Monday, November 30, 2009

The Wedding at Cana

Personal reflection based on John 2:1-11

Context: - Mother Mary finds out that the hosts at the wedding feast are out of wine, and secretly tells her son about it. Jesus asks, ‘What is that to us?’ (in another translation, ‘How does that concern us?’) :

I have always felt uncomfortable reading this part, because it sounded rather arrogant and disrespectful, and I didn’t want to think that Jesus was in fact disrespectful with His mother. So whenever I read this narration of the wedding at Cana, I just flipped by this verse fast and never stopped a moment to ponder about it.

Today as I felt inspired to read this account again, and I asked the Holy Spirit to take away the uneasiness from me, and help me understand the conversation between Jesus and His mother Mary in its truest sense.

The picture that rightaway came to my mind was of Jesus and Mary talking to each other with a mischievous smile on their faces. And instantly, the uneasiness drifted away from my mind, and I started seeing the special relationship between the mother and the Son. Let me try to explain this as best as I can.….:

When we go to a movie theatre with our children, they say, ‘Mummy/Daddy, there’s popcorn over there!’, without really saying that they want the popcorn. Fully realizing that they are asking for the popcorn, yet unwilling to admit it to them, we say, ‘So what?’, with a naughty smile. We want to wait and see if they ask the explicit question, ‘Can you buy the popcorn for us?’ Much the same way, when Mary tells Jesus ‘they are out of wine’, Jesus asks, ‘So what?’ (‘What is that to us?’). In the picture that I have in my mind, Mary looks back at Jesus with the same smile and raised eyebrows, conveying something like ‘You must be kidding!’ The people who heard this may not have understood, but this was their special conversation, and they understood each other, which was all that mattered. I loved this picture so much that I closed my eyes and savored this scene and their faces for just a little bit more.

Anyways mother Mary, fully aware of what her son is capable of, does not answer Jesus’s question of ‘so what?’. She just turns around and tells the workers, ‘Do whatever He tells you to do’. Mary doesn’t explicitly tell Jesus what she wants Him to do (may be she understood how different His ways are…), but in telling the workers ‘do whatever He tells you’, she hints to Jesus that whatever He does, he has to involve the workers/servers. Not the manager; not the headwaiter – the servers. Mary picked the lowly. Through mother Mary’s mediation/intercession, the servers were chosen to become part of this first miracle of Jesus. The very fact that Jesus takes this little hint from His mother and obeys it shows the utter respect and regard that He has for her – and now when I think back, there is not the slightest room at all for the thought about being disrespectful!

Also, just imagine the respect that mother Mary’s words must have had there at the wedding feast! The workers pay attention to her and obey what her son asks them to do – which, in the eyes of the world, would be utter foolishness. To fill the huge water jars with water and then pour some out and take to their boss? There would be no better reason for those workers to lose their jobs! But still, they obeyed it. It may be foolishness in the eyes of the world, but they didn’t care. They didn’t reason; they didn’t try to apply human logic to what was asked of them – they just obeyed. With them was present mother Mary - the prime example of humility and obedience to the will of God. The very presence of this blessed mother humbled their hearts – and made them capable of obeying Jesus. And God’s glory was revealed to them – they beheld the miracle of water turning to wine right before their eyes. ‘Nobody knew where the wine came from; but the workers knew.’

Let this be a lesson in humility for us. Let us submit our will to the will of God, and be ready to follow mother Mary’s example in saying ‘Here’s the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to Thy will’. Let us have the mindset of John the Baptist – He must increase, and I must decrease.

Here are a few more thoughts I had on this:
- When they ran out of wine, Jesus doesn’t provide them just enough to get through; He gives in abundance - 6 stone jars, each holding 20-30 gallons, filled upto the brim! How generous!

- The jars were filled with water upto the brim. But as long as it stayed in the jars, it was water. When poured out, it turned into wine. Water was good, but when poured out, it became wine - the good wine – better than what they had before. Just the same way, God has filled us with gifts and talents – and they are good. But when poured out for others, they get transformed into something on a much higher level.

