Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Holy Mass

Reflection for April 30 (Emmaus experience)

Wearied by our daily work, responsibilities, anxieties and tension, the Eucharist offers us an 'Emmaus experience'. In the Eucharist we hear His word and share His Bread. Just like the two disciples who forget all their sorrow and distress, we too are energized when we celebrate the Eucharist, irrespective of our vocation.

Reading and listening to the Gospel and choosing to partake in the Holy Eucharist are ways of saying to the Lord “Stay with us!” The act of sharing our faith with our brethren, like the two disciples, is what builds up the community, where we strengthen one another and build the Kingdom of God. The Mass thus becomes a personal spiritual revitaliser, a fellowship with others and an act of building God's Kingdom. The Mass thereby offers us a holistic revival package: spiritual, psychological, relational (personal and communitarian).

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




Touch

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.

Exam dilemmas

Got this amusing message on whatsapp today from an old school mate.  Posted on the class group, it reminded us of the awkward and very idiotic moments during days of exams...

  • When a bright student tells the invigilator that question 4 has a problem, but you have already answered it!
  • When a fellow student asks for a graph paper, but you are finished and did not see anywhere where it was required.
  • When the invigilator says jump question 6, we will rectify it later, but it was the question you enjoyed most when answering.
  • When you see people are busy using the geometry box gadgets and you are wondering what is going on.
  • When you hear your friends arguing after the exam whether the answer to question 5 was 35.5% or 36.5% and your answer was 1800!
  • When the other students asked for 4-5 additional answer sheets and you had two pages empty in the main answer sheet! 

Had a good laugh recalling those days and moments.

Replacement seeds?

Today Katie and I went to the 'Farm shop' and purchased some tomato seeds.  Thought of trying to grow them in the garden and see what comes of it.  When we reached back home, I burst out laughing and I showed to Katie the following, printed on the seeds packets
Guarantee: Should these seeds fail we will be happy to replace them. 
I suppose they would have had some sort of logic to have them printed but I just don't seem to get it.  How does one replace planted seeds??  Does it mean that if they don't sprout, I'll have to dig them out, search them and then take them back to the store?

Really?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Peace: Trust in the Father

Reflection for April 20

“Peace be with you...”

Jesus' repeated salutation after His resurrection: 'Peace be with you'. Given what those close to Him have gone through and are still going through, this greeting seems a bit odd. They are not troubled but sad. They grieve his absence but are not agitated. And to that add the fright of seeing a 'ghost'! Why peace then? Perhaps the way Jesus lived His life holds the key.

Jesus was always tranquil and serene. Never too excited about anything or too depressed. There was a sense of balance and equilibrium, not only in His actions but in His words and thoughts too. Even in the garden of Gethsemane when very well aware of what lay before Him, He did not lose it. His trust in the Father was so great that He knew it would all be fine. Peace is what fills ones heart when there is an underlying trust that no matter what and how things appear on the surface, there is a foundation that stands strong. No matter how sad, stressful, uncertain and hopeless the present moment seems, the Father will take care. He is at work and therefore I can rest
.

News - Reality - inverted

Ever wondered why our news bulletins or newspapers begin with the most sensational 'bad' news?  Not just sensational but it has to be serious, mostly bordering shock and surprise, not pleasant, almost always about politics... All those events which do not qualify with the above characteristics are either not considered news or at the most given some page 12 corner space or the last one line announcement before the weather report.  And if it is a really really good act of some individual affecting someone's life in a very meaningful manner, and if at all the editors decide to air it, or print, it would be a once-a-way exception to conclude the news bulletin - "Oh, so cute and fuzzy!"

Well, one might say that it is how it has always been.  However, news is not merely about what happens, but how what happens is presented to have happened.  Most of what we hear, see, read and come across in our 'official' news channels is all coloured, biased and filtered.  No doubts about that. But why has it to be always so depressing and worrying.  Makes the world, the reality, as a whole, appear so.  Where is the balancing and good-will factor that overweighs it all?  Media not only presents reality, it builds reality in our minds.

