Monday, December 31, 2012

My Birthday Gift

I can't imagine, one more year is over after celebrating the great and ever memorable birthday in 2012. There are certain times that we do want to celebrate special events in our life,  which happened to be  my birthday and ten years of Ordination that fell on the same day. But away from home, no friends and friars around, I felt a kind of loneliness. I remembered that I went down to the kitchen for breakfast on my birthday in 2012. And there, Fr. Dismas was waiting for me with a fruit basket sent by my family in Singapore. My eyes opened wide, that was really unexpected gift, my heart leaped with joy, I felt love of my family in Singapore and I said to my heart you are not alone.

As I was unpacking the fruit basket, a phone call came from one of the students, let me call her cupcake. She told me, "Father, I would like to make confession". I said, "Sure, I am celebrating my birthday, we can celebrate mass and have a bite together". I wanted to thank God for a productive day to celebrate my ordination day not because someone was coming for confession but cupcake was dear to me. She was a wonderful student and a role model to many students and a good catholic. One day couple of her friends invited me to have lunch with them and they tried to explain to me that cupcake was going to Southeast. I thought Southeast was a place and in my ignorance I said that if that's her will, let her. Later I came to know that Southeast was a Protestant church.
I did not judge her, may be God used my ignorance for a better result. She is coming, she is coming to make confession, I was thrilled. She came by noon, made her confessions, attended mass. I made a cup of soup and gave it to her. I am so happy for her now. God works in mysterious ways. She has joined the Benedictine Sisters and I dream and pray that she becomes a great nun.
I said to the Lord, before I go to bed, that was an awesome celebration.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sweet home

I read somewhere that there are six types of families. The first one is Kurukshetra which means the family will be like 'Kurukshetra'. Those who do not know 'Kurukshetra', it means the battle field of the Mahabharata between Pandava and Kauravas. Kurukshetra family is 24/7 fighting family.

The second is restaurant, this kind of family is like a restaurant , family come together only for dining, relation is very poor. The house becomes just a restaurant, a place to eat.

The third one is cemetery, you may guess how this family would look like, very silent, no communication, not because of they are practicing virtue, but poor relationship. They may live under one roof, but far away from hearts. The family becomes like a cemetery with great silence of non communication and love.

The fourth one is hostel, it is similar like a restaurant, family becomes a place for rest and sleep. Again there is lack of relationship, the family members have their own room, TV, computer and cellphones, they disperse to their room saying goodnight. Poor sharing and communication, each one becomes an island.

The fifth one is club, a place for celebration and enjoyment.The neighbourhood thinks that this family is a happy family because of their life celebrations but when we dig their lives we see lots of past wounds and anger towards each other.

The final one is sweet home, the model is holy family where each one becomes symbol of love. Each one is enthusiastic to love each other, it is a praying family, a sacrificing family. They live in Pentecostal experience. To understand Pentecostal experience, we may have to look in to the Babel in the Book of Genesis. According to the story, a united humanity is building a city with a tower whose top may reach unto heaven. God came down to see what they did and confused their languages, so that they would not be able to return to each other, and they left off building the city. At Pentecost. people from all over the world were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate, and St. Peter was preaching, even though they all spoke different languages they could all understand what he was saying. On that day 3,000 people became Christians!
Sweet home is the symbol of this Pentecost experience. Every one in the family understands each other. Husband understands wife, father and mother understand children, mother- in- law understand daughter- in- Law. That is really sweet home. As we celebrate feast of holy family let us reflect over this.

Cream biscuit

I hope you all have eaten cream biscuits in your life. It is the cream between the two pieces adds more sweetness to the biscuit. I think cream biscuit teach us a reality of life that we must act as cream which adds sweetness and closeness in others life.
If there is any bitterness and gap between father and mother, children should act as cream. And if it is between mother and children the father has to act as cream, if this is between daughter in law and mother in law, son has to act as cream and many other ways you could imagine.

St. John says in his first letter chapter 4 "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God". I'd everyone who loves is from God we should love each other.

There are people who say I love my Husband, my wife, my children and if they can not express it, that is not love. If you love someone we should act as cream and should express it. I remember a father of a child who brought 49 marks out of 50 in maths and the father asked without a word of appreciation, where is the one mark? Funny isn't it? Sometimes we are in this category, we love but cannot express. If you love you have to express.

I remember a day after my ordination, a couple came to me and said they were send by one of my friend friars. They said they need counselling. I was just ordained and they were asking for counselling, I was shocked. I pretended like I have been counsellor for many years and started counselling. They were fighting each other, and I just sat there opening my mouth. When they were tired I addressed the women calling sweet sister, she was so happy and asked the husband, "Hear what father has called me, have you ever called me like this in between five years of our life."? I ran away from the counselling room when the counselling ended. She conveys that thinking I love my wife/Husband and children are not enough, we have to express. Dear brothers and sisters, if you love you have to express, be cream each other.

Traditions and rituals

I belong to a rite called Syro Malabar rite. It is an indigenous Catholic Church in India established by St. Thomas the apostle in AD 52. We have about 30000 nuns, 6000 diocesan priests and 6000 religious priests and 700 brothers. It is a rich church and priests and religious are respected in the society. Whenever people meet priests and religious, they are greeted by saying "eesho mishihakku sthuthi aayirikkatte" which means praise be to Jesus Christ or I see Jesus in you and praise Jesus. In USA, the Indian community follow the same tradition. One day a grandma asked grand child to greet me with 'eesho mishihakku...' I know it is very difficult to speak malayalam for our English speaking kids. This 5year old girl was struggling to say this loud. I told her do not worry buddy, give me a hi five. The grandma was very angry and said this is your problem you forget our traditions and you are becoming more liberals. It really shocked me, yes, it is true I have become more liberal in thoughts. I reflected over her words.

The gospel of today Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus and fulfil the law of Moses. And I think that they both following the law of Moses, teach us the importance of traditions and rituals in the church. There is meaning and significance in rituals and traditions. Many times we loose this and we have stopped saying novenas, we have stopped saying grace before the food, we have stopped days of fasting and abstinence and we have stopped many traditions and rituals that our forefathers shared with us.

I remember when I read Cardinal Henry Newman he said Church is not people with opinions but it is the sharing of Truth. I do not remember the exact words. We have to remember Church doesn't mean opinions, We may have different opinions on the Creed, true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, confession and many other things, Church is not the place of this. It is the faith, if we have different opinions on what the church teaching about the Truth, I would say this is not the place for you. You may think I am an orthodox and rigid, no I am not but I think we shall not the rituals and traditions of the church. It is Protestantism to say only the bible.
Let us sleep over it and think whether we have lost the meaning of traditions and rituals in our lives.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Glowing with grace

When Thomas Merton the great monk of Kentucky was a young at the abbey of Gethsemane, he sometimes visited Louisville. One day he stood and looked at the city, he felt city is glowing with the grace of God. How do I tell people? He asked himself, that they walk around shining like the sun. If you visit downtown