Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The parable of the lost sheep - What it did for me

I was reading Fr.Bobby Jose kattikatt's book "Sancharikalude Daivam" a Malayalam publication, the name meaning "The God of the Travelers", a beautiful book that really touched me. In the book he talks about the parable of the lost sheep in a wonderful way. He identifies himself with the lost sheep. That started me also off. I read the parable of the lost sheep from both Mathew and Luke and it started off a beautiful train of thoughts. It really applied to my present condition of being down and stressed out and trying to come out of it, not really been able to feel the love of the lord in a tangible way. I loved Mathews rendition of it more.

I really felt the love of my Lord, the Lord who left the 99 and came in search of me the lost one. I was really the lost sheep in the thorns, lost painfully injured, desperately looking for my Lords help. I felt him taking me up gently, untangling me from the thorns, his loving touch on my wounds. Have you ever felt the safety of the loving arms of the savior after the long drawn loneliness, struggle and exhaustion ? Its a wonderful experience. It felt really wonderful to snuggle up to the warmth of his love. It was overwhelming. As I snuggled up to his heart I could hear the gentle beating of his heart. A heart beating out its rhythm of love for me.

He lifted me on to his shoulders,he was so careful and loving I cannot describe. On his shoulder I laid my weary head. I could rest after a long time, weariness overtook me. I was safe in my Shepherds love, all the pains and wounds forgotten. His loving caresses soothing away the pains. His healing hands on my deep wounds, oh how wonderful it felt. I knew when i woke up tomorrow, the pain would come back. It would hurt me for some time, even to walk, but I still would be back in my beloved shepherd's pen. I could look forward to his loving presence. I could look forward to his loving caresses. It was enough for me. Any pain I can endure, any wound would heal with his tender care.

Even though there were 99 of his beloved sheep there, just imagine, he left all the 99 and came for me, the one who ran away, and he found me, that is enough for me. I snuggled up more to his warmth, more to his love. Let me rest, and enjoy the warmth of his love.

From Fr. Tom : We are God’s work of art, Reflections on Eph 2.10

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2.10 NIV)

For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (ETV).

For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.(NAB)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (RSV)

The best translation that I like goes like this: We are God’s work of art….

This is more expressive of the marvel that we all are (cf Ps 139). As I read this verse in preparation for this day’s (Monday of 29th Ord. week) Eucharist, it struck me right in my face! I am God’s work of art!!!!! Wow!!! Fantastic! Most of the time I, and like me many of us, am looking at the tapestry that God is weaving of me from the underside, the earthly side, the limited vision of my human fragility. Besides, the work is not over! God is at work on me and it will take my whole life time to complete the masterpiece that he is weaving or like an embroidery that is stretched out on its stand. We, like immature children, full of irrepressible curiosity creep in when the master artist is away from his studio to peep at the work! We get to see only the reverse. We are too much in a hurry to see who we are but we get to see only the underside with all its loose ends. But persons like Paul make us see the face of the embroidery and are more than convinced that they are still in the process of being made and are more than convinced that a masterpiece is in the making. Those million needle pricks are only signs that we are in the making. There will come a time when Jesus, the Master Artist, is through with his work and will present it to His Father as his gift to Him!

This made me realize what a marvelous self-image that Paul had of himself. We are not junk! God made us like Himself (Gen 1.26: Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,….). When we put ourselves down, put others down for any reason whatever, we are giving great displeasure to our Maker, the Master Artist! We do not appreciate his work of art! It shows us in a very poor light. It would only show how poor we are as artists! This is why we must refrain from judging others, we must be non-judgmental (cf Mt 7.1-5). They like us are in the making. The whole of Scripture is inviting us to this view of God about us. This may give us idea why God never gives up on anyone of us.

I do not know if you have seen any really fine mosaic art. I have seen some of the best in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican, Rome. It is made of thousands of small pieces of different coloured marble all pieced together to form a masterpiece of art. In many ways the person must be a consummate artist, even more accomplished than the one who works with paints and brushes on canvas or one who chisels out a statue from a block of marble. This is where the genius comes into play: to choose the perfect piece to fit that exact spot in the picture. We are all mosaics, made of broken pieces of our lives. God never gives up on us. He is at work in us all the time. St. Augustine, who had messed up his early life and was saved by the tears of his saintly mother Monica, could appreciate what God did for him. God, the perfect artist, took hold of his broken life and made a masterpiece of him as we all know. The same can be said of Paul, Mary Magdalene and the Samaritan woman at the well. It also happens to all or most of us. You and I are works of art of the greatest Artist of all time – God.

In the art world, huge sums of money are involved when the work of a master are auctioned. The greater the artist, the more money the masterpiece will fetch. It is no wonder that God’s Son, Jesus, paid with his most precious blood for purchasing our most valuable souls from the tyranny of Satan. Satan, wicked as he is, knows fully well the preciousness of our souls. That is why he will move every force on earth and hell to get the control of even one soul. Now we can understand and appreciate why the Lord appears countless times to chosen souls to convince us and offer us every divine means to save our souls. This is why the great Apostle of the Gentiles, Paul, risked his name and fame, even his very life, to convince us to save our souls from eternal damnation. This made St. Francis de Sales, that intrepid missionary of the Chablais, exclaim with ardent zeal for souls: Give me souls, take away the rest. Don Bosco, hunter of souls, repeated the slogan with his life and works.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Reading the Bible Unconventionally

All of us read Bible differently I guess. Some would prefer to read cover to cover, by books of the bible, random readings or following the daily readings of the liturgy and so on. Haven't you got lost in the historical details that you come across in your daily readings?..not able to connect between the books..loosing the thread of connection.

I was introduced by a nun to a Bible study program by Jeff Cavins, an EWTN host and a lay catholic evangelist in America who returned to the Catholic Church after being a Protestant Pastor.The Program called the Great Adventure (http://www.greatadventureonline.com/) focuses on 'getting the big picture' of the Bible. Bible's 73 books are grouped by literary style rather than chronologically. Jeff introduces the 14 chronological books which gives the historical picture of the whole bible from Genesis to the Church.By contiguously reading thru these 14 books one will have read thru the entire bible historically with a sense of continuity.The remaining 59 books can be read in the context of these chronological books. For eg: Psalms should be read in the context of 2 samuel and Malachi with Nehemiah.He suggests that after one has read thru these 14 books once then one should go back  and read the non-chronological books in the historical context.

Many times people end up frustrated trying to read thru the whole Bible losing interest in between. In most cases this is because they are trying to make their way thru one of the non-chronological books like Leviticus.Jeff has made a plan that guides the reader thru these 14 books in about 3months by reading 4 chapters a day.

I have tried to put a link to my study notes if anyone is interested. Reading  the 14 books(Gen,exod, num,josh,judg,1&2 sam,1&2 kings, Ezra, Neh, 1Mac, Luke &Acts) 4 chapters a day could be  a foundation course in biblical history for us in this Year of the Word! Hurry up, just two and a half months left!