Friday, 28 April 2017

Facing fears

Reflection for April 29 (Jesus walks on the lake)

The disciples travelling by boat are frightened of the 'ghost' walking on the lake. Each of us is frightened of our own 'ghosts'. Fear is a good thing; it keeps us active and agile. But when there is excess of it, fear paralyses us. It is in such crippling fears that the Lord helps us. It is not through some magic that He does this. Rather He empowers us with His presence: “It is I. Do not be afraid.” We only need to truly feel His presence for any fear to depart from us. Just like a child or a pet, even though it feels frightened of darkness or strangers, feels emboldened in the presence of a loved one, Jesus builds up our strength. With Him at our side the battle has only begun. To expect Him to fight our battles is laziness. To think that that I alone can do it is foolishness. To feel His presence and face fears is wisdom.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The true miracle

Reflection for April 28 (Multiplication of the loaves)

An alternative interpretation of this text of the multiplication of the loaves and fish suggests that the real miracle was not of 'creating' bread and fish, but of 'opening' the hearts and minds of all those gathered to share the little they had. So the miracle is more about sharing than creating.

Everyone gathered from afar would certainly have had something to eat. However, it would have been only for themselves. If a small boy could have so much (five loaves and 2 fish) how much more would each adult have! The miracle begins when that small boy generously comes forward to share what he had. All that Jesus does is opens the hearts of each one to share with others whatever they had. The result: not only is there enough for everyone, there is also much leftover.

In our world today there is enough for everyone to eat, drink and grow healthy, fit and strong. However, it is most often the greed of a few that causes starvation and deprivation. Jesus is always with us. We only need to open our hearts in generosity with the little we have to those around us, He will do the rest.

Philosophy: art or science?

Prior to any discussion on a given topic, it is essential to arrive at a working understanding of the meaning of the topic.  I say 'working understanding' because, not always is it possible to start off with a definition - unless one is contending the definition itself.  To start off with a perfectly defined concept and keep building on already defined concepts is to merely follow the beaten path and arrive at nothing but what has already been stated and grasped - because all of it is by set pattern and established rules.  And that's not always the best recipe for innovation or creativity.  The best of scientific discoveries too happened by accident or by deviating from the agreed thought.  

Now whether philosophy is an art or a science is the contention.  I feel it is both.  It cannot be so regimented and categorized a topic that it looses its ability to break free in reflection and thinking out of the box.  But neither is it so reckless that it does not have some firm ground from which it operates.  Thus it ought to be open to both the artist and the scientist.  However, if the language of it so dense, then I wonder if it is worth it at all.  What's the point of writing something that is for a very very selected audience who would then go on to write something more on it, having no touchstone to reality?  Furthermore no one else reads the stuff, it does not affect anyone in any particular manner, least of the author himself!  Well, that's certainly not the philosophy that I would like to get entangled with.  

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

With our parents

When I shared the news about the blessing of our new home and all my people shifting to the new place sometime this week, a confrere of the community asked, "Your parents too?"

Well, knowing the culture of the place, I understood what he meant.  For someone back in India, I don't think there'd ever be such a question.  Here in the West, as soon as the children start to earn something on their own, they move out of the house.  The parents even if they are all by themselves manage on their own, henceforth.  I'm still to come across a large family living together. Of course, there are some who stay on with their elderly parents, mostly because they've not married themselves.  Our housekeeper Katie, understood perfectly well without telling that my whole family would be shifting and not my brother and his family alone.  She's been to India and she has noticed the care and concern we have for our parents.

I told Katie, for most of us back in India, the question of leaving our parents, especially if they are elderly or ailing all by themselves is considered almost sinful.  So if my brother is moving out, it would mean that everyone is moving out to the new home.  If my parents refused to move, I doubt my brother would ever consider shifting all by himself.  

Our new home

On last Sunday, April 23, 2017 was the house-warming of our new home at Aziz Nagar.  My brother had purchased that plot of land a couple of years ago and now they've almost completed the construction of the house.  All at home were mighty thrilled by the whole event, before and after it too.  Salesians from the Provincial house, St Theresa's parish and the school were present for the occasion. So were a couple of our relatives from Mangalore and Bangalore.
Here's the whole family-clan! 
(L to R): Mummy, Lucy Aunty, Papa, Roshni, Chris, Willy, Anet, Roshni's parents, Rohan (Roshni's brother), Uncle Cyril and his daughter Lincy.  