- Mother Mary finds out by herself that the hosts were out of wine. The scripture doesn’t say that they entrusted her to take care of everything. All they did was invite Jesus and Mary to their homes. Like them, let us also invite Jesus and Mary into our homes. We don’t even need to tell her what we need. Just make sure we invite them – every single day, into our hearts, our homes, our lives. If our blessed mother is there, she will find out, tell her Son, and fill us up with what we lack.

From being a scripture passage that I tried to avoid contemplating on, this has now turned out to be one of my favorites. Especially the verse ‘what is that to us?’! Isn’t it amazing how the Holy Spirit sheds His light into our minds and takes the darkness away? I praise and thank God for this enlightenment.

Lucy (March 2005)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A testimony to God's saving grace...

(Written down more than 4 years back, but posting now…)

Thursday, March 17, 2005, 6:45AM
This happened a few weeks back:

Went to bed on the Thursday night, after having decided to go for the 8am mass the next morning, which was 1st Friday.
I didn’t have a restful night, because Daniel was up many times due to a cold. So I felt lazy and tired as I woke up in the morning.

These are the series of thoughts that raced through my mind as I was lying in bed:
• Should I go to church now? I didn’t sleep well and I feel tired. Need I?
• It’s not a day of obligation ……
• What’s so special about Fridays anyways?
• And first Fridays – what’s so special about that?
• First Friday mass, adorations, etc – it’s all just a hype.

The very instant that the word ‘hype’ entered my mind, I knew it had come from satan. There is no other way that such an infrequently used word in my normal vocabulary (especially in regard to religious matters) should enter my mind – no doubt, I realized – satan had put it in there. Still feeling shocked at the thought that satan had almost got me, I jumped out of bed, headed straight for the bathroom, and in no time, I was ready for church.

For many days from then, this incident has been coming to me as a flashback – like the kind of flashback that plays in your mind when you have a narrow escape from an accident…

Today, I woke up at about 6, and came with Daniel to the living room to pray. The above incident again flashed back in my mind…

To think that Satan almost got me makes me shudder… What if I did not recognize satan’s voice and had given in? He would have really got me. I know that not going to church on a first Friday is not a sin – I myself am not able to go on all First Fridays – But having made the decision to go, and then changing my mind after giving in to satan’s excuses/justifications/lies – that very thought scares me still.. I feel that God really pulled me out of bed and got me ready – if I had just lay there, pondering over the thoughts and those justifications, I would have fallen. I really felt God’s saving hands literally pulling me out of bed and saving me from the clutches of the devil. This was a real encounter with ‘the evil one’, and I am very aware of satan’s presence now – and ever more aware of God’s saving grace…

I felt a strong inspiration to pray the ‘Our Father’…

When I came to the part ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’ , I found myself praying with all earnestness, like I’ve never ever prayed before – fully aware of my helplessness – fully aware of my need for God’s mercy…Fully aware that my God is a merciful, loving and saving God.

Here are the thoughts to which the Spirit led me….:

Satan acts in subtle ways which might seem very logical to us - and not in obvious ways that are easy for us to make out… So we need to pray earnestly – Lord, lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil.

I meditated on Jesus praying at Gethsamene. Jesus told his disciples ‘Keep watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation’. Another translation says ‘Get up and pray that you may not fall into temptation’.

Jesus wants us to keep watch/get up in both spiritual as well as physical sense. Spiritually, he tells us ‘keep watch - be constantly aware of the tempter’. In the physical sense, he tells us to watch out when our bodies are sleepy and idle and weak. There are times in the morning when we are really awake, but feel like lying down some more – those are the times that idle thoughts crowd into our minds. That is a dangerous time. That’s a time which satan can easily use to get us – to tempt us to do things against God’s will; to tempt us to refrain from doing the good things that we planned to do…

The story of the Gingerbread boy (an old folk tale) came to my mind…:

