Friday, 18 April 2014

Jesus' death

  • Jesus died for our sins... He chose this death for our well being.  (That would make me a religious minded person).
  • Jesus was killed because he disrupted the social order of the day and was getting too nosy. (That'd be the social activist in me).
  • Jesus was crucified because it was a safe political gamble - remember it was clearly said 'better for one man to die for the country ... (Then I'd be a political thinker)
  • Jesus was assassinated because the rich and powerful were being unduly disturbed by Him.  He had to go. (That'd be the Marxist in me). 
  • Not all the above are true (I'm a fool!)
  • That all the above are true. (That's wisdom!)

Just one subtle difference:
There was hardly any religious reason for the crucifixion of Jesus (speaking from the human causes).  Whereas human welfare was the primarily reason for his death (that's the divine perspective).

He was killed purely because of socio-political and economic reasons! But He died for us!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Salary psychology

I informed our staff members of the revised payscale for the financial year we commenced this month.  As per the revised scale each of them have a substantial raise ranging between Rs 800/- and Rs 1500/-. As before, the joy expressed this time was quite evident.  However, once the comparisons begin, then some faces start growing longer.

Reminds me of a movie dialogue (3 Idiots):
On the day the exam results are published, two friends who secured the least mark in the whole class, thinking about their third friend have this to say: Learnt an important lesson in human psychology: when a friend fails, it pains but when a friend gets first rank, it hurts most! 

Chausible vs Towel

Fr Maliekal while animating this morning's meditation did bring to life something very profound.  He spoke of Jesus taking off his outer garment and putting on the apron to facilitate his washing the feet of his apostles.  So he challenged us to look at ourselves and take notice of the 'outer garments' that prevent us from bending down to wash the feet of the other.

As a symbolic act, he asked a Brother to get a chausible from the sacristy and then left it on the altar, in a crumble - as though it was taken off.  A towel, basin and a bucket of water were already before the altar.

It then struck me, how and why is it that this whole act of foot-washing totally vanished from the Holy Mass?  How come the Church retained only the bread and wine part and relegated this ceremony of foot-washing to Maundy Thursday alone - just once a year?  Was it too crude and not gelling in with the 'pious' and 'holy' Mass?

Why is the chausible - something taken off by Jesus to be replaced by the towel - sacred, while the towel isn't?  As a religious do I take shelter in the 'sacredness' of the chausible while leaving the 'dirty' towel for lay people, the 'others'? Why is it that we fail to recognize that discipleship entails shedding of all that prevents us from reaching out to those not so privileged?  

Life inside and outside the upper room

This morning we had an interesting round of meditation.  He's what was playing on my mind and heart all the while.  We were meditating upon the theme of today's Maundy Thursday service.

What Jesus did in the upper room was merely a representation of his entire life, outside it.  It was mere symbolic of what he did that far and intended to fulfill in the days to come.  However, in our Catholic tradition, that upper room meeting has been really blown to gigantic proportions, often at the risk of losing sight of the real life of Jesus.  This dramatization of Jesus has been polished and painted and greased with tons of cosmetics and made to appear the most important aspect of Catholic tradition.  What we often forget and conveniently shelve is the fact that life was one whole for Jesus.  His action outside the upper room was not a disconnect from the action inside the room.  The latter was a mere 're-enactment' of the real.

Somehow very many of us Christians have clearly divided the whole of our life: inside and outside!  Inside the 'upper room' - the Church - we are all pious and 'holy'; when out of the 'upper room' - the world - what we do is not counted as holy or sacred.  It is profane!  

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Foot-washing: Drama vs Response

I was quite amused by the last line of a piece of news/article about the rite of foot-washing, that I read here... It was about the involvement - or rather, the absence of involvement - of women in the foot-washing ceremony of Maundy Thursday.  Besides the fact that women were not excluded from the list of 12 people whose feet are washed, until 1955, what touched me most was the last line of the write-up:
The tradition was not to have it be a dramatization of what Jesus did at the last Supper but to be a response to the command to humble service. 
... well, another example of how, religiosity is not necessarily the same as spirituality, or even close to it!
[More about the rite itself, read here]

Betray Jesus??