Imagine a news bulletin which begins with the heroic, meaningful acts of some individual or a group, which positively alters the lives of others, either individually or in large numbers. Imagine if the depressing and shocking news is offered as a tailpiece.  What if the paradigm is inverted? Imagine what news reporters and journalists would then be after.  What would be the focus of the camera lens and the pen of a journalist?  Would it also not be the focus of the viewer, the reader and the consumer?  

No food

Food, clothing and shelter are considered the most basic of human needs.  Of these, food and water are considered a must for mere survival.  Now the rest of all human wants and needs are additional, in this sense.

The case in South Sudan is very weird.  There is civil war raging for years now.  There is also extreme famine that is plaguing the population.  What I really don't understand is how come a nation has arms and ammunition but no food?  That means the country in investing the little it has in purchasing ammunition.  If it is not, there are people supplying it for an exchange.  Either way, guns and ammunition and knives are far readily available than essential commodities.

If only those supplying or selling arms could start distributing food and essentials, they'd atleast be people still living.  Collectively the war and famine, will certainly leave no one alive!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Accompaniment

Reflection for April 19

The 'Emmaus account' has a typically Salesian flavour. It is basically an excellent summary of genuine accompaniment. To be like the risen Lord who walks along with the disciples. Lovingly and patiently accompanying those entrusted to one's care, listening and responding to them in ways and idioms that they understand. At the same time always challenging them to go deeper. Spiritually it is a pilgrimage of which the centre and focal point is the encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, experienced not merely at the altar but on the dusty path, in the open. It is also an experience that becomes the springboard and launching pad for ministry even when it means hitting the road in the dark of the night, for the light is within.

Sincerity, redefined

Read this article on sincerity and politics, the other day on Aeon.

The main argument is about the notion of sincerity being the hallmark of modern politics and what was quite surprising for me was that it had nothing to do with truth!  So one could be sincere even if one did not base oneself on truth, or if the belief about which one is sincere is shallow or even without reasons.  It has nothing to do with correctness, good or right, integrity...

Somewhere halfway through the author makes a distinction between authenticity and sincerity.
According to Trilling, in the 19th century, authenticity superseded sincerity as the system to signal the alignment of outer life and inner belief. Authenticity, he claimed, destroyed sincerity’s logic of conformity and coherence between inside and outside, the self and the world. Instead, authenticity privileged the way in which such factors as love, hate, fear or contempt, which really shaped human beings, broke through the artifice of everyday life and transformed it. In other words, rather than sincerity’s task of matching practices with beliefs, authenticity was about acknowledging deep and primal forces, even allowing them on occasion to destroy social norms, so as to create altogether new ones.
Today, sincerity is no longer defined by conformity. Sincerity rather presupposes the elimination of an inner life, the same inner life required for generating either authenticity or conformity. With the disappearance of inner life, one of the traditional hiding places of truth has also ceased to exist.
Then the notions of hypocrisy, doubt, post-truth, inner life (as contrasted to public life), objectivity, reality... too are discussed but strangely in a totally different sense.

The article attributes Donald Trump's popularity to his sincerity.  For me it appeared to mean that he had no filters.  That's what people like about him.  That he changes his mind, he has no basis, certainty about facts or figures, is not important, but that he is frank and open.  Even if he has to say exactly the opposite of what he said the previous day, is fine, as long as he is clear about it now.

Strange notion of sincerity! 

Chertsey bloom

Some more new things in nature - new to me, but usual for everyone, including the plants and flowers!

This one has a peculiar bloom: there appears a 'bud' at least that's what it appears. But instead there are leaves coming out of the flower and then there is a sort of 'fruit' too! 



The Cherry blossom bloom lighting up not just the skyline but the grass below!




A creeper with some lavender coloured flowers

A plant in bloom adjacent the Chertsey museum...
In most of the plants the flowers are now giving way to fresh leaves. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

A personal call

Reflections for April 18

“Rabboni...”

Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus when He calls her by her name. It is in that face-to-face encounter with Jesus that Mary realises Jesus. And when she relays this incident and Jesus' message to the others they hardly believe her. Besides the fact that all of this was totally new and too much for their grief-stricken moment, it is also indicative of what a 'call' is: a personal invitation, not a common information.