There was once an old man and woman who did not have any children. One day the woman said ‘I will make myself a gingerbread boy’. She makes gingerbread shaped like a boy and puts it in the oven. When she opens the oven door to see if it was baked, the gingerbread boy runs out the oven door and out of the house. The man and the woman run after him but the boy runs faster, saying ‘Run, run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread boy’. The boy meets a cow, a horse, a pig, and some farmers along the way, and each of them shouts at him ‘Stop! I want to eat you!’. The boy manages to run away from each of them, saying ‘Run, run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread boy’. The boy reaches a river which he has to cross to get away from them all, but he has to stop because he can’t get himself in the water. Then a fox comes by, and says ‘I’ll help you’. The fox asks the gingerbread boy to hop onto his back, and says he will take him across the river. The boy hops on. The fox starts walking with the boy on his back. As the water gets deeper, the fox asks the boy to hop onto his shoulder so he wouldn’t get wet, and then after a while, onto his head, and then finally his nose. Then, with a toss of his head, the fox gulps down the gingerbread boy.

Isn’t this really how the devil takes us for a ride? We may do a good job running away from the things that are obviously wrong. But the real wicked one awaits us with his most cunning, seemingly innocent plots. Much like the gingerbread boy, don’t we also, at times, run away from the loving God who made us? And when we are confronted with troubles and feel helpless, satan appears from nowhere and offers help. He puts forth action plans for us that are against the will of God and fills our minds with logical reasonings that justify his plans. He entices us to hop on for a cool and comfy piggyback ride – how scary!

It’s only our God’s grace that will enable us to break away from his bondage. It’s only God’s grace that will give us the wisdom to choose what is right. Let’s ask our merciful God to be our stronghold in times of trouble, and to set us free from the wickedness and snares of the devil…

When we lie down idle, our minds sometimes get crowded with negative thoughts and reasonings. These may lead us not just to do things that are bad or wrong, but may also pull us back from the good that we plan to do.

Some of the thoughts that satan frequently uses to get us:
- it is ok to talk ill of a person if the person doesn’t hear it…
- it is ok to not say the truth if it doesn’t hurt anyone…
- if everybody does it, it should be ok to do…

We need to force ourselves out of such thoughts. Cut it off. ‘Run run run as fast as you can’. But instead of saying ‘you cant catch me, I’m the gingerbread boy’, let’s not trust in ourselves, but in Divine Providence, in Divine mercy. Let’s say ’Run run run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, for I belong to God’

I thought again about how, by God’s mercy, I was saved from the devil’s clutches. How God kept me from the evil one. In John 17, Jesus prays for his disciples - He prays to the Father ‘Keep them from the evil one’. I realized that Jesus prayed this prayer for me – He asked the Father to keep me from the evil one, and behold! I was kept from the evil one!

Praise God!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Two men of faith whom I have been blessed to know

Dear Friends I wanted to write about two men of faith I have been privileged to know. I will write about them in a few posts so that this will not become one looooong post.

The first one, I came into touch with him when he was started his ministry a little while back. I met him when a very good friend of mine Fr.Varghese took me to visit Akashaparavakal (means Birds of the sky), a home for looking after the destitute picked up from streets. Fr Varghese had a mass there and I tagged along. There I met the person who started the house in Bangalore, Shaju brother. A simple man with an unkempt beard and wearing a simple kavi (saffron) attire and no sandals on his feet. Since then I have known him for almost 5 years and I have never seen him with out a pleasant heart warming smile on his face.

I was touched by his work, he had a small house and it was overflowing with people. All of them were destitute people picked from roadsides, some were sick and dying, 90% were people who were mentally ill. They had either wandered out of their homes or were left on the roads to survive for themselves. They didn't know who they were or where they had come from. Some of them had festering wounds on their bodies collected through their wanderings. He told me there were maggots in those wounds when he found some of his children (makkal), as he calls them. He and the two other brothers he had with him to help, along with his family nursed them back to good health.

