Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tis the night the Saviour was born...

There came upon a starlight
When the Saviour of man
Chose to be born

When hope, joy and peace
Came to us in a babe of swaddling cloth
The angels rejoiced, Shepards thrilled, wise men searched and one, yes one seeked to kill

But in the cold opulence and crass consumerism of open malls and red nosed reindeers
Did you hear the babe cry?
Did you see the heavens rent open and angels come down?

Did you hear the heralds? Did you see the star in the East? Did you wait for the Father's promise come true?
Our God with Us is fulfilled this very night again.

Christmas is not about us or even about others but it is about the Christ child and his humility and the unfathomable Love of the Father.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Happy and Holy Death

This week saw the death of a much beloved nana. She lived to 93 and witnessed the marriage of many of her grandchildren. She was blessed with Hannah's heart when she gave up her only son to become a full-time lay missionary. Nana continued to live with him surrounded by his missionary community, in the same house where she raised her 8 children till she breathed her last, peacefully in her sleep.

She lived a full life in the midst of her loved ones and close to her Lord and saviour. 

It was a good death indeed...

I believe that a good peaceful death is a gift from God. One that we must ardently pray for irrespective of one's age. Some of us may be elevated to die as martyrs but for those of us who are elected to not to, a peaceful death must be our aim. A good death is also the fruit of a long and perilous journey, it requires life-long preparation... like a successful marriage.

Here is an excerpt from a beautiful article on MercatorNet which describes a death that I would love to have ...
...the phone rang. It was from my niece in Ireland, to tell me that my older brother, Johnny, who had been taken into hospital a few days earlier with what they thought was a problematic lung infection, was not responding to treatment; he was now in a very critical condition. I instantly dropped what I was doing and caught the next plane to Cork. I arrived late the same night. Early the next morning, All Souls Day, I went to the Bon Secours hospital where he was lying in the intensive care unit. There was my dear brother, only a year older than me, who had stayed with me only a fortnight before and with whom I shared so many memories of the past, now lying helpless and struggling to breathe, with an oxygen helmet on his head and surrounded by bleeping and flashing machines.
But he was also entirely conscious and completely at peace. The first thing he said to me (he had been an army officer for thirty years and had always described himself as a “bluff soldier”) was, “I think courage and dignity are required right now”, with a wry smile. The second was, “Do you remember Churchill’s last words?” I quoted them. We had both shared a great interest in Churchill’s life and I was always looking out for memorabilia relating to him to give to Johnny. I reminded him now that my best find had been a 1940s biscuit tin at our local waste disposal dump, decorated with the key quotes from Churchill’s wartime speeches.
The third thing he said was, “A friar in sockless sandals came round earlier and, to use an old-fashioned word, he has shriven me.” He then told me the hymns he wanted at his funeral, the simple inscription for his grave – no mention of honours or army rank – and the words for a memorial card. They were from St Thomas More, and Johnny recalled his own father, to whom he had been very close, telling them to him: “Do thou pray for me and I will pray for thee, that we may meet merrily in heaven.” The word “merrily” particularly mattered to him. He always had a great, if sometimes mordant, sense of humour, and heaven had to be a merry place. When someone placed a blanket over his feet so they wouldn’t be cold, he said with a characteristic smile, “Don’t worry, they will be the first to burn”.
These little conversations and remarks went on for most of the day. Johnny’s children never left his side. My brother and sister joined us. A palliative care doctor came by and gently indicated that his lung capacity was decreasing and that his oxygen levels were dropping. A nurse quietly and sensitively monitored the situation, explaining to us that they would only give him morphine when his breathing had clearly become very distressed. A young lay pastor came and prayed a decade of the Rosary with us. A huge plate of sandwiches materialised from nowhere in the relatives’ waiting room. The sockless friar (a Capuchin) came back with Communion, the nurse opened a small aperture in Johnny’s “helmet” and he received a fragment of the Host with great reverence and recollection. He called for a sip of cordial and managed to suck a tiny amount with a straw. He also had a spoonful of ice cream. He made it clear that he didn’t need any more food.
At four in the afternoon he was asked if he would like some morphine to ease his, by now, very laboured breathing. He said “Yes” quite firmly. The doctor explained that the oxygen helmet was no longer of any use and it was gently removed. The machines were then unplugged and Johnny was made comfortable. He fell asleep. We all stayed with him, talked to him, sang to him, held his hands and stroked his head until, an hour later, he drew his last breath. My younger brother turned to me and said in a voice of awe, “What a mystery death is!” I thought of a favourite remark of Johnny’s, which he had repeated to me only a couple of hours before: “There are no pockets in a shroud.”The Capuchin returned and reminded us that All Souls Day was a wonderful day to die on. The palliative care nurse wept along with us all. I remembered that Johnny had chosen St Joseph, patron of a happy death, as his Confirmation saint and had always had a special love for him. In fact he had named a succession of his boyhood tortoises “Joseph” in the saint’s honour. In his last hours St Joseph had not deserted him.
I have described Johnny’s dying in this detail – and what a privilege it was to have witnessed such a death, his last loving legacy to his family – to show the kind of experience we would all wish for: sensitive and attentive care, spiritual and medical, by all the staff and the vital opportunity for Johnny to make his own inimitable farewells. It is a memory that his children and the rest of us will carry until our own dying day...Johnny died, as he said, in the country he loved and surrounded by the people he loved; “My faith, my family and my friends are what matter to me” he told us in his soldierly fashion. In the intensive care unit of the Bon Secours hospital, with its Catholic ethos and atmosphere – a crucifix on the wall and a statue of Our Lady in the corridor – patients are treated as children of God: “Johnny is in God’s hands” the nurse said as she monitored him. It makes all the difference – in life and in death.
And Johnny’s own last words, before he slipped into unconsciousness?
“I am very happy now.” 
To die a holy death, at peace with one's neighbour and God  is a blessing indeed. 