Most often we mortals are so lost in our day-to-day lives that we barely hear His voice or call. Even at times when we are frantically searching for His will, just like Mary desperately pleads with the 'gardener' for Jesus' body, we do not recognize Him. That's because we have an image of Jesus that we are fixated with. Anything different from that would not be considered. Only those who have the patience to sift through human appearances, fixated ideas and pre-meditated results, will be able to hear His call – a call that is personal.

Moreover, Jesus did not entrust some monumental task Mary... just a simple message to be conveyed! That done well, is mission accomplished. To look for a great role, a grand activity is to miss the point of a call.

Eastworth blooom

One of key landmarks closest to our Salesian house is the Eastworth building.  It is some sort of company and has plenty of Chinese working therein.  As I walk through its footpath across to the town centre and the beyond, there are these trees on either side which were barren for all these months.  Now they are in full bloom.

From far, they're not really noticeable, but from close they look beautiful.

Treasures in water

A month, I read about a particular river tributary in France which was cleaned up by its residents.  They found all sorts of things once their stopped the water flow and reached its bed.  Two wheelers, cycles, watches, phones, even weapons and practically all sorts of household articles, some dating back a century old.

There is a particular tributary of Thames flowing through the town and everytime I walk past it I see something or the other in the waters, which certainly isn't supposed to be there.  And most often it is typically at the same spot, near the bridge.  The other day it was a sign board!  Wonder if the ducks were following the one-way sign.

Last time I saw a traffic cone, in the same spot. Earlier it was stand of some sort.  

Left of the road

In some parts of England there are elections coming up, mostly local councils I believe.  Luckily, there are no flex boards put up on every turn and post or mass rallies taken out.  However, there are leaflets delivered by hand in everyone's postbox.  These flyers also list the priority areas that would be taken up for betterment by respective candidates or parties.  In one of these I found a particular person campaigning for better roads.  Really!??
By any comparison, with roads back at home in India, roads here in the UK are near perfect. So when this particular campaign stresses on the need to repair roads, I'm totally lost.  However, the leaflet also carried an interesting statement:
In ____ we do not drive on the left of the road but on what's left of the road! 
I guess if this were in an Indian context, it would be
Road? Where's it?  

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Do not be afraid

Reflection for April 17

“Do not be afraid...”

Jesus after His resurrection appears to several people, either individuals or in small groups. In each of these instances, He reassures them and strengthens their faith. For each of those members He entrusts a mission. It is not a hurried command, rather a gentle reminder of what was already said during his ministry.

For those who had the fortune to see Jesus after His resurrection, it was a life-changing experience. Most of these people already had been with Jesus during his lifetime, but to see Him again after resurrection was a great boost to their spirit. Every word of His is now treated with great care and respect. Everyone is in awe and great thrill.

Post-resurrection, the faith of the apostles and the disciples takes a new turn. It is filled with great enthusiasm and a certain thrill. We Christians when referred to as an 'Alleluia people' means exactly that have and radiate a charm, a divine flame of enthusiasm and thrill. All of this is not because we have seen a dead man come to life, but because we are enveloped by Jesus and His spirit is our strength.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Easter monument

Easter Sunday (Readings: April 16, 2017)
A king, loved by all his subjects, died early in life in a freak accident. To perpetuate his memory, a monument was raised in his capital city. This monument was special, for it never was completed. The reason for leaving it incomplete was explained by the words inscribed around the base: “In memory of our beloved king, who died before his work was finished.”
Our King, Christ the Lord, did complete His work! Are we, as His disciples, going to erect an unfinished monument? Or are we willing to be living monuments of His magnanimity? The choice is ours!

The Resurrection is not the end, nor is it the beginning, but it is the end of the beginning.

Easter hope

Easter Sunday (April 16, 2017)

Easter is a celebration of hope. Breaking open from His tomb Jesus shows us that no difficulties or challenges can overcome us completely. Hope is always a good thing. And no good thing ever dies. It is lack of hope that actually imprisons us and saps all enthusiasm and energy.

