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Is Being Good Good Enough?

To be good is good enough for most people brought up and nurtured in our secular society. They shoulder-dress against “practicing” folks and affirm that they are as good – if not better than some. Morality, is the measure of their confidence. But, is being morally good good enough? Especially, when we see morality change forms with every generation and whim of fashion. The generation of my parents would shudder at our adopted social positions. Now, if you are “politically correct”, you have license to form your own judgements as to what is acceptable. But, are we not limiting our existence to the sum total of empirical measures and formulae? As Tennyson would say, “For what are men better than sheep or goats, if knowing God, they raise not hands of prayer, both for themselves and those that call them friend…”

We have that extra extension to our personalities that raises us above creatures that learn from traits, trials and errors. We conceive beauty and are able to admire and appreciate it. We form attachments that are above the level of survival and habit. We are able to conceive a level of consciousness that transcends worldliness. We are gifted with imagination that allows us to conceive a creative power that transforms all things in an ever evolving process towards a more perfect state. Since primal times humans have had this awareness. Like growing children, we forget our origins; where we came from, and the predetermined finishing point. If we ignore this, we are indeed no more than sheep that eat and bleat, and then they are no more. From slithering things to two legged things that raise their eyes heavenwards, we are co-creators in this symphony of evolving grace. Missing, therefore, in “goodness” are the forgotten seeds of humility, gratitude and love – the graces required to see ourselves as both human and divine.

On Choosing Life

“Look to the prism”, he said “The pendulum, dangling over the window, capturing the sun’s rays and dispersing light all over the room. Each smooth surface casts its own refracted ray to tell some story and adding colour to the walls.” 

 I looked to  the colours on one side, the profusion of colour evoking strong images of heroes, princes and successful individuals that did once bestride the world stage. Limited only by their imagination and the strength of their endeavour, some created empires, some magnificent cities, while some built magnificent pleasure domes – grandeur  that captivated the world in wonder. Their stature was measured by the wealth in their vaults and the level of ostentation. Yet, when done, their time of pomp and pleasure slipped and passed away. For instance, one died of a common fever in a distant land. Another was felled by swords that once made him great, and could even have made him emperor. One passed his last days, in near blindness, his eyes turned towards the world’s most magnificent building that he had constructed. Recently, one who would be Fuhrer,  died underground in a hole, of self-inflicted injuries. The list is legion. Like commoners, they too were reduced to pinches of sand as they slipped through the maker’s hourglass, down on to an anonymous heap. They had chosen to be great.  

The opposite wall I found is bathed with lighter hues of blue – tranquility marks the mood. The protagonists are more at peace with their surrounds. The lion sleeps with the lamb. Man and woman move unhindered by outward trappings, fashions or ornamentation. Every plant, unblemished, yields proper fruit at the proper season. The streams are full of fish, and meander, irrigating rich fields on their way down to a sun-filled sea. Sounds of animals and birds fill the air with sweet harmony; not a discordant note, no cacophony. This is life as it was meant to be.

Again I hear the voice. It asks, “ What will you choose, splendour and power for the day, or do you choose life that gives joy for ever? I say to you choose Life. But the choice must be yours, for the Father so wills it.”  

On Synchronising With Scriptures

Sometimes a passage (like Matt 7:1-5 today) causes one to pause and consider. We have heard the call to prayer, and readings from the pulpit/lectern a thousand times. The preaching, with variations, has been, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged”. Today, it became an instruction for active discipleship, “ first take out the log from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.”How contrary it sounds in today’s static on the airwaves!

Everyone strives above the din to call a neighbour to be “accountable” for some perceived act of delinquency. In our smug self-righteousness, we want the other to take “responsibility”, when we ourselves are quick to disclaim responsibility for our own, attitudes and actions. When it comes to ourselves, it is always, “The serpent made me eat it”. Indeed it is part of that original sin. How we blame the government, establishments, even our DNA, for decisions and acts we commit of our own volitions. 