O to die in the arms of Mary and Jesus...

St.Joseph, patron of happy and holy death
Ora pro nobis

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Song of Hope...

"To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted." - Titus 1:15

 I found this true, time and again; especially when exposed to secular media, films and music. Numerous were the times I heard the Lord sing and coo to me through the din. Numerous too, were the times my mind was dulled from perceiving the evil therein. 

I like to believe that I am protected and my Father sings songs of gladness over me. 

Some of the most beautiful lessons I learnt were from sources far, far from religious or spiritual.

The most distant memory that comes to me (considering that my memory is like a sieve) is of my watching the undeniably morbid movie, The English Patient. Lust, adultery, fornication and lies abound in that love-in-the-time-of-WWII film. But this is what I remember most- the scene where the lady-much-desired and her (cuckold) husband were flying their two-seater propeller jet to their dug-out site in the North African wasteland, where the lady's lover was waiting to be picked up. The affair was broken off by then and the husband knew that he was cheated upon, though he did not reveal it to his wife or the friend/lover. As the plane descended, the husband's feral rage took over and he tried to drive the jet into the lover, hoping to kill all of them together. Instead, the husband dies instantly, the wife gets mortally wounded and perishes in the desert and the lover dies much later, a victim of euthanasia, broken-hearted, burnt beyond recognition and a traitor. The film treated the entire story very romantically... but all I heard, was a still soft voice saying- The wages of sin is death.

God did not need to meet out their punishment. Their own flawed decision set into motion the wheels of fate which they could not stop and led to their untimely destruction, and that of others as well. I felt sorry for them... I really did; but it brought home to me the truth that death was not just metaphorical; it was real and concrete. 

Then there was Avatar. Who can forget the memorable Na'vi greeting- 'I see you.', which is to see into another, to truly look into their souls. How poignantly it reminded me of Psalm 139 ...

Then there is the other side of the spectrum. When evil warps the imagination, nothing then can remains innocent. Before predators became, there was the thought, the fantasy that foreshadowed it. There are those who after encountering the Light, now practice extreme abstinence, not out penance but out the desire for protection. It doesn't  take much to awake the old demons...

The Lord often does deliver them but sometimes he desires to strengthen their will by asking of strong measures.

St. Augustine knew of it. St Paul remarked of it when he spoke of the thorn in his flesh . 

But take heart, in the end, Grace and one's love of Jesus will see one through...

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Mustard seed of Faith

 God does not make mistakes!
That is the Truth and Truth it is. The catch is whether we believe it or not. Not believe it being the Truth but believe Truth (who is God) about Himself. 