The resurrection reminds us of the hope that is never to be lost. It opens our hearts to the reality of this world, a reality that can always be made better than what it is today. Easter offers us hope to embark on this journey. Most importantly Easter challenges us to open our hearts to Jesus. To let Him burst forth through us. That so touched by the Lord and filled with Him, our hearts, like the tomb, cannot but open up and spill Jesus into the lives of all those around us.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Holy Saturday: Silence

Holy Saturday marks the death of God. The day is akin to an eerie silence that pervades all around us and everything is still. Bereft of all plans, all hopes, of everything we had, we stand still. Not sure what next. It is like Saul after he was blinded after his encounter with the Lord near Damascus. Utterly helpless. Not sure what the future holds. Not convinced of the past one has lived. Yet it is these days that mark the conversion of Saul to Paul. His introspection where he has nothing to claim his own or anything for sure is what paves the way for his transformation. Holy Saturday offers us the same tomb-experience. Of being silent. Of being still.

As Christians, we often kill this experience or brush past this opportunity for the silence is haunting. We prefer the sentimentality of Good Friday or the thrill of Easter Sunday. The stillness of Holy Saturday is too demanding. Yet one is challenged to live it. Imagine the state of the apostles, of Jesus' disciples, of Mother Mary. They did not have the assured guarantee of the Sunday resurrection. They lived through the Holy Saturday and therefore Easter meant more than Jesus' resurrection to them. It paved the way for their own transformation too.

The stiff cross

Every year the veneration of the cross, on Good Friday offers me an amusing experience.  The most vivid is the one while I was in Shillong. There were thousands of people for the service in Mawlai parish. It was held in the school playground and it was packed.  When the time for the veneration of the cross came, there were several crosses that were used.  However, very many refused to budge from the line which had the biggest cross - even when there were none at the other crosses!!

Today during the kissing of the cross, one senior gentleman almost smooched the cross. Then he looked around a bit and extended his hand. Wasn't too sure if he wanted to receive a blessing or just extend a handshake.  I wasn't even sure if he was drunk or plain old age. I smiled. However, I smiled not at him but at the priest who was nearest.  I know this priest to be very strict about rules and rubrics.  He absolutely does not like changes, certainly not the last minute ones.  And while this senior person was doing all this, he was stiff - more stiff than the wooden cross he was holding!! 

Walk of witness

Instead of the usual way of the cross, there was this inter-denominational 'Walk of witness' this morning. It was a joint venture of the three churches in Chertsey: the Catholic, the Anglican and the Community Church.

Unlike the grand processions or even the simple ones I've been part of this was hardly a walk!  From the Chertsey Abbey fields to Sainsbury and from there to St Peter's for the final service. We commenced with a hymn, an short reflection (3 mins) at Sainsbury and a hymn, then turned round towards St Peter's.  At St Peter's there was a service, a 'long' (by any English standards) service about Adam and Christ.  For once, the hymns were more lively and resounding.
St Peter's Church, Chertsey
For a combined service, the total of 100 people was too little. I guess most preferred to pray at home!! Anyway, most people kept chatting along the walk, which by the way was not more than 20 minutes.  But there were quite a few elderly who struggled to walk, but walked all the way round.  That was quite inspiring.  I think this is the first time in my life that I've not participated in a community way of the cross - not that I didn't, there wasn't one!  This walk of witness was the closest, for this year.

For that matter, I remembered the Procession Bah of Shillong.  Lakhs of people walking in perfect silence, at times singing, praying ... all very devout and in a prayerful mood.  Karunapuram and Kondadaba too there is the way of the cross and procession, but the former has mostly students who always know not what is going on, except that everyone is walking in lines. And as is the case with children, they have to have some fun while walking in lines!  

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Washing of the hands

As I entered the Church for the Maundy Thursday service, I did not find any arrangements for the washing of the feet.  Wouldn't have been too surprised if that part was skipped altogether!

Then was wondering would there be any washing of the feet at all.  Because we'd need warm water, (the climate being cold), then the issue of smelly feet and socks.  Anyway, we instead had the washing of the hands and everyone was involved.  The alter servers stood before the sanctuary with a bowl of water, a small cup and a towel. The priests began and then helped the next person by pouring the water on his/her hands and wiping it.  That person then did the same for the next person.  And so it went on.

A symbolic gesture and meaningful too... involving everyone.