In fact, this is the first time that I saw Lucy aunty.  She was for many years working in the Middle-east and has now returned for good to her home in Mangalore.

Was happy to see Fr Thathi preside over the Mass.
The others too were gracious enough to join: Frs Androth, T.V. Jose, K.S. Joseph and Benny


Today I came across a short video about a group of ladies, young mothers, standing in a queue.  One by one a child, belonging to one of those women was brought in, blindfolded and led from one woman to the other.  The child would feel the hands of the woman, and the face.  The children were of different age groups ranging from 14 to 4.  Each of those children identified their own mother quite instantly.  Most often, the first touch was enough to identify.  Of these some did not even wait to take off their blindfold to confirm, they flung themselves at once at their own mother.  Just a touch was enough to confirm.

Belief permeates everything

Reflection for April 27

In a theistic context, any accusation against God or His works is treated with great anger and resentment. Everyone is up in arms… do defend God. However, one needs to ask oneself, 'Does God need protection?… that too from us mortals?' Can He not stand on His own?

The apostles, when challenged by the political and religious authorities, boldly give witness to God and prefer to follow His commandments than human dictates. They were mostly true to this declaration: preference to God over human thinking. However, most of us, who take up cudgels against those who denounce God or in defence of God, are only like the dressed up soldiers at a fort, not the real soldiers. For when it comes to living by the word of that God, we fail – miserably, at times. Our whole vehement defence of God and His works, fails to inspire us to live by them, especially in our personal lives.

Belief, if true, permeates our entire being, our entire life, not merely our public life.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Love as self-giving

Reflection for April 26

“For God so loved the world...”

The book The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall, speaks of different types of gifts one can offer to others: of work, of friends, of learning, of time, of dreams, and finally of oneself. To give someone several material gifts but keep oneself reserved or away does not really make the other happy and even renders those given gifts meaningless. What truly matters is not the gift as such but the involvement of the one giving that gift.

We human beings are relational beings. However much we may possess, we still crave for the warmth of human love and fellowship. God understands this need of ours and gives us the best, the ultimate gift: of Himself.

All talk of love is empty and meaningless unless it involves a self-less giving of oneself. God shares with us not merely His thoughts, His plans for us, the material gifts we are blessed with but also His own Son and the Spirit – not to forget His other sons and daughters, whom we encounter day in and day out.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Proclaim... the experience

Reflection for April 25

“Go proclaim...”

The directive to 'proclaim' the Gospel is a straight-forward one. It is a matter of reaching the Good News to all. Interestingly this message does not necessarily mean only the written text. Much more than that it is the personally experienced Jesus that is the real Good News. The command is from Jesus Himself, only later to be written down by the authors.

The apostles are directed by the risen Lord to share with others everything they learned with and through Him, experienced Him, saw Him do and heard Him say. They are directed to share that message enlivened by the passion of their thrill of having had that first hand experience of Jesus.

Proclamation, therefore, becomes primarily a sharing of an experience of the Lord, and not merely a description of the written word.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Nicodemus, the willing

Reflection for April 24

Nicodemus, is an exception among the lot of the Pharisees. He is one who not only dares to believe in Jesus but acknowledges Him to be 'from God'. It was not that Jesus performed some special private miracle for Nichodemus or cured him of some ailment. Nicodemus' trust in Jesus is born out of the very same acts and words which Jesus uttered in public and which everyone, even the other Pharisees heard and witnessed.

What makes him stand apart is this willingness to be open to the working of the Spirit. 'To be born again … from above' could very well mean this very willingness to be swept off one's feet; to be transformed in totally unexpected ways. Nicodemus was open and thereby perceived something divine in Him.

Know not if Nicodemus later became a Christian or a disciple of Jesus. Even if he didn't he would not have been the same pharisee as before.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Convincing witness

Reflection for April 23

“My Lord and my God!”