I asked him how he manged the food and medicines for them all, as most of them needed psychiatric as well as other medicines. He told me "God's providence" keeps him with out lack all through. I was touched and I told him any time you are in need of money you can call me. I gave my number to him. Two or three months passed by before I again accompanied Fr. Varghese to mass at the Akashaparavakal. The first thing I asked Shaju brother was, why he had never called me, didn't have any lack of money during this time at all ? He told me that they had even come to stages where there was not even a morsel in the house but they all prayed together, including the "children", at the chapel and the food came through. He described an incident a week ago, where they had nothing to cook and in the evening they were all praying together at the chapel asking the good Lord provide them with their supper. A man they had never met walked in with 10 KG of rice and he had heard of the house from a friend of his. He thought it would be nice to take a bag of rice when he went to visit them first. I was touched but was skeptical. I asked him, why he didn't call me at all with such need. He told God does not let His beloved to beg, he will provide from his abundance. He also added if you are provided for more than your daily bread, one will not be able to exercise your faith. I took the money I had in my pocket and gave it to him. He counted it gave me a receipt for that and said, I needed this for settling the account at the provision shop and if we didn't we would not have got our provisions at all. I was a little bit amused. I still was not convinced. I kept visiting house and helped out in any way I can. There used to be brothers from near by seminaries who came to stay there and help out during their holidays and semester breaks. I happened to be there when a few of them completed and were going off. They shared their experiences while they were staying at the house. And they told me about several incidents like these where God provided at the right moment what was needed, nothing more nothing less. They all went strengthened in their faith from there. I heard numerous such incidents all though my association and have come to expect that these every day miracle will happen in their lives. I would be surprised if those little miracles did not take place.

As our friendship grew, Shaju brother told me the secret of how he prayed. Every morning he wrote down the needs of the house on a piece of paper in the chapel, gave it to God and went on with his daily chores keeping the paper in his pocket. When ever he put his hand in his pocket for taking out some thing, the piece of paper came out with it and he prayed for the needs. And unfailingly His God provided.

I will continue writing about Shaju brother in my next post. Let me stop here and thank the God who is his and mine for His generosity in our lives. I have been blessed abundantly with material riches in my life, but Shaju brother has been blessed with more, with an abundant faith which can provide for every thing else.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chosen to bless, not curse.

It was the diwali weekend, and there were crackers bursting all around us. By Friday evening it started getting really loud and we were wondering how our one month old Joel would react – he didn’t mind the ‘maala padakkams’ so much, but those singled-out extra-loud ones bothered and startled him, especially by night time. The moment I put him down on the bed, there would be a loud one and he would wake up. This went on for quite some time - startling him and making him wake up crying. The previous few nights had been quite tiring, as Joel couldn’t sleep because of a stuffy nose, and I was quite drained by Friday evening, just wanting to crash on the bed. Anyway I decided to wait patiently till 10 pm, because a notice in our apartment complex had said that loud crackers were not allowed beyond 10pm. So I looked forward to 10 O’clock, hoping that both of us would finally be able to get some sleep.

But it only got worse, with more and more of those extra-loud ones. I tried telling the security to request the offenders to comply with the notice that was put up, but the security guys didn’t have the guts to do that. After about 10:30, I could take it no longer. I just put the baby down on the bed, stepped out to the balcony and called out to one of our neighbours who was in action right in front, asking him to please stop the loud ones, not forgetting to remind him about the notice as well. He and his family obliged, and there was peace and calm for about 10 minutes.

Then again it started, and when I looked from our bedroom window, I could see a family down there, making all this noise and having a fun time. Again poor Joel was waking up crying and poor me was walking around with him, trying to pacify him – and the time was well past 11! Anger and irritation were welling up inside me, along with tiredness and sleepiness.

The very sight of them bursting the crackers made me so full of hatred, that I said this loud enough so I could hear myself : ‘One of those crackers should burst right on their faces and kill them’. Immediately the thought came to me, that what I just uttered was a curse. The next thought followed : ‘O, good – let me do it again.’ And this time I repeated what I had said earlier – consciously, deliberately and spitefully, fully knowing that it was a curse. It was something I had never done before in my life - and honestly, I felt proud of myself! – for a few moments.

