Saturday, 28 February 2015

A sample preview

Locate anything wrong with the following questions:
  • How's the curry? Is it tasty? Has it become too spicy? Is the salt enough? Hope it is not too oily. 
  • What about the vegetable? Do you like it? Is it your favourite one? It goes well with plain rice. 
  • I hope the rice is not over-boiled. Is it? Do you like the type of rice? 
Anything wrong? Well, now read the following statements:
  • I went home last summer. It was hot. There are a lot of trees in the garden. 
  • I watched the movie last night. There are many curries and fruits. 
  • The plate is made of steel. It was round and hard. 
Well, if the questions were clear, then I suppose the above answers too are! Yeah, these are the answers to the above set of questions... don't worry which order!

The best part, is in reality, there is no food served at all. There is only an empty plate set before you! I suppose that being the fact, getting the 'right' answers is a great achievement!

Welcome to the final year comprehensive exam of the B.Ph.! 

Evangelization...

A good take on evangelization...

Friday, 27 February 2015

To reach the heart

It was nice to meet Fr Ivo again, this time in our own community.  Glad to notice that the pressure of the responsibility (General Councillor for Formation) hasn't been too much - or atleast didn't show!  He still remains the same.  Among the many things, he hasn't changed his approach: basically to ask pin-pointed and very relevant questions.  I still remember learning from him that knowledge is not about having all the answers but the process raising relevant questions (I'm sure he was voicing Lonergan!).

This time, discussing with the staff, he stated something I haven't heard him say before: The whole challenge of the formator is to reach the heart of the formee.  I guess, it is something he has picked up while in Rome. I'm not talking of the concept but the framing of the words.  Anyhow, he repeatedly put this across to us. How, when, using what means... he said, is all our lookout. He was also quick to add, that it is easier said than done (I suppose, he himself being a formator, knows the implications and the challenges therein).

I purposely remained silent all through, for I did not want my anger or distress to speak. Furthermore, issues related to the community, I need to talk TO and WITH the community... for Fr Ivo and his team these would be more of information. Besides, persons of Fr Ivo's calibre don't need many words to grasp and understand.  

Paint 'em blue!

Read this news report here!

The UP administration in Bareilly has come up with a very 'novel' idea of painting 'normal' dogs blue - literally, paint them in blue... so as to distinguish them from the 'abnormal' ones who are on a rampage biting and killing children.

The very idea itself is quite amusing.  That this is what the administration, in consultation with several officials after a 'high level' meeting, came up with is all the more hilarious.  The full article (read here), is a good piece of fun!  With holi round the corner, why deprive the dogs of this colourful joy... paint 'em all!
As I 'googled' for a photo of dogs, I came across this one, and guess what the title says: "Bull dog!"

Challenging the Comfort of Mediocrity

Among the few issues that plague Salesian India today, one of the most lethal one is the comfort of mediocrity. It is basically a state of life wherein one, not only does not have the passion to live by one's convictions, but is not willing to have any convictions at all! Even if one does have a couple of convictions, one lacks the courage to stand by those, leave alone be willing to properly discern one's principles... merely staying afloat with a tag before and after one's name. The luxury such a lifestyle offers is very alluring and addictive.

Possible ways out of this fix: personal responsibility, greater commitment to the mission chosen freely by our own selves... all of this based on a true love for Jesus, whom we daily seek to encounter!

When your brother has something against you...

"When you know that your brother has something against you, go first, get reconciled and then offer your gifts at the altar."

Going by this dictum of Jesus, He Himself would have never been eligible to offer gifts at the altar. Certainly He did have his share of 'offended brothers', the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Jewish elders, the tax collectors and so on.  Yet He offered Himself as the sacrifice.

In our times, if this is the case, no parent can genuinely come anywhere near the communion line!  How many times do children get 'offended' and sulk.  Do that mean, parents have to ask pardon of their children for preventing them from putting their fingers into the electrical sockets of the house? Or has the mother to seek pardon for forcibly feeding her child, in spite of and through the river of tears flowing from her eyes?  

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Grace isn't free flowing!