The watching

Sitting for the "watching" after the Maundy Thursday service in silence, I could empathize with the apostles that original night.  The apostles had no clue of what was coming.  The subtle hints that Jesus dropped on them made absolutely no sense to them.  Neither was Jesus direct and forthright with them.  They really did not expect anything like this to happen - at least they weren't too observant of the politics around.

The only difference between them and me was that I was not one bit sleepy.  I've really turned into a sort of owl - awake by night and sleepy by day.  For the rest, I think, there was no difference between me and them.  Never really could dwell on what is coming about tomorrow and the rest! 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Called to love and serve

Reflection for Maundy Thursday (April 13, 2017)

By washing the feet of his apostles, Jesus offers them one of his last practical lessons in apostleship: service. As this particular act goes hand in hand with the institution of the Eucharist, it also gets endorsed by the command, 'Do this in my memory'. The tradition of washing the feet of 12 persons on this day is more than a dramatization of what Jesus did at the last supper. It is to be a response to the command of humble service.

Priesthood, then is seen not merely as means of sharing love and the sacrament, but that of service too. A priest, by his very consecration, is called to love and serve. He is called to do it with and for a divine purpose, much higher than mere human respect and feelings. Unless this divine dimension is perceived by those whom we serve, we fail in our mission as apostles.

To be true to one's vocation of priesthood is to be true men of prayer and service. These two dimensions are not to be seen as different or one following the other. They are so intertwined that one flows into the other. Jesus, even in his last moments on earth, shows how deeply these two aspects are inter-related while in the Upper room.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

El Lute (Boney M)

The only song that I remember from my childhood days that caught my attention for its lyrics was El Lute (Boney M).  The two things that caught my attention then (and even now) were:
He taught himself to read and to write...
With a price on his head, people still gave him bread...

Eleuterio Sanchez Rodriquez, known as El Lute, was at one time listed as Spain's 'most wanted' criminal.  He was a legendary Spanish outlaw who escaped several times from prison after being convicted and sentenced at age 23 to 30 years for murder.  While in prison, he learned to read, earned a law degree, and became a writer, continuing to protest his innocence of the charges.  He was pardoned and released on June 20, 1981, at the age of 39.  

Read more (on wikipedia)

Chiquitita (Abba)

For some strange reason, remembered this song ... Chiquitita sung by Abba.  Remember hearing it as a boy at home.  Papa had an audio cassette and this was one of my favourites.

This and Fernando.  Somehow the music was gripping!


Salesian gardens (2)

Among the wild growth of our front porch, slowly some lovely flowers and colours are creeping out...


Judas, the non-anonymous

Reflection for April 12, 2017

Judas, often exemplified, as the devil incarnate or the evil one is just a mortal human being like you and me. That he was chosen as an apostle indicates that Jesus found something special in him. He certainly wasn't a criminal or a good for nothing guy.
Judas is neither a master of evil nor the figure of a demoniacal power of darkness but rather a sycophant who bows down before the anonymous power of changing moods and current fashion. But it is precisely this anonymous power that crucified Jesus, for it was anonymous voices that cried, 'Away with him! Crucify him!' [Pope Benedict XVI]
Thus Judas was not the only reason why Jesus was caught. He only happens to be the only one with a name among the crowd of the anonymous. While anonymous charity can be read as humility, anonymous plotting of evil is cowardice. Where do we wish to stand: among the anonymous crowd or as one with a voice and a face, willing to take responsibility?

Monday, 10 April 2017

Persons beyond actions

Reflection for April 11, 2017: To see the person beyond the action

Jesus' attitude towards Judas is noteworthy. Here is the man who has already betrayed Him, yet Jesus does not throw any tantrum or make a scene out of Judas' pretense. He does not chastise him or humiliate him for his choices. He does not grumble about Judas to the other apostles when he is gone from the room. Jesus is also aware of Peter's betrayal by denial. Yet He still treats them both with dignity and respect.

We may say, it is because Jesus was God, He could be so gracious. But it is the same Jesus who cried out in agony in the garden of Gethsemane asking that if possible, he be spared the suffering. To feel such agony and at the same time not hold it against someone or anyone requires great vision and openness of the heart. It does not come all at once. One needs constantly to make such decisions in small matters of life, to achieve such equanimity at moments of great intensity.