And then came the next thought, like a slap on my face – ‘What did I just do? Can someone who knows Jesus say things like that?’ I myself was surprised that the word ‘Jesus’ could find its way to my mind, even amidst so much hatred and turbulence. I came to my senses. I closed my eyes and said St.Michael’s prayer three to four times in a row. Then I said the divine mercy chaplet, asking for God’s pardon and mercy on me. I even prayed sincerely for blessings on that family down there. I desperately wanted to reverse everything I had thought and said earlier. I could feel a flooding in of God’s peace. The crackers went on for some more time, but they didn’t bother me anymore. Joel also fell asleep.

The story doesn’t end here… The following evening was diwali celebration at the apartment complex, and Roshan had bought some no-noise stuff - sparklers and flower pots (‘kambithiri’, ‘poothiri’) – to light with the children. They went down and were enjoying lighting these with a friend’s family. One of the flowerpots suddenly caught fire and burst upon lighting - (must have been a faulty one – bcoz they are not supposed to burst), and a flame brushed close to Roshan’s face. They got a fright at first, but nothing had happened. Roshan came back and told me that it was divine protection that kept him safe - there were some parts of the burnt stuff stuck on his eyeglasses! Immediately I remembered (with shame and shock) what I had wished for the other family the previous night – the exact same thing could have happened to one of us now, if it had not been for God’s protection. It was a reminder and an example of God’s unconditional love and mercy and forgiveness….

All along the previous night, there was some part of the Bible coming to my mind, which said that we should never curse, only bless - but I had been shutting it off. I looked it up the next morning, and found it in Psalm 109:28 - ‘They may curse, but you will bless.’

It’s been more than a week now, but I have been thinking and reflecting on this a lot these days, and the verse ‘they may curse, but you will bless’ keeps coming to my mind – it says, ‘it doesn’t matter what others do, but you will do what I tell you to do’…….. ‘They may cheat, but you will not’; ‘They may gossip, but you will not’; ‘They may tell lies, but you will speak the truth’; …….. Yes, by being the chosen ones, isn’t it a privilege to be ordered around by the one who chose us? I love its commanding tone.

It is true, we have accepted the Lordship of Jesus in our lives - but now I also see how important it is to re-affirm this Lordship every single day - just to tell him over and over again that he does have the permission and right to hurry and rush to our rescue with his saving grace, when we get caught up in our weaknesses, like I was. When we entrust ourselves into his hands, he will somehow find his way through - however stubborn and turbulent our hearts may be at that time, like mine was…..

Praise God! Thank you, Jesus!

Friday, November 6, 2009

To "Seek" the "Kingdom of God"

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well", (Mt 6:33), has been the one source of motivation for me during my difficult times. Of late I have been reflecting on what it really means to "Seek" the "Kingdom of God". I feel to "seek" would mean to tirelessly pursue, to preoccupy oneself with the works of the Kingdom. So much so that everything else becomes secondary. Jesus' preoccupation about His father's Kingdom was evident in his ministry. For him his family and friends were always "outside waiting for him". I believe we must constantly strive to let the Kingdom of God be established in us. That would mean to be always and at every moment desiring His Will to be done in our lives and thereby enjoying the fruits of salvation in us - enjoying His love, joy and peace in us. As we continue with this pursuit, we will find ourselves, "compelled by the love of Christ" (2 Cor 5:14) to go out and actively engage ourselves in sharing this love with others. Then making ourselves available for the activities of the Kingdom will cease to be a burden, rather it will become acts of love to God and to his people.

Being Prolife - Where do I start?

