Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What it means to be a Jesus Youth

"They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the  temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with
exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who werebeing saved. (Acts 2 :42-47) "

If someone ask me the reasons, for which I was first attracted to Jesus Youth Movement, above is the answer.In this Jubilee time some questions came to my mind; and I felt it is good to give a thought.

Whenever I was asked What is Jesus Youth? I always liked to answer it like this; Jesus Youth is a person , who leads a Christ centered life, who nriches his relation with Jesus, day by day through Personal Prayer,
Sacraments, Mediation of Word of God and Joyful fellowships, who reflects Jesus in their thoughts, words and actions, to make other people experience love of God, who spreads the Kingdom of God, wherever they are - Who is ajoyful contradiction to the world (As Pope John Paul II challenges). Again,
Jesus Youth is a movement , where people with above said characteristics come together to grow and help others grow .

*My Questions:*

As a Person; how am I responding to my call, how is my relation with my Lord do I still have the first love, how much am I rooted in JY spirituality,do I still have the missionary zeal in me, am I spreading Love, Joy and Kingdom of God in my surroundings ..

As a Movement, how far we reached, how is our going, as we reach/spread tonew places/countries/continents, do we grow deeper in small prayer groups,which is the base of our movement, are we/our style still able to attract new generation to the Lord, are we equipped ourselves to cater their
spiritual needs - Our leaders around the globe are engaged now, evaluating the second part. I think I must do the first part for myself (It s I, who makes community).

- Anto, a Jesus Youth(I, still doubt to say it loudly!!!!!)

I was literally misled to my first retreat, as I was told like some youth camp . As I have already attended some camps, conducted by different organizations, I took it as a time to do have some fun and mean to spend one week of my vacation. I never knew it was a Jesus Youth retreat and it came to me like a shock when they gave the instruction on first day, we will keep complete silence during the retreat . And there were no other options;I had to attend it completely.

The first letter I received on my name, I remember was a 25 paise post card by Jesus Youth Subzone team, inviting me for a prayer meeting. I attended the same with some of my friends and was very much touched with warm welcome we received and the family bonding we felt over there. It became our habit
and an unavoidable event for us to participate in those monthly meetings. I still remember the love and care of all those leaders (we never called them leaders, but *Chettans* - big brother), and the relation they built and
maintained with our parents and families, which tied us with the movement.As we realized the love and care of God and as we grow in the JY spirituality, slowly we started attending prayer groups, initiated prayer groups, took responsibilities, became part of various training programs and projects,.

There I started my journey as a Jesus Youth. There were many ups and downs in that, but my Lords love remained constant. He continued working miracles in my life and gave me many opportunities to be a tool in his hands, with no consideration of my worth. I had never been constant in maintaining constants, but always I kept on track with the help of one or the other.

In my initial days, prayer groups and other gatherings helped me to realize and come closer to HIS love. They helped me to build the habit of Personal Prayer and Meditation of the Word of God. Many senior JY s gave personal attention and care to my spiritual and material life. (It s been a long time by now, that I stay away from my home for livelihood, but some of these leaders are still in touch with my parents, they constantly visit my home and had been playing my role in my absence).

As time went on, I lost the first love I had (Rev 2 : 4). I lagged in personal prayer and meditation of word of God. Many at times I was less serious, even about sacraments (a basic thing that every Christian would
do). As a result, I many times gave up to the enemy, who is lurking at the door (Gen 4 : 6). Still my God didnt let me go, but hold me closer to him. Because of his love and grace, I somehow managed till now, with one constant or the other. As a Jubilee resolution, I have decided and started to follow these three constants strictly. And I need all of you to pray for me to stay constant.

Prayer group/fellowship was something I always been strict to it, (I thinkmany of us are!). Initial days were beautiful, as they made a shell for me.I was with one or the other JY in almost all the time. I recall my college
JY prayer groups and zonal/subzone gatherings. Such a nurturing were thosefellowships, each moments were filled with new thoughts, experiences, andvigor. I already mentioned about the senior leaders who inducted me to JYfamily. It was this family bonding and fellowship helped me to rise again each time I fall, to come back each time I go astray.