So, we all believe in God and as Jesus so poignantly said- Even the demons believe in God

They just don't trust Him.

And so, when one does introspect, "Do I believe that God does not make mistakes?", it is the simplified version of, "Do I trust God never to mess up even after all the mess I created for myself?"

This 'Parent' question spawns numerous off-springs like, why does God allow children to suffer from cancer? Why are there so many wars? Or closer home- Why me, Lord?

...a dim echo of, 'Could God have made a mistake?' 

Your really don't have to search your memory to recall instances of people asking you this question in retrospection  They pose it as a rhetoric and they really don't expect an answer. There isn't one, they think; seeing the situation they are locked in. 

And what about the many times we have whispered it to ourselves in the secret recesses of our soul? 

My times-of-distress teaser was a simple- Lord, where are you?

I never expected an answer... because I believed He did NOT have an answer.

Then something happened that made me wonder...

The week that was, was a roller-coaster. A high and a low and a low. It was a difficult, difficult time, especially for a person like me who does not like change or a disturbance in my daily rhythm. I don't remember if I threw one of my posers at God but I definitely was wondering what on earth was happening. Somewhere in the middle of the week, I received a card from a close friend in Canada. It was posted weeks ago to a common friend and was waiting to be received. I just didn't have the time to collect it. It finally found its way to my hands through a fellow choir member and I opened it...

It was small-ish, simple card, with a caricature on the cover. On the inside was my pals' neat, tidy handwriting on the two facing sides. Then there, right at the bottom of card was this printed verse from Daniel...

"God loves you very much."

I nearly wept...

In all the Bible, that was my favourite verse. I never told it to anyone. I loved that verse before I even knew how to read the Bible. It called to me as no other verse ever did. My favourite Bible meditation was to imagine myself in Daniel's shoes and hear the salutation, 'Daniel! God loves you' over and over and over again.

Fear not! God loves you...

He knew my soul even before that week arrived. He timed it to reach my hands at the opportune time. He sent his Spirit to remind me... He does not make mistakes.

Though it is not quite the correct response to my, 'Lord, where are you?' cry; it is the best One. 

What I am going through, is well and foreseen. Even in the midst of the chaos I created for myself and for others, He does not make mistakes. There are no wrong judgement calls and there is disaster-recovery for Him. 

The Light has shone in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Return of the Eldest Son

 “There was once a man who had two sons." 

I had read the story of the prodigal son a very many time and heard beautiful homilies from the pulpit a thousand times over... but the story never sang to me.

One was the elder and one was the younger.
There was the obedient and there was the rebel.

Even after my heart's conversion; I knew I had walked the prodigal son's broken path and came home after much barrenness... but even then the story never spoke to me.

My selfishness and arrogance, I was aware. I still remember the times I told the Father, the ancient curse behind my demand for independence- I wish you were dead.

But the Love of God rescued me and I felt the soft mantle of the Father's robe as I pressed my heart into His. Then I heard his agonizing cry...

"My heart won't let me do it, my Love for you is too strong

I continued my journey with God till I finally saw the Eldest Son was I. 

"but this son of yours..."

I am the eldest in my family and I know better than others the heavy responsibility to care for the younger while young myself. I knew better than others the pain of being favoured under and disciplined harsher. In my minds eye,  I saw it run through out the Bible, I saw younger being greatly loved. Jacob over Esau, Joseph apart from his 11 brothers, David ahead his brothers,  Mary before Martha and John, beloved of the Lord. 

The Eldest Son, did all things right and true to his father, so much so he despised his brother for having made the foolish choice. Deep in his heart, it was not the property but laud he gave himself for adhering to his father's rule. Such self-discipline is truly admirable but it made him proud. It gave him a seat of judgement, a throne. His brother's disobedience, heightened his obedience. He never waited with his father for his brother's return.

And many were the times, I judged others. Not consciously but in my attitude. Protestants with dodgy theology, homosexuals, casanovas and weak-willed politicians... my brothers who I despised. My own who I could not acknowledge as mine. Who I begrudged the Father's patience and his mercy.

But the Father loved them both

This is where the parable began to make sense to me. The Father asks for one thing and one thing alone- Love. 