This morning during Mass, Fr Maliekal asked a valid question: When does betrayal happen? Or rather, between whom does betrayal happen? He went on to say that it is only between friends that betrayal is possible.  Thus he was right in questioning Judas' "betrayal" of Jesus.  If Judas was never truly a friend of Jesus, how could he betrayal Him?

I look at it this way:  Betrayal is possible only when there is trust between two people.  So when that trust is broken, and abused then it is betrayal.  So in this sense, if I never really trusted Jesus, as a person, as someone close to my heart, someone whom I have willingly and joyfully given my heart to, then I don't think, I'm eligible for betrayal!  Indifference, yes; but not betrayal.  (Which of the two is worse?... I'll save that for later!)

On the other hand, looking from Jesus' perspective, whether we trust Him or not, He trusts us! He places His confidence in us and is willing to take the risk - He did it then, He does it even now! Knowing well, that the possibility of being indifferent to, being betrayed by us, is much higher than being a friend to Him, He risks being our friend.

The question now is: Do I betray Jesus?  Or am I worthy at all to even do an act of betrayal?? 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Where's my heart???

Since the time I read the Holy Father question the group of young Belgians, 'Where is your heart?', I've been trying to answer that question for myself.  Now that we are in the Holy Week, it haunts me all the more.  So I decidedly sat at it for sometime this morning... and in all honestly this is what I have to confess!

My heart is all over! It is scattered ... hopping about more vigorously than a grasshopper on a sunny morning. Now my mind knows that it is not the best of situations!  However my heart and my soul are still blissfully ignorant of it - or tend to remain so.  Need to synchronize them all.

For one, need to weld my motive and acts - not that they are separate or unrelated, but they certainly can be a greater integration.  

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Radical Witness

Now that the GC 27 is over, I can this: perhaps the theme of radical witness was eclipsed by the elections. However, I have nothing against that, for as I said long time ago, radical living is not something done as a result of a meeting or Chapter but a personal conviction that I am willing to live out.  The meeting or Chapter at the most can facilitate it or act as a trigger.  So therefore, I'm still willing to give the Chapter a chance (after all, I've not really read the content, but merely followed 'news').

So when I read the homily of Fr Bregolin to the South Asian group, about what truly the word 'radical' means, I was quite happy.  He said that radical could refer to the origin or the root (in a static sense) or mean a point of departure, arising from the original and deep motivation - the ground - that drives a person to make appropriate choices here and now (that's the dynamic sense). He or she knows the motivation for doing something, and it is a motivation that has been purified of contradictory, less pure, especially self-referential, inclinations.  One is convinced, drawn to and provoked by it.  It is something embraced with all ones' heart, mind and strength.  Whoever is radical would harmonize both the static (one's identity) and the dynamic (what one does) as well!

[Original text found here]

Judas' sin

It did not strike me before but today during the Mass in the morning, it struck me that Judas' did repent for his crime of handing over Jesus to the Jews.  Frankly speaking, being the political clout that the Jewish religious leaders wielded they could have just barged their way into Jesus' company and arrested him.  That they needed someone to 'sell' Jesus to them was merely a sham.

Anyway, coming to the point, I realized that Judas was indeed sad for what he did and wished to undo it.  He therefore goes back to the elders and even offers them the money he received for 'betraying' Jesus. I suppose if he had more money, he'd have willingly given that too just to get things back to as it were before his 'handing' Jesus over.  But then why is it that Judas always is portrayed in the negative.  For that matter, Peter also betrayed Jesus when he denounced him not once but thrice!  Going by that count, there are more heinous ways that we have 'betrayed' the Lord than Judas did!

His sin, I guess, is to believe that God would not forgive him!  Neither did he forgive himself!  These two facts coupled together saw him hang himself.  Certainly the society then - and now - would always have blacklisted Judas, had he lived on.  But he would have lived with that scar and through his life transformed it into a blessing for himself and others.  However, he was too miserly in his outlook of God... he never brought himself to believe that his crime would be forgiven - not by God and not even by himself!  

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Seeking the treasure

I finished reading The Alchemist (by Paulo Coelho) today and found it as refreshing as I read it the first time.  So a thought from therein:
They were looking for gold. They were  seeking the treasure of their destiny, without wanting to actually live out their destiny.  
This quote is of the Alchemist himself when he is asked why is it that other alchemists are not able to turn any metal into gold.