Thomas is often referred to as the 'doubting Thomas'. That's because he refused to believe until he personally saw the risen Jesus. While this incident does say much about the conviction level of Thomas, it also speaks much about the convincing level of the remaining apostles. After all, Thomas spent three years in the company of these men. He ought to have learned to trust and respect them, as companions. But even after all those adventures they had together, the witness of the remaining apostles was not enough to convince Thomas.

More than being like Thomas, who had the guts to openly acknowledge his doubts and seek confirmation for what he was asked to believe in, we are like the remaining apostles. Firm in belief, but hardly convincing enough for those who know us, even those close to us. Of course, there are some who do not bother to notice or blindly refuse, just for the heck of it. But not always can the blame be labelled on others.

Thomas' declaration and transformation led him to travel across the globe and even to martyrdom in India, as a testament of his undying love for Jesus. This Divine Mercy Sunday offers us a good challenge to ask ourselves as to how deep is our faith and how genuine a witness are we to the risen Lord.

Socrates' three-filter test...

Socrates' three-filter test...

Friday, 21 April 2017

A call to responsibility

Reflection for April 22

"He reproached them..."

The years of formation or preparation we have before we take up a life-long calling is just the tip of the whole gamut. To think that the six to ten years leading to ordination or final profession are anything but enough for a lifetime of spirituality is immature! Jesus spent three years with the apostles, day in and day out. Yet after three days of His absence, they are back to square one. He appears to them and reproaches them for their incredulity and obstinacy in not believing those who had seen Him after he had risen. Perhaps they were thinking that if at all the resurrection was true, He would have appeared to them first. After all, they were His closest associates for the last three years! 

If at all, as priests and religious, we live under this great misunderstanding that the call to priestly or religious life is great vocation and thereby bestows on us great powers, then let us at least also have the complementary understanding that with great power come great responsibility. The Lord is always gracious enough to send us reminders, often through simple people and instances. Let us therefore be open to His reminders and not wait for His reproach.

Feasting on hunger

I distinctly remember the first retreat that I attended.  It was during my school days.  Well, I remember it not because of any spiritual or divine experience, but for a very very particular habit that I learnt.

As it is, vegetables were not a favourite at home.  I did eat some but some type of vegetables no one at home liked. Brinjals were on the top of that list.  And so we never had brinjals cooked at home.  Well, back to the retreat.  The day we began, we had some light breakfast some prayer in the morning and then for lunch, guess what did we have? Brinjal curry!  I looked around and everyone was having a real feast. I for one, decided to give it a miss.  So I did not eat anything that noon.  Then post-lunch we had some activities and even a round of games.  By the end of the day I was tired... and hungry.  And what were we served for supper? Brinjal, again!!  By that time, I was so hungry that out went my resolution not to eat brinjals.  I just ate... and it was good. From that day on, there is nothing that I really desist.  I do have likes and preferences but not any food item that I will say a categorical 'no' to.

With all the hunger and need for food that I've seen, everytime I come across food being wasted, it churns my stomach. That experience that day, taught me never ever to desist any food.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Go fishing

Reflection for April 21

After all that happened, the crucifixion, death and even the resurrection, the apostles go fishing! It really seems odd. But that is exactly how each of us live. We prefer to get back to what we are accustomed to, to that what we are comfortable with. However great an event or tragic a loss, the regularity we are used to offers a soothing balm. But imagine a scenario where the apostles had resumed their professional works, what they were used to three years prior, and never took up another mode of functioning…!

Yet the Lord once again challenges them. Calls them forth to carry on, without His physical presence, what they together did for three years. To be His witnesses. This is something the apostles are yet to fully learn. There is uncertainty and anxiety as to how it would unfold. Fishing is safer. Predictable. 

However, the apostles make that shift. They opt to move out of their comfort zones and preach the risen Christ. The first reading where Peter boldly asserts the source of healing the cripple goes on to show their full fledged immersion in the task of being witnesses. They are still fishing… but it is not fish they are after.

Even today, the Lord constantly challenges us to move out of our comfort zones. To explore more ways of being His witnesses than what we are routinely used to; feel contented with.
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