The father in the parable was already old and infirm,nearly blind, he had already died a thousand deaths and waited for his lost son to return. To a man who has seen death face to face, the past and hoary remembrances do not matter. Only the beloved does. The light of his eyes was gone, but the light of his spirit had grown acute. In his very spirit, he sensed his son's return.  With this light, he saw his youngest from afar. 

I only saw the erring and the fallen. Coming into the Light helps you recognise the obvious which those who are steeped in sin do not. My calling was to love them into return. My calling was to love the wounded who did not how how to return. My calling was to rejoice with the Father when my lost brother returned. But for that I needed to love into dying to myself. Like the Father who loved man so much as to give up his greatest Love, his only Son to redeem us. 

It is the paradox of love, when you have lost everything, you have everything to give. When one is nothing, then one can love truly those who are nothing. 

When I understood this, I returned to the banquet to celebrate my brother's return.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Suffer little children

I read this article about a man named Ken, who was conceived in an act of rape. 

His mother was 15, unmarried and alone.

This is his story... 

Ken explained that he was adopted as an infant, and at age 30, located his birth mother and learned the circumstances of his conception.
“Her story was that she was hit over the head with a baseball bat and was raped at 15. So she went away to Catholic Charities, had me, made the brave decision to keep me — and, well, keep me alive. And then I was adopted and I have three beautiful children now, have been married for 15 years – and I would just like to speak up for those [voice breaks] who have no voice.” 
Ken defended both women who are the victims of rape, and their innocent children who are conceived in violence: “It really eats me up when I hear people talk about rape, because it is horrible. My mother won’t tell me who my father’s name is because he threatened to kill her if she ever said anything. So she has not told me his name, but if I was ever to meet him, the first thing I would probably do is punch him. I think rape is horrible, but what I want to say to women out there is: you can take something that was terribly done to you, and make something good out of it. And that’s, [voice breaks] that’s me.”
Ken talked about growing up in a loving adoptive home – his parents had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary — and how he shares a relationship with his birth mother, her husband, and their children (his half-siblings). He expressed gratitude for his birth mother’s going through so much to give him life. He admired how she rebuilt her life after her assault, pregnancy, and adoption placement, saying: “That was a hard time in her life. She sacrificed a lot….But she moved on in her life, and she was able to overcome the shame that was put on her.”
He urged people to see that children conceived in rape are just as human, just as “real”, as everyone else.
“It’s an emotional topic because I just get tired of people treating these unborn children like they’re, like they’re nothing. And they can be born, and they can grow up, and they can have a great life.”

Most of all, they are human beings...

More than 2000 years ago, there was another girl, maybe younger who found herself with a child and chose to have him. 

His name was Jesus and his mother was, Mary. 

"I have called you by name; you are mine!" Is 43:1

He was still a toddler when He and his parents had to flee from their town. The ruler of that land gave the order to massacre all male chidren, 2 years and under.

Strange! The blindness of not recognising the humanity of a child within the womb can well extend into their early years. The rage of a tyrant wiped out an entire generation in his state

I was born in the 80's. Many of my generation never lived to be born because they were considered less-than-human. They called it choice then, now it's some sort of 'right'.

How come no one ever recognises the unborn for what they truly are- a Gift, a Blessing, a Ray of Hope?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Season of Waiting

There is a season of waiting...

The Good Book makes much of this season. It begins with the waiting for the Messiah just after the Fall and it end with the waiting for the return of The King.

Abraham waiting a hundred years for Isaac to be, is lot of time. But 40 years of wandering about in a desert to reach the Promised Land is enough to make one cry. 

And yes, the desert. Why does it always have to be in the desert?

The strange thing about this desert is that it's not necessarily geographical. Jonah's desert was a the belly of a whale. A Whale! Have any of you ever got a chance to sniff the breadth of a blue whale!
Jesus had his desert in a garden.
The Mother of God had her's for three days in the house of John, son of Zebedee, before she saw her Son after she laid him in the tomb. 
And some of us find this desert in our very souls. A dryness that companionship and prayer does nothing to elevate.

Even the Saviour was alone in his waiting

And then there is the waiting... 

I personally dislike having to wait- whether be it in queues or for websites to load or for promises to unfold. Most of all, I dislike ambiguous waiting-in-the-dark type of situations! The kind where you do not know what is expected at the end of the wait. The wait would become a little bit less painful if at least you know what is expected, is to be. But strangely, that is not the hope that is promised to us.