I beg to differ from the view that Grace flows!  Flow it does, but not to where I am lazing around in bed!  I need to make that least effort of seeking it.  Take for example all those incidents in the life of Jesus, all those who were cured of their various ailments.  It is true that Jesus cured them. But it is not that Jesus went hunting for them.  He went about and each of them made a valiant effort to place themselves in His path. Some had to stalk Jesus, a few others had to beg and convince Him to heal them.  A few were helped by friends and family.

If Grace was something so free and readily available, as most of us conceive of it, then Jesus would (should) have merely waved His hand and cured them all.  He didn't at all have to leave his carpenter's workshop nor would anyone have to leave their bed!

I suppose this is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer also meant when he spoke of 'cheap grace' and 'costly grace'.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Living Boscos

Manu is going strong with his initiative of Tugboats.  Here's the sixth edition of the same. This issue is basically dedicated to those Salesians who inspired us to envision who and what Don Bosco would have been. Not all have been celebrated, at least those acknowledged by a few...

The Living Boscos!
For me personally, two Salesians who really offered me a very profound glimpse into the life and person of Don Bosco were Fr John Lens and Fr Benjamin Puthota.  Both of whom are now surely enjoying the company of Don Bosco in heaven! God bless them all!

For the back issues, click here.

Doing good

How does one go about with a smiling face and jolly happy-go-lucky style when one knows too well that what is going on around is a total farce and no one wishes to see it so? ...leave alone challenge it?

So I thought of what He did in His times. He knew what people were upto. He also probably knew that He'd end up dead sooner than later. And how did He respond? "He went about doing good!" Did he stop speaking out against those who thought they knew it all, but had it all wrong? Did he make compromises? No, He didn't. Did he stop being who He was? No, He didn't.

So I said to myself as I left the Chapel this morning, "let me do good... good for God, for the community, for myself!" Perhaps in that order!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Truth

From ages past, there have been several methods employed by institutions or structures to silence the truth, especially when uttered by individuals. Jesus himself was not spared of these strategies.

In India, a whistle blower dies sooner than later. He just disappears one day and appears dead on another day!  Neither the media nor the neighbour is aware of who, what  and where! In the West, I have come to realize, there is another tactic adopted. The one who brings to light the truth is discredited in public domain.  He is stripped naked, and every and any of his past mistake is blown beyond proportions.  The media loves it and sooner or later, the truth is buried under a pile of well orchestrated and manipulated mistakes of the individual.  So the truth itself is not tackled, but the bearer of the truth is made to be a liar!

In a religious community, another subtle tactic is adopted.  No one pays heed!  Simple and easily done! The individual is not opposed, or criticized or silenced.  The others just choose to grow deaf!  

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Imagination

Here's one from Fr T.V. Jose's treasury:
Imagine, you come face to face with a ferocious lion.
How would you escape from it? 
... Stop imagining!

Subtle Wisdom

If you want to shrink something, 
you must first allow it to expand. 
If you want to get rid of something, 
you must first allow it to flourish. 
If you want to take something, 
you must first allow it to be given. 
This is called the subtle perception 
of the way things are. 

The soft overcomes the hard. 
The slow overcomes the fast. 
Let your workings remain a mystery. 
Just show people the results. 

(translation by Stephen Mitchell, 1995)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

'Sit' on values

My good friend Cheryl had once stated that every system or structure, after a certain period, during it life cycle would reach a point where there would be only a handful of people upholding it. The vast majority would only be utilising the structure and do nothing substantial to enhance the value or make it really vibrant.  While I held the opinion that the few interested should inspire and motivate the rest to enthuse vibrancy, she was of the opinion that the few should be slaughtered!  Once those who sustain the system are no more, the system would automatically collapse on itself... and from the ruins of those would rise a new vibrant system.  (If a new system does not arise, then it was not worth continuing). It has taken some time for me to realize the truth in this theory.

For most part of my life, I've been 'standing for some values' - that's quite a boast!  What if, I 'sit' for sometime?  

Adventure!

A couple of my students are very cross with me for their dismal marks in the supplementary exam they gave and failed in.  Everytime I come across them on along the corridors, I ask myself, "Are they upset because I failed to do my work or because they failed to do their part of the job?"

Anyway, tough times ahead. I am taking a stand and willing to pay the price for it.  I realize the greatest confusion this is causing is among others who do not wish to take a stand, and even if they do take one, are unwilling to stick to it.