In a sense it is true. Sometimes in our pursuit of something of great value, we are so focused, so focused on only that thing and that thing alone that we run the risk of missing the thing when we actually come across it.  Furthermore, in life, it is not always just one thing that makes sense, it is a whole gamut of things which are related.  It is not so much about achieving one thing but about seeing the inter-relatedness of reality and thereby living by it. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Neighbourhood apostolate

There was one entry in my pocket notebook which never made it to this blog for quite sometime now.  The topic also came up for discussion in our recent staff meeting too. However, for lack of any conclusive or satisfactory 'answer' or 'way ahead' it stayed just there. I am referring to the issue of immediate neighbourhood apostolate here in the seminary.

Till last year one of the forms in which we reached out to the children of the neighbourhood was through evening tuition for those from the Telugu medium school.  However, once we stopped giving out books and school uniform cloth for free, so did their appearance here.  We learnt a good lesson: Children (of course, and parents alike) were not here for the education that we were offering, but for the freebies that they were getting.  The Brother did make an effort to revive the evening classes but it really did not happen. So we considered it for the good and left it at that.

For the next year, I have been thinking of how best to reach out.  I really didn't get to anything really practical, without cutting too much into our regular community schedule.  To make matters worse, this evening I received news that some financial aid has been sanctioned for the educational support of children in the neighbourhood!  However, one thing is certain: no more spoon feeding; no just doling out freebies of any kind.  It really does not help, least of all the one receiving it. 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sunday best

I heard and came to know the meaning of the phrase 'put on your Sunday best' only after joining the Seminary. Not that I was alien to the practice of it - Mummy saw to it! Now here in the Seminary, we have a dress code for all solemnities and for ministry: the kurta and dark pants.  So frankly speaking, that turns out to be our 'Sunday best'. Certainly, not everyone, accepts it to be anywhere reflecting either Sunday or best!

Does that mean the Brothers don't get to wear their 'Sunday best'?  Heck no!  They wear it when they go out to write their BA exams.  Very many of them pull out new clothes - I mean, brand new clothes - just for this one time.  One does not get to see them either before or after the exams!  So perhaps, one can very well rephrase that text to 'Exam best' in our context here.

However, it is good to note, that more than before very many are taking a liking for the kurta. It is nice to see the development. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Search for God

Here's a beautiful reflection from the Pope himself in reply to 'Search for God'...
When a person searches for his or herself, they find God. Maybe, they don’t succeed in finding him but they are going along the path of honesty, searching for the truth, for a road of goodness and a road of beauty… they’re on the right road and it’s certain they’ll find God! Sooner or later, they will find him. But the road is a long one and some people don’t find him in their lives. They don’t find him consciously. But they are very true and honest with themselves, very good and lovers of beauty, so that in the end they have a very mature personality, capable of an encounter with God, which is always a grace. Because an encounter with God is a grace.

Coming from Pope Francis, means a lot.  Note: He does not speak of some high end Theology or dole out a list of Biblical verses.  He speaks of humanity, of truth, of goodness... How I wish we, clergy and religious, learn this basic fact and truth of religion and God, before we cause more harm in society, in the name of the one who lived in contrast to our understanding.

Read the whole interview of the Pope with a group of young people from Belgium (Note the number of times he laughs! A beautiful living example of how living one's humanity joyfully radiates divinity!)

Christianity Upgraded!

This afternoon sitting in the study hall with the Brothers, a weird thought flashed in my head.  What if Jesus appears again?  Would we then have to follow a new religion?  Surely He'd be a Christian (this time for sure!) but after that what would be his followers be called??  Now I know that He didn't propagate a new 'religion' as such but the point struck me was this: Would His next coming update or upgrade Christianity?  Well in His previous coming He did try, valiantly but in vain, upgrade Judaism.

What about us?  Are we perfectly content and convinced that Jesus has exhausted the revelation of God in his previous 'visit'?  (After all, the Jews in Jesus' time we firm in their belief that Yahweh had spoken and spoken much and that too in their favour... but Jesus challenged that!)