"But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." - Rom 8:25 

 When I cannot see, it is to walk with eyes of faith. Blessed are those whose eyes are turned towards the Lord of Hosts and believe that good things await the righteous.

Sometimes, with waiting in the desert comes doubt and hopelessness. The death of hope where hope once was, only makes the darkness darker. This cynicism made Sarah laugh inside the tent. A defeatism that made Nathaniel wonder if even God could bring good out of Nazareth. Then there is regret, which caused the Israelites to murmur against Moses.

But in the waiting is purification. A deadening of the senses and awakening of the Spirit. A fullness that the saints speak of, in the midst of poverty. God loves the desert. He knows that there can be no distractions and no other who can penetrate your soul as He could. There he will make you wait till your thirst for him is cleaned of every unworthy intention but to have him alone. In the desert you will learn the depth of your love for the Lord. You will understand hope, in no other way as from Hope himself. In the desert...

...he will come, like the bridegroom in the night, softly calling your name. You will not see him but you know that the Master is near. 

When the waiting is done and your cup is full, then will you understand, why the waiting, why the desert?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Give me hope, Lord

I am tired, tired, tired...

It's 8:30 in the night and I am still in my office hole. I must have put in more than 10 hours of work at no extra charge and I am famished...

That's not all. I was also caught up in the biggest downpour of the year, in a city that's nearing drought estimates in precipitation and when I finally reached home nearing 11 PM, I was too tired to sleep. I was up at an unearthly hour next morning thanks to my insomnia.

But strangely enough, I am also grateful that it gives me an opportunity to offer my suffering for a greater good. It makes it almost sweet...my suffering that is, though it does not make it any easier. 

It certainly hasn't dimmed my ardent desire to run away from this place. It is so hard to look up and acknowledge something beautiful is at work already. 

Grant me hope for tomorrow, Lord

So, I pray for hope and I pray for fortitude. I cannot have one without the other, for without hope, fortitude calls for ruthlessness, a hard stone-man; and without fortitude, hope has no substance.

 St. Teresa of Avila's Bookmark

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who has God
finds he lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

And the end of all things, GOD ALONE SUFFICES...

Friday, August 17, 2012


Caution: the below image and content may result in severe disruption of your system's performance due to hydration of the circuitboard by human saliva!

JRR Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' in Latin


Yes, my dear people, one of the greatet literary wonders of the 20th century by one of the greatest Catholic writers of the 20th century in the language of the Church.

Need I say more?

I wonder if they have a chant to go with it...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cry, the little people!

I confess, I purloined this post title from one of my favourite books, 'Cry, the Beloved Country' by Alan Paton. I love this book because of the humanity that binds the two protagonists and Christian spirit that unites them beyond grief, race and situation. It is truly a Spirit-filled novel!

But this post, is not about a novella, a character or even a story. It is about human experience...

Have you ever found yourselves floundering in a huge cauldron of boiling emotions and nobody around you seems to understand what you are going through? 

It is this nameless, faceless, fear and hopelessness. It stretches it's fingers like a dark menace above your soul, a silent oppression. You cannot describe it nor define it. It seeps into your existence so that the days on end seem to meld into each other and there seems to be no escape. 

I had suffered this malady for nearly a month on end...till at last, the merciful Father broke through the night. He sent a dream to a friend who woke up at 3 AM to my screaming in her dreams. Agony in the night! Sorrow in the morning! She prayed for my solace and called me the next morning to tell me of it and comfort me that help was at hand.

That weekend I attended a convention for Christian working professionals only because I was a part of the gospel band invited to lead worship there. One of the key speakers spoke of Spiritual Warfare at the workplace. He spoke of heaviness in his spirit and inside his head. And if that was not all, everything at work seemed to be going asunder.

Then it all came home to me. I understood where the Devil had taken a tiny foothold and then moved to wreck havoc into my place of calling (if the Lord has placed you in the corporate world then he has done it because it is a part of your calling.) It was the simplest of lapses and yet it was enough...

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
- 1 Peter 5:8
My work is cut out for me now. To be alert and to hold captive every thought, no matter how innocent but every thought which does not bring Glory to my God and surrender it to him (2 Cor 10:5). It took an small, innocuous beginning to bring me to this brokenness. But I believe, that the Redeemer will turn even this to his purpose and for my salvation.