This whole adventure is amusing, stressful and highly volatile - all at the same time.  Hope to make it enriching too! 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Kindness and mediocrity

Kindness without the courage to stand by truth is mediocrity. And merely tolerating mediocrity is no compassion; it is cowardice.  

Monday, 9 February 2015

Prayer drought

It is said that when suffering from acute dehydration, one does not feel thirsty.  In fact, such a person hates water! What irony!  What's most essential and needed is the one that's most rejected and abhorred.

For most of my years as a Salesian I've enjoyed the Community day.  It was always an ocassion for introspection and great rejoicing.  On such occasions never felt dry or hesitant to pray for the community.  There was never a difficulty to lift up the community in prayer, "in spite of it being fine"! However today, at a time when of all other times, I feel my community needs prayers, I cannot get myself to pray!  I very well know how badly this community needs to feel God's presence, and yet I am unable to pray for the same.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Jesus the Baptist

Today in class, while describing about 'drama' and highlighting the characteristics of Shakespeare's drama, I spoke of how Shakespeare had the ability to make characters life-size and not hyperbolic.  To prove the point to the students - and to wake up - I asked one of them to walk from his place to the front like Jesus.  My intention was to show how we caricature Jesus. My point was proved when - he woke up - he walked with one hand on his chest and the other hand in the 'blessing mode'.  So I asked the class, do you really think Jesus walked about in this posture all around?

To further freshen up the student I asked him to deliver a dialogue as if he were Jesus. He did not take long to say, "Repent and believe, the Kingdom of God is at hand!"

We all burst out laughing!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Chastity for women, only?

In another professor's class, a student presenting his seminar paper on the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda, was speaking about his views on chastity.  One of the students found something odd in his paper and presentation and asked for a clarification: "Your paper speaks only about chastity for women. Is it that only women should practice chastity?"  The presented replied, "When women practice chastity, the next generation will become better!"

How I pray that some of those women friends whom I know were present in that class.  I'd have loved to see him 'chastised'! (But no such dangers, the student would have never understood anything of what the ladies would have told him... just as he hardly ever understood of what he was presenting itself!)

Monday, 2 February 2015

Contradiction, Glory and Light

The Gospel reading of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple, speaks of Jesus being the '...light to the world, ... glory of Israel and the sign of contradiction...'.  However we fail to notice that this prophecy of Simeon is fulfilled in the reverse order.  Jesus first proved to be a sign of contradiction - that too a very dangerous one!  Then he was the glory of Isreal, before his name and fame spread throughout the world.  He is thus today the light of the world.

Unfortunately most Christians strive for the first, don't bother about the second and never even mention the last, ... the one about being a sign of contradiction.  Most religious often make the best effort to merely be a sign of confirmation, certainly not a sign of contradiction to anything not belonging to the Kingdom.   

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Preaching Jesus vs Living Jesus

We celebrated the feast of Don Bosco yesterday and the solemn Mass was held before lunch.  The Bishop during the sermon took a jibe at us Salesians when he said that we Salesians speak more of Don Bosco than of Jesus Christ himself.  He further gave examples to endorse his 'view' - if at all, one could call it so.

After the Mass, there was a 20 minute presentation on Don Bosco, and at the conclusion of which the Bishop grabbed the mike and came up the stage and said, "See, didn't I tell you Salesians speak more of Don Bosco than of Christ?  All along this presentation, there was not even a mention of Jesus Christ!"

I was the one who did the presentation and still had the mike in my hand, and I was greatly tempted to retort:  We just spent an hour and half, in Thanksgiving (Holy Mass), commemorating Jesus. What's that?  Why is it that only when one has spoken for hours long, some bullshit, repeating the name of Jesus, without even the slightest of reverence but sheer performance, is that called evangelisation?

It is like accusing a man living in a boat house of not speaking about water.  The very fact that he is living in a boat house speaks volumes of his affinity with water.  Furthermore every decision he makes is consciously and even unconsciously determined by the fact that he is living in a boat house. How does one accuse such a man of not 'speaking' enough about water?

People consider remembering Jesus once in a way and that too in the most dramatic manner possible, more important than living Jesus - especially Priests and religious (Bishops, included)!
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