Now at my place, people do consider me as a senior JY. Here I do compare the affection and care I received in my initial time and that I give to the new young people, whom my Lord has given to me. I, many at times skipped away from building and maintaining a personal relation with many of them
(and with their families, as my leaders did), that would have helped them to grow in the ministry. I do doubt, whether they experience the same family bonding and affection, like the early Christian communities (Acts 2 :42-47), in our gatherings! Many of them don t feel the warm welcome in my prayer groups. I did not value everyone as the same, regardless of their race, tongue, or tribe. I found it easy many at times to remain in my
comfort zones. I do written off some people, marking them like they are never going to be a JY. I forgot that I was once like them, ever worse than them (Eph 2). And the result, I was unable to communicate/convince many. I was alien to them, when I speak. The ministry did suffer much from it. My second Jubilee resolution is to open the doors of my heart to all, regardless of their race, color, tongue and tribe. I will try to be like
St. Paul, who was everything to everyone. I will make sure that my prayer groups do give the affection, bonding and care to all who comes there. I will be a friend to everyone, as my leaders were to me.

Most of my senior leaders were great role models. Many like me were pulled to the ministry, by just seeing them. Many those who skipped their meals and sleeps continuously for the ministry, those who left their jobs for the ministry, those who walked miles and miles for spreading this love and those simple initiatives that made big changes. Remember the sacrifices of the pioneers of our ministry. They never knew this was going to be such a big platform, still shed their sweat for the ministry. Their commitments, sacrifices, vision etc have made way for me to this ministry. But when I think, how many are dragged to the ministry, seeing my lifestyle,commitment, zeal - they are not even a handful. I wish this Jubilee year will help me to be more committed and zealous person and I too, would be able to bring more people in to his Love.

I wish the Jubilee year may be a wonderful time of revival to all of us in the ministry.
*Refined in thy Fire, Renewed in thy Spirit, Radiant in thy Holiness, Amen.*

With Love and Prayers,

Anto Simon K.

Jassowal, Ludhiana, Punjab

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Spirit of Unity" (Romans 15:5)

"Spirit of Unity" (Romans 15:5)

Faten Mukarker, a Palestinian Christian, the author of “Leben zwischen Grenzen” shares in her book, her life and struggle between the National border and the religious border and the pain of disunity in her land and Israel. We have been hearing for years the story of the battle and struggle between Israel and Palestine. The Wall in between Israel and Palestine goes through her family garden. She shares her story with us in tears.After reading and hearing her sad and pathetic narration I asked myself, why can’t they just live together? Why must there be such hostility and division?

Similar thoughts came to my mind when I visited Jerusalem, and felt ashamed, especially when I visited the “Tomb Church”. The division and conflicts among the different Church denominations are conspicuous there. Often it is the place where the demonstration of these conflicts takes place. Why can’t they work together in serving the Lord? Why is there such disunity among the Churches in the name of our Lord, who came to reconcile everyone with God and with each other and who prayed for unity and harmony among His disciples? And why do people quarrel in the name of the Lord, who taught that God is the Father of all and all are His children belonging to the same family?

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans advice “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” (Rom15:5).
- Unity is a gift of God or unity is given by God: Paul says it is God who is the source of patience and encouragement and who gives us the Spirit of Unity. Perhaps we can reach unanimity or uniformity with our own means but God alone can give us the Spirit of Unity.

- In the letters of Paul, especially in Romans, we see how much Paul desires and thirsts for unity and harmony. It is God who desires unity and harmony. In John’s gospel, Jesus prays for His disciples, “Keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me... so that they may be one just as you and I are one” (Jn.17:11b).

- We are the body of Christ: This is what St. Paul tries to put across by using the image of the body, “Just as in one body there are many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we are many and one body in Christ… with different gifts according to the grace that has been given to us” (Romans 12:4-6).

… like the vine… a branch alone cannot bear fruit… it can only bear fruit if it remains in the vine (Jn. 15:4). For the vine, every branch is important. The number of branches which are healthy, which stay in union with the stem of the plant and which stay in union with other branches, increases the yield of the vine. We cannot think of a vine, the branches of which quarrel with each other. The same way, every person is important for the movement (human society). The more all live in harmony and co-operation, greater will be the fruits of peace, love and joy.