So, cry, ye little people and the Lord will surely answer your plea. His ears are turned to the helpless and the orphaned, to those whom understand has bereft alone. 

Cry, unto to him who feeds the hungry ravens as they call. Will he not answer thee? How can he not answer thee? His soul beats for his own.

Cry, O beloved ones, the Lord has his loving ear turned towards you. 
Cry, to him with heart rending and hope. He does not abandon! 
Cry, to him from the pits of your darkness, he has heard your voice even before you had opened your mouth. 
Cry, to Him little people, the Lord has not forgotten thee. He will answer, He will come.

 But for you who obey me, my saving power will rise on you like the sun and bring healing like the sun's rays.- Malachi 4:2 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Saint-maker

I found this amazing story of Elizabeth Leseur, the wife of one Dr. Felix Leseur, who was the spiritual guide of another Peter John Sheen, who was called 'Servant of God'...

Elisabeth was born in Paris to a wealthy bourgeois French family of Corsican descent. She met Félix Leseur, also from an affluent, Catholic family in 1887. Shortly before they married on July 31, 1889, Elisabeth discovered that Félix was no longer a practicing Catholic. Though he continued to practice medicine, Dr. Félix Leseur soon became well known as the editor of an anti-clerical, atheistic newspaper in Paris.
 Elisabeth and Felix Leseur during happier times
Despite his pledge to respect Elisabeth's religious beliefs, as his hatred of the Catholic faith grew he soon began to question, undermine, and ridicule Elisabeth's faith. In his memoirs, Félix describes how his efforts to "enlighten" Elisabeth nearly succeeded. He had persuaded Elisabeth to read Ernest Renan's Life of Jesus with the expectation that it would finally shatter her last remaining loyalties to Catholicism. Instead, he records that she was "struck by the poverty of substance" on which the arguments were based and was inspired to devote herself to her own religious education. Soon, their home was filled with two libraries. One, a library devoted to the justifications of atheism and the second to the lives of the saints and the intellectual arguments in favor of Christ and Catholic Church. Félix was frustrated to discover that his challenges to her faith had actually led her to become not only more grounded in her beliefs, but more fervent and determined to become holy.

In 1905, she was taken ill and tossed on a bed of constant pain until August 1914. When she was dying, she said to her husband, "Felix, when I am dead, you will become a Catholic and a Dominican priest." To this he responded: "Elizabeth, you know my sentiments. I've sworn hatred of God, I shall live in the hatred and I shall die in it."

She repeated her words and passed away. She died in her husband's arms at the early age of 47. Rummaging through her papers, Felix found her will. She wrote: "In 1905, I asked almighty God to send me sufficient sufferings to purchase your soul. On the day that I die, the price will have been paid. Greater love than this no woman has than she who lay down her life for her husband." Dr. Leseur, the atheist, dismissed her will as the fancies of a pious woman.
He decided to write a book against Lourdes. When he went down to Lourdes however and he looked up into the face of the statue of Mary, he received the great gift of faith. He saw it all. At once.
In the year 1924, during Lent, Fulton J. Sheen (born Peter John Sheen), made a retreat in the Dominican monastery in Belgium under the spiritual guidance of Father Felix Leseur of the Order of Preachers, Catholic Dominican priest, who told him this story.

Saints are never made in isolation. 

Remember your place in God's plan.

It is true that you may never meet the person you helped become a saint, but you may be sure you will be blessed for it.

Elisabeth Leseur's cause for canonization is under consideration. Her current status in the process of canonization is that of a 'Servant of God'.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Blessed be the Peacemakers

Blessed be you who are vented upon by those you wish to reconcile to each other...

Blessed be you who fall out of favour in the stand for truth and peace...

Blessed be you who are cursed and curried as cowards and traitors for not partaking in an unjust cause...

Blessed be you when you choose silence over words, when words would uphold your right but destroy fragile peace...

Blessed be you when you walk in troubled times but let not the chaos seep into your souls...

Blessed be you when you choose unjust peace over a just war...

Blessed be you when isolation becomes your companion and great sacrifice is asked of you to still troubled waters...

For the Son of Man came to reconcile the warring children to their Father, and received a friend's betrayal, a lonely cross, an outlaw's death and a borrowed grave.