We begin to wonder at the relevance of the call for us to be perfect as the Father is perfect. We continue on chosen trajectories like wanton kids, absorbed with curiosity about the boundaries of ethics, social behaviour and our sexual affirmations. Does one have to wear pencil line trousers or flares; skinny shorts or frayed denims; or follow some fixed genre of music, to be mod and in step with “things”? Is it fashionable to hold particular social or political positions? How conformist do we need to be to be considered non-conformist? It does seem to be an overwhelming preoccupation with things trivial, while quickly pointing to people who love the simple old fashioned things like respect, congeniality, and faithfulness to an ethical code.

I feel like an anachronism, committed, and to some, very Boring. Unfortunately, I  too have meandered among loosely bound Christians. For instance, I considered it a cultural imperative to take my children for Baptism. Upon their reaching the age of reason the formalities of the sacraments of initiation too were duly completed. Christmas and Easter became great celebrations to honour consumerism, with little place for their religious significance. Thus, I missed the calls of the prophets and the psalmists, to teach my children about the faith and the law. By sending them to Catholic schools, I made those institutions “responsible” to teach and instruct – holding them “accountable”. Grudgingly, I now see the log in my own eye. I pray that discipleship will follow.

To The Editor Cathnews

I feel compelled to submit a humble response to the report on the gathering of opponents to the Pope’s exhortation, “Amoris”, (among other things), on 7th April. It seemed a rather extraordinary public display of peevishness.

True, some must have felt ignored, perhaps slighted, by the absence of recognition or public response of their “filial feelings”.

Regardless of the course events take, I feel:
The “anxiety” of detractors seems impervious to the Pope’s genuine intent, and his reading of an emerging spirituality in the new millennium.
They seem entrapped by their own cultural reading into the Lord’s message, even the true meaning of Evangelisation.
Learning and strict adherence to “tradition” has created “neo-Pharisees”. This is not a “bookish” Pope; but a loving pastor of the Lord’s flock, interpreting The Word’s unchanging truths, for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Pope Francis’ is not intransigent or lacking in compassion for the suffering people of Christ. I do not believe that the Pope is avoiding interaction on important issues, just avoiding confrontation. He thrives on descent – without it he says the Church would be dead. Jesuit teaching and the long experience through Argentina’s political milieu have strengthened his reliance on discernment – something his detractors in their zeal seem to ignore. I find it hard to believe that their direction comes from the Holy Spirit when they scrutinise the Pope’s style of gentle persuasion and reform. Missing in their pronouncements is any awareness of the Pope’s sensitivity to diversity in a culture-captured generation that clings to old structures in an emerging consciousness.

Far from being heretical, his comments and insights, challenge our awareness; our beliefs and responses to prayers and the sacraments. In practice, he demonstrates what Cardinals Burke and the late Caffara refer to as “the essential service of the Pope to safeguard and promote the deposit of faith, true doctrine and sound discipline consistent with the truths believed.” We do, however, question the idea of teachings being anyone’s preserve. We would rather like to see dogma lived through a loving pastor (servant), who also encourages and exhorts towards the essentials of love for God and His creation. As St Paul might say “Learning without Love is an empty gong!”

In support of their arguments they quote Blessed Paul VI. But, in considering “Humanae Vitae”, the leaders neglect “Evangelii Nuntiandi”.The exhortation underscored the Church’s mission in the Twentieth Century, and had a profound influence on Pope Francis. In each step the Holy Father takes, I see reprints of what was writ in 1975. Humbly, I submit to the angry fathers that they meditate upon “Evangelii Nuntiandi”, before they cause irreparable harm.

A Light is gone

 

The light goes out, the curtain drops. I become isolated by a tale that goes back seventy years. When, there was mum, my elder brother Ernest and myself. Mum became very busy gathering and providing for the three of us. Ernest assumed the role of the man of the house. And, I blissfully unaware of the stormy blast, played dream games like any other five-year-old. Ernest, very seriously took to guiding me. We had a very loving brotherly relationship, that periodically broke out into violent fist fights. These were broken up (mercifully) through interventions of Narayan Singh. We’d patch things up and go on to do other things together, like going to the pictures.