Responding immediately to betrayal or hurt feelings by being angry is natural. Yet Jesus shows through his words and deeds that there are other ways of responding too, when others hurt us deeply… to see the person beyond his or her actions.

Cure is the poison

Am reading stuff related to the World wars, the guerrilla warfare and the more recent war on terror... part history, part politics.

One particular author, Joseph Conrad while writing about the The Hague 'Peace' conventions of 1898 and 1907 speaks of them as the "solemnly official recognition of the Earth as a House of Strife".  In its pursuit of peace, to limit and 'humanize' war, the Hague convention, began the codification of warfare.  Not only did it drastically cut down the goal of peace from well-being to non-war, but also create of a category of illegal, illegitimate warfare by listing down how warfare should be carried out.

One might argue that it was only trying to reduce the extent of damage by drawing boundaries of acceptable behaviour.  However, it reduced itself from establishing peace to resolving conflicts... the latter being only a part of the former.  The League of Nations did the same.  Wonder if the United Nations is doing any better?

This is a typical example of how a cure is worse than the disease itself.

Our relationship issue


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Extended daytime

Here in Chertsey (UK), not more than two months ago, it used to get dark by 4.30 pm and the street lights would come on by then.  And now?  Even at 8.30 pm it is still bright!  Even granting the change to Summer time (one hour forward), the difference of more than 3 hours stands out.  My first experience of changes in daytime was when I reached Nashik (way back in 1998). Being on the west coast of India, the sun was seen longer.  But this here is nothing compared to that.

Honestly does not make much difference for most people, I guess because life goes on by the clock rather than the sun. But I do see quite a few people take advantage of this striking extension of daytime.  It may also have to do with the fact that it is partly holiday time for schools and educational institutions, but nonetheless... there are more people out for walks, in the open places.  With the cold not that bad, the layers of clothing also have receded.  But even with this being called summer, the temperature is hardly above 20c.  That's winter in India!! 

Relationship

Reflection for April 10, 2017

Mary anoints the feet of Jesus. It is quite a transformation from the one who stayed back at home when her brother Lazarus died and did not go out to meet Jesus when she heard that He was coming. Only when Martha tells her that the Lord is asking for her does she go out to meet Jesus.

Most people think that to serve God is to forget about the world altogether. That primacy of God demands denial of everything else. It does not. Mary loved Jesus and she was preferred to be with Him. The earlier instance of Martha complaining that Mary wasn't helping her in serving and this particular one of her anointing his feet and then wiping them with her hair, are acts of pure concern and adoration. But her love for Jesus never stood in the way of her love and concern for her own brother Lazarus. Her mourning at his loss was so deep that she did not really take notice of Jesus' arrival, until Jesus himself calls her.

Our relationship with God never diminishes or distracts us from the need of our neighbours. If at all, it only makes us more sensitive and involved in the lives of those around us.

Salesian gardens

Have been working in our garden for the past couple of days and am surprised at some of the plants I noticed. Of course, earlier they were all either underground (bulbs) or as dry as a bone!  However, with the spring they are all taking their colours and shapes and they look lovely!

True to our address 'Salesian Gardens'...
 This one has some sort of light purple flowers.  Didn't notice them till I went close by!

 This one is a creeper and has just started flowering.  

This one is really strange! Its flower is as green as its leaves! It clearly gets camouflaged in its surroundings.



The following plant itself stands out when viewed in the continuity of other green plants. It has bright purple flowers.
 This one too looks great.  The whole plant stands out as its leaves are thin and almost bright red in colour.
 These blue bells look good but the creeper is a real pest! Plan to get rid of it altogether!  Not only is it spread all along the fence but has weaved itself through every flowerpot.  Yes, literally weaved itself through quite a few flower pots - from underneath and once grown, through the bottom of another!!
  And as always is the case, the best flowers are growing not in the garden but on the pavement outside the garden... like this one below!
But I still haven't got a clue as to which of these plants is a weed and which is a real garden plant, for even weeds flower, and some of them are beautiful! 
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