But there is still a promise...

Rejoice and be glad for you will be called Sons of God (Matt 5:9)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Name your Master(s)

God, sometimes places us in quaint places where were are forced to confront the dark areas of our soul. A la Johari's Window but it is in these dark places where our secret sin festers and bondage remains hidden. We find ourselves, committed Catholics, truly seeking the Kingdom of God, when we come face to face with the Master. Then the old drama of the Rich Young Man (Mark 10:17-31) plays out...

"Lord, what must I do to love you more each day"
The Master will point at the one treasure of your soul and ask you to give it up.
"You cannot serve two master!"
                                                    - Matt 6:24
It is impossible to be truly free without complete detachment and our attachments are undoubtedly to our treasures. Secret treasures like ambition, pet idiosyncrasies and even persons or possessions will eat you from within like a slow undetected cancer. You will be much anxious to be rid of it but your lust for it will be too strong...

Gollum's Bane."My... preciousssss"

This is when we need a Saviour. I think most of us would know that mammon has a great sway over our souls but do you know the masks that mammon wears.

Ambition. It may or may not have anything to do with the paycheck but the driving desire to rise, outperform, perfect can effectively cancel out the light of God's grace. God is our Provider and we are always in the position of the receiver. We have not done or ever will do anything without Him. 

Even the slightest degree of ambition is an indication of self-desire and aspiration apart from what God has ordained for us. When God made Adam, the garden was ready for him. Adam served God by tending to the plants and animals. He had not taken the garden as tithe unto himself and tried to bring forth his own by the sweat of his brow.Whether the garden flowered or wilted, it was the Almighty Father who provided for all his needs. Our focus at all times is to serve God through our work, our love, our service and yes, even through our devotion.

My work has been a great blessing in this space. I came to realise that I harboured great dreams of might and highness deep in the corners of my soul only when I was given a role which fired my inner Balrog. I was severely disturbed. The only way I could be free of fear of man and listen to my Christian conscience is to reject all ambitions for myself.

I call to God, the Most High,
to God, who supplies my every need.
                                            - Psalm 57:2 

Was it a struggle? Oh yes! For days I fought with myself, checked my every thought, appealed to all the saints and angels to intercede for me. Through difficulties and humiliations at my job, I gradually surrendered, bit by bit. 
Old demons, die hard.

So, do I still struggle with pride? Yes. The enemy, like a roaring lion is ever waiting for any unguarded moment. But for every fight that leaves me tired and disheartened, there is a peace that surpassed all understanding, there is a liberation that makes you skip like calves let out of a stall (Mal 4:2)

And when you are ready to give up; remember...

"When the storms to temptation burst upon you, when you see yourself driven upon the rocks of tribulation, look at the star, call upon Mary. When swallowed by pride or ambition, or hatred, or jealousy, look at the star, call upon Mary. Should anger, or avarice, or fleshly desire violently assail the frail vessel of your soul, look at the star, call upon Mary."                                       
                                                            - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I'll praise you in this storm

One of the most difficult aspects of our faith, is to keep trusting; when things go wrong and times get rough. 

I'm still learning...and falling. But I know his hand will raise me up again.

How else can I pray then, if not to cry to Abba Father, "help me, Lord!"

Though the fig tree does not bud 

and there are no grapes on the vines, 
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food, 
though there are no sheep in the pen 
and no cattle in the stalls, 

yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

The Sovereign LORD is my strength; 
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, 
he enables me to go on the heights.

                                  - Habakkuk 3:17-19 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Intercessors of the Lamb

I write, being recently inspired by our Pope's general audience address on Prayer. Our beloved Pope touches on many things in his address but I would like to focus on one part which is closest to my heart- the efficacy of Intercession. 

He starts with the Old Testament. Sodom and Gomorrah indulged in practices so disgusting to the Lord, that he was forced to raise his hand against it in perfect justice and pay those citizens the wages of sin, death. Total annihilation! The last time God did something like that was during the Great Flood. Even then, He repented and swore never to destroy earth because of man's sinfulness. Yet here He was again, speaking of destroying the citizens and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. I can not imagine the filth of those nations to induce God to pour out his wrath in such a measure upon them!