An unborn baby crying for an opportunity to live in his/her own mother’s womb, a small child craving for love from his/her separated parents, a teen deciding to commit suicide due to exam failures, an young adult sad & frustrated due to love failure, an husband seeking for love from his wife, a wife expecting her husband’s loyalty, an overburdened employee, a grandpa/grandma desiring his/her child’s care in old age…..yes from birth to death the opportunities to be pro-life are plenty and countless in nature.
We all know that God created us in His own image and likeness (Gen 1:26) and this is a privilege we still enjoy today. Every human being created in the image and likeness of God deserves respect that which honor’s God’s decision to create us. The very moment we disrespect human life we disrespect God’s choice. So I feel being pro-life is not only about respecting life but also about acknowledging the fact that God’s creations are good and His decision the best.
As a young software professional I many times have felt that being pro-life is not my cup of tea and it is meant only for people in the healthcare industry our doctor , nurses , religious fraternity etc…It took many years of learning but being pro-life definitely is every one’s cup of tea I feel today. Generally in professional world I/We meet all kinds of people from different walks of life, speaking different languages, having different attitude, of different faith and so on but sometimes we fail to see the mask worn by many, a mask of deceived Joy and unassuming ‘I am fine ‘ with life attitude.
Wherever one is whatever one does he/she must not miss the opportunity to be pro-life. As the world becomes more and more sophisticated with chips that can’t be seen and communication that is endless more and more people are looking out for ways to kill loneliness. The more seamlessly integrated our technology becomes so much greater is the amount of loneliness one experiences. This loneliness in life can many times lead an human being to unhealthy life situations developing a negative attitude towards life; But as a disciple of Christ we all are called to a life of positive living and like in the life of the good Samaritan this positive attitude In our life must not be limited to our own mental boundaries but must overflow and influence our brethren sitting next to our workstation in office or in the bench next to us in our class, or a floor above our house.
Just like an unborn deserves all right to live on earth so does every human creation of God living on earth. In the words of St.Dominic “I am not capable of doing big things, but I want to do everything, even the smallest things, for the greater glory of God “, even if we can bring a smile on the sad face of our brethren around us I feel we have added more than few drops of love in the might ocean of His/His life. Every small act of love as above takes us in the steps of a pro-lifer and it’s a good beginning indeed.
Well what are you waiting for…Go on be a pro-lifer!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Career with God!

I am writing this article in an age, when to reach higher, we are demanded to prove ourselves and use others as ladders to climb up. We live in an age, where people believe that the difference between a job and a career is the difference between forty and sixty hours of work a week. We live in an age where setting up a career is higher in priority than setting up our lives with integrity, honesty & faith.
In this multi cultural competitive world, we all are fighting our daily battles, a battle to remain strong in the faith that has been given to us as a gift by our Abba father and reclaimed by the sacrifice of Christ, the Son of God Himself and re-activated by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We, many a times ask ourselves, what are the top priorities in our life? Is it our work or studies? Is it our family? Is it our friends? Our career? Our MBA? And what next not?
Many of our priorities might have gone through a rotation policy over a period of time. But a question we can ask ourselves at this moment is - have they brought the joy and happiness we wished for? Can a successful career guarantee us always a happy contented life?
Or as Will Smith said in a popular movie– are we still in the pursuit of happiness? Where are we heading to?
As a young professional, the eternity prospective has always challenged me to ‘think hatke’ when it comes to life, faith & career. As our master rightly reminds us “For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be “.This eternity prospective will help us start storing treasures for ourselves with God. As a child of God, we know that our citizenship is in heaven and in no way should we want to miss our right to vote up there. It’s our eternal fundamental right and for us to vote we have to prepare our self to be enrolled on God’s voter list. The attractions of the world, the money, the pleasure, the career, the fame all are more than tempting enough to pull us from the voter’s registration queue. But who ever stands till the end will be benefited by the sweet result of knowing that he/she did their best and is now eligible to enjoy His/her right and finally pursue, once for all, the true happiness that is only found in Christ.
Our Master said - “Seek first the Kingdom of God and the rest shall be added unto you”. I am convinced that Christ can take control of our career, family and life if we take control over His business. If Christ remains the top priority for us then it becomes easier to share Him through our work & career, studies, daily activities and the smallest of smallest thing in our lives.
The challenges of the world we live in are tough. The struggles we face today are new and something that has not been seen before and bad acts today have become the ‘In-Thing’ for this generation. It is in these tough times that we, the young, are called to be the voice to the nation, to be the change we all want to see in others, to be the glory, hope & springtime of the Church!
We are the Gen Next for Christ. The hope of Glory is in us – so then why wait? Wake up..!!! It’s Son Rise..!!