- Oneness or harmony even in the midst of diversity demands openness to see the wonderful works of God. God cares and loves everyone and everything. He has made every person unique. Differences are not threats, but they add to the beauty of the world and of the human society, when they are accepted with openness – just like how flowers of different colours, shapes and fragrance add to the beauty of a garden.

- For this we need Christ’s attitude of forgiveness: “in accord with Christ...” (Rom15:5b). Forgiveness is essential to achieve the Spirit of Unity. For a victim, forgiveness means ´letting go´ of the bitterness caused by the evil done to him/her. It involves finding relief in Christ who bears our pain. Jesus prayed on the cross and said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Lk.23:34). That Jesus forgave them does not mean that He accepted as good what they did. He was suffering unjustly because of their wrongdoing. He had the power to take revenge on them, to destroy them. But He decided to go beyond His pain and anger and see everything as a part of the loving plan of the Father.

- Openness to the diversity... Unity in diversity rather than uniformity helps us to attain harmony. Unity is not uniformity. Everyone is unique. God has created everyone like that. That is, the differences are willed by God. Often, we have a tendency to make others like us, because we consider the differences as threats to our existence and well-being. But in reality, the differences do not threaten us. They become threats only when we consider them as threats and thus try to destroy the differences. Co-operation, not competition, is the way to peace. Recognition of the uniqueness of others, not feelings of superiority, is the way to success and harmony.

- It is to wear the attitude of Beatitude: It is God’s approach to love... One who receives the unconditional love and mercy of God extends it to others which results in harmony. The basis for accepting others with their uniqueness is our faith that God is the Father of all. Every human being is a child of God, hence a brother or sister of mine. All belong to the same family. God loves everyone, even those who reject Him. Even when people do evil, God continues to love them as His children and tries to guide them in His path. And when someone is away from Him, He comes in search of him/her. He is Love, He is Mercy, He is Compassion, He is Generousity. Jesus asks us to have the same attitude and approach of the Father – that is to be generous in love, compassion and mercy. Even when others do evil, we should continue to love them and try and reconcile with them. Even when they are different, we should try and accept them as they are. Even when they keep away from us, we should continue to be good to them. Thus, we will follow the words and actions of Jesus.

- Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI says “Christians need to make the first move in offering Reconciliation and establishing Peace”. Our model for reconciliation is reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. In Israel many people greet each other by saying “Shalom” which in English translates as “Peace”. In modern times, this “Peace” is often misunderstood as ceasefire or absence of tension or war. But “Shalom” means much more, it is completeness or wholeness with God, with one another and with creation. It is nothing other than the presence of God. Pope Benedict says, “That God came to be among humanity shows that God is always near and always among His people. This is the source of hope and an inspiration to reconcile oneself with God and with one’s neighbours”. St. Paul writes the same in his letter to the Colossians, “...forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col.3:13). Put off your old self… learn to recognize the characteristics of the old life, a self–centred life... and put on the new one and lead a life of harmony and reconciliation.

- “Clothing the movement in white linen” was often understood by me as a sign of blessing, a sign of the providence, mercy and protection of God. But after reflecting on Colossians 3:12-14, I was thinking that it is more than just a protection and blessing of God. It is not one-sided or one way, rather it is a call and a response. It is a gift and a responsibility. It is grace and duty. St. Paul says, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other”(Col.3:12). God in His mercy called and appointed us in this movement to be holy and beloved to Him, to wear this attitude of Beatitude and accomplish everything in union with him. Put off the old man and clothe your life and thinking deliberately with these seven qualities that reflect the life and temperament of Jesus. As God’s chosen people we ought to put on at every moment of our lives these qualities of Jesus, these qualities of grace. And this is none other than the Jesus Youth lifestyle. Having given us this beautiful lifestyle, St. Paul tells us to wrap it all around with the bond of love. “And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Love binds everything together. Put on the cloak of love.

Since we are the body of Christ… let the Love and Peace of Christ reign in our hearts and let us live in His Spirit of Unity.

Rev. Fr. Ajy Mooleparambil CMI
Schermbeck, Germany