But suddenly, God revealed another side of his nature- his infinite Mercy. God's perfect justice meets his perfect mercy when a sinner repents, changes heart and chooses righteousness. God will not punish the innocent with the wicked but his divine justice seeks a goodness to base his mercy on. He needed one, just one righteous man to implore mercy for behalf of the unrighteous.

It is never that a sinner is not allowed to plead his own case, but it is that he cannot. Sin blinds the sinner (Gen 19:11). He does not see his own guilt or does not consider his doings as evil, and therefore is unable to repent. Into this gap, Abraham, who knew most closely the heart of God, stepped in. This is the place where the unforgettable dialogue between man and God takes place.

Abraham asks, if righteous God would destroy the city if 50 innocent men were living in it. God relents on the plea of a righteous man. "I will spare... I will not destroy... I will not do it". He forgives the entire guilty population for 50 innocents! As Abraham continues to plead with God and the number dips, 45...40...30...and finally 10; the greater the mercy of God grows.

This is the power of intercession. Abraham, our father in the faith, set an example for intercessors of all time. To not only understand in a deeply intimate way the intention of God to save suffering mankind but also to lend our voices and hearts to His desire.

If the sinner cannot ask for mercy, then the good man must ask on his behalf.
"To pray for those who are in mortal sin is the best kind of alms giving. For the love of God always remembers such souls when you pray."
           St. Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Christ the Redeemer

My upbringing as a child, mostly consisted of being obedient  and well-behaved. It was a good raising and I did have a contented childhood. Of course, being a staunchly Catholic family this gradually shadowed into my spirituality as well.

To avoid all occasions of sin and sin itself! 

Prevention is better than cure regret followed by thou shall sin no more was more or less the spiritual exercises I followed. Not to forget to love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength (which basically wound itself back to 'thou shall sin no more'...)

To be just, it was a fine personal principle to live by... except that love did not find much of a root in a heart set by rules. I clearly remember being inspired by Jane Austen where filial duty and honour ruled and sacrifice and personal candour were so celebrated.

But duty and honour without love are heavy burdens to carry. They do make great men; but cold hard men, not given to mercy and kindness. I have seen those sorts, and I pitied them. They do not know another way of showing love except by being just and righteous. 

Another pitfall of this line of thinking is that forgiveness becomes very hard. The difficulty to forgive oneself after each fall is immense. It became easier to forgive others for a searing heartbreak than to make leeway for one's weakness. 

Principle, not Christ became the centre of religion. And life became very difficult. It was not the extra prudishness that costed me a lot of joy. It was the extreme self-reliance, the passive distance from people, the gnawing guilt, the constant striving for perfection which is impossible for any. God became a distant deity. I no longer understood why we still needed Christ. If sin could be avoided then a saviour is never needed.

How wrong I was. Years and years of struggling and striving went by till I finally found a Christian fellowship of young adults where I felt spiritually nourished. I finally decided to give God a chance to lead me and he gradually unraveled the bandages, the armour and the defense I had built around my heart. It was painful! Old wounds which had long festered in the dark needed Light. And the letting go! How difficult it was to let go and let God.

It was then I understood. 

Christianity with out the Redeemer 
is beautiful frame without the picture

re·deem·er   /riˈdēmər/
Noun: A person who redeems or buys back someone or something
... or He who restores
He knew how we threw away our birthright with the fall. He knew we were ever hard of hearing the Father's calling. He knew we would still be falling, even after Pentecost.

That is why he came- to restore. To bring back the image of  God in Men, in glory, undimmed before the marring of the world.

To restore Son-ship (Gal 3: 26)
To restore brotherhood (Acts 28:28, Rom 8:29
To restore faith  

Before He came, the wages of Sin was death. And death was ever so close, yes, even while I was still a child I knew death. But he pulled me out of that abyss. It does not mean that I will be able to sin no more or that I shall see immortality in this life or even that I am free of the consequences of sin. It simply means that my righteousness is not by my effort alone, it is in Christ. I just need to lean on him, to appeal for his help, to listen to his counsel...and obey.

And when I fall, I am no loner afraid or burdened. I go back to him for forgiveness and restoration. Sin always takes something away and replaced it with itself. He corrects that equation. 

And at the end of all things, there is always Hope.
"Do not be afraid, I have redeemed you"
               - Isaiah 43:1