Now the Bible itself speaks of a 'second coming'... whatever that means! Even if taken literally, which very may still hope and pray for, what kind of Jesus are we looking forward to??? A resplendent, radiant and glorious Christ?  Does that ring any bells?? The Jews too were looking for such a Messaiah.  What if Jesus comes in a radical and more really down to earth manner, say being born in the red light area of Mumbai?  Are we ready for that?   Will we accept and listen to Him or would there be another religion in the years to come: Jews, then Christians, then....?

Pilgrim centre vs tourist centre

What's the difference between a pilgrim centre and a tourist centre?  I agree with Fr Maliekal when he says there isn't much in today's world. But in truth there is a very subtle difference.  The former is where visitors or guests are led to a spiritual experience; some place where the focus of energy, resources and enterprises is on offering those who come there a divine encounter.  The tourist centre, on the other hand, limits itself to offering an aesthetically enriching experience.

This struck me when I look at the Kondadaba hill and more especially this morning when we were inaugurating the Assissi garden in the Seminary itself.  In the name of beautification of the place, we sacrifice the spiritual dimension.  Nature itself is beautiful but to add more and more cosmetics to it, kills the natural beauty and what remains is something of a 'concrete jungle' with every bit artificially erected. Nothing natural! How then can one expect to encounter a 'living' God??

The joke of the Assissi garden was when a branch of a big tree under which the statue was being installed was thought to be dangerous for 'St Francis', I mean the statue!  As it is, there is enough cement and colour painted for the pedestal and the basement!  So the branch was also a threat!  Luckily the still is breathing above St Francis!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Formation and oysters

Formation process, or for that matter, any growth process, is something akin to the formation of a pearl in an oyster.  It is said that the pearl which is found in oysters is not something of the living creature at all.  Initially a grain of sand or something from the outside finds its way into the oyster and when it starts irritating the soft flesh of the oyster, the sea creature starts coating it with a sort of tissue.  Over years of such coating, and subsequent solidifying of the same, does the pearl form.

The only glitch here is that however many years the pearl may be within the oyster, it never really becomes part of it... or rather, the oyster never owns it up.  It only tolerates it for it has no other go.

So truly speaking, only the irksome feeling is true in both the instances.  However, formation, unless owned up, does not become me or make me any different than what I was!

Quick! Some water...

Watching some of my students the way they respond to certain situations wherein they have to take stock and make quick decisions, all in a matter of seconds or minutes, I am reminded of an analogy that I had thought of long time ago. Here it goes:

  • A house is on fire. 
  • The one whose house is on fire is standing beside me watch it go up in flames. 
  • I turn to him and urgently tell, "Go! Get some water!"
  • He takes off in a particular direction. 
  • He returns with a glass of drinking water for me! 

Well, that's how some of my students respond to delicate/urgent situations.  They are totally at a loss. And when this is pointed out to them, they squarely blame it on the one who is trying to assist them, saying, "He confused me!" or "He made me nervous!"

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Playing both sides...

The other day I watched the movie,  Promised Land.  The movie went about a normal pace with evidently the protagonist seemingly doing the wrong kind of job, but all the same passionate about it.  He is an employee with a multi-million dollar gas company out to convince the inhabitants of a village to sign a deal with the natural gas company permitting fracking.  He seems confident of his strategy and results until a senior person in the village questions the outcome of such a move.  To add to his woes an environmentalist lands up in the place and starts opposing every move of our friend.  From then on, it is a tussle to gain the confidence of the residents.

The elusive victory suddenly seems quite clear when he anonymously receives a package disproving the sole evidence on which the environmentalist builds his arguments.  The stage is all set now for the townsfolk to sell their land as the only possible arguments so far offered were all wrong.  On the eve of the final vote of the residents, the company representative comes to know that the environmentalist was a fake one himself and was sent there by none other than his own company.  The movie ends with the salesman turning against the very company he was so passionately representing.

My learning from this movie: to make a wrong into right, just propose convincingly the opposite, only to later reveal it as wrong.  The initial wrong then automatically appears right! 

I've seen tactic being used in a hindi movie too, Jolly LLB.  I know not who invented this strategy... it surely has to be either the politicians or the corporate brains, but it certainly is a very smart move!  I'm still to pin-point exactly what is wrong with this whole strategy... though I am certain that it is! 
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