Two individuals could not be more different. Ernest was the model student, representing the school in all the sports with distinction. I was left with a burden of trying to catch-up, and to be reminded that I should try to be more like my elder brother. Ernest continued to excel through the college years. He did well in his studies while representing his college in soccer and diving. He earned a reputation as something of a “tutor”, based on the demand for his popular “Notes”. In demand, not only at Meerut College, but also in the neighbouring girls’ college – a reputation that gave him an advantage over other budding studs. A born leader, he became a prefect at a time when exceptional skills were required to maintain peace and discipline among warring students bent on killing each other. Favourite among his “extras” was the stage. He saw a lot of India, travelling with the college troupe, representing Agra University at National Youth Festivals. At graduation he was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s medal for being among the top ten all-rounders from among about 14,000 students.

In the world of work Ernest always fought above his weight. He moved around companies, always giving his best, right till his retirement. In retirement he continued to seek to make a difference. He was involved in his parish and gave of his time and talents to whom-so-ever and where-so-ever he thought he could help in any way.

This light was extinguished on the 3rd of February 2018. He will be sadly missed by his rock and best friend (my sister-in-law Margaret) their daughter Georgina and her extended family, George, Roopa and Abigail, Gerald, all his brothers, sisters and those who were blessed to have known him. He will be missed, but we know he is in a better place.

 

 

OnToday’s Readings: Judith8:25 – 27, Mark5: 1- 20

 

 

“(It) is not vengeance that God exacts on us , but a warning inflicted by the Lord on those who are near to His heart”.

How else do we explain the torment the demonic sufferers till the encounter with Christ? He had lived alone, haunted by his demons, in a graveyard, aimlessly shouting – no one daring to approach him. In anguished cries for freedom he destroys whatever means were used to restrict him. In that abject state of hopelessness he has the unsuspected gift of sight. He sees Jesus in his true person; a grace still not granted to the disciples. He is able to see and communicate with Jesus in a unique and powerful way. We recall Peter’s famous plea,“Leave me Lord, I am a sinner”.

It is Jesus who sets him free from what is an infliction given him, in terms of the text from Judith. We question why great calamities occur; we question the miseries that fall upon the innocent; we ask, “Why me” in times of tribulation? Indeed. Why was this poor man possessed by multiple demons? In his darkest hour there is hope, there is grace, there is mercy. He was given the grace to see and hear God’s glory in the most adverse of circumstances. Like the floods that cause misery in so many parts. Yet, the receding waters leave fertile soil behind for the planting of a new crop, harvest and food for the survivors. Like a glorious dawn following a dark night!

The incident would have been recorded as being no different from the several other miracles performed by Jesus had Jesus not instructed the man to go back to his people to be a witness to God’s glorious work. The work of bringing God’s salvation among the untouchables and gentiles is underway.

Cry Freedom

We sit huddled in a wagon called “Culture”. With us are our belongings of talents, hopes, aspirations, achievement, and all we hold dear. The wagon is poised on an ancient hill that’s overlooking a steep and bumpy road leading to our destined valley of milk and honey, we have named “Civilization”. We ponder.  The wagon could hurtle perilously gathering speed down the bumpy track, if unchecked. Or, can we trust the brakes of Responsibility and Wisdom to slow down the descent?

Of Determined Consequences

It is indeed right and wise that we interpret and update scriptures and our tradition to mirror the prevailing spiritual consciousness. But, I pause. Do we sufficiently consideration the consequences of what we end up doing? For, while we chip away at the rock on which the Church is built, we expose it to the changing weather, and the rains with eroding floods, that could sweep under the structure. Who will care for the displaced poor in spirit? Well may we marvel at the stately pleasure dome we erect over the rubble. But, will its supports stand up when the rains revisit? There will be a fall of Babel proportions. Our detractors then will mock us. “Where is their God”, They will say?