter when we read further in the verse 31 “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.” So as to say, when people with God experience vanished from them, the image of the Lord also vanished like a morning mist from their hearts and minds for good.

Are we also in the same state? Do we look for people with God experiences? If it is so, we are like the musk deer that runs the whole forest in search of fragrance unaware of the fact that it is within. Here once again Sri Aurobindo’s thought becomes relevant. He says, “‘Agni’ in Rig Veda is not mere fire but ‘A Divine Spark’.” We all have this divine spark within. All that we should do is to fan it so that the fire can engulf the whole body. Only then the unifying force that is love will be kindled in all of us. This awakening of Divine Spark within will be a second civilization for humanity as we will begin to see all relationships from a new perspective.

So indirectly Jesus says to each one of us today, when someone divorces his/her spouse or desert anyone in any relationship for that matter, the question he/she will have to face is not, ‘where is your spouse or brother?’ But the very first question that we see in the Bible, Genesis 3:9, “where are you?”

There is a certain amount of Pharisaic attitude in all of us. What we need is a character of docility to accept our short comings and grow further in life. If the little home at Nazareth was the foundation for Jesus we all need to start from our little homes and communities. As the founder of S V D, St. Arnold Janssen has dreamt for all his brothers and sisters, Let us also open our hearts to all the others without any expectation, by accepting each and everyone and thus become one heart and many faces.

– – – written by Br. Jobin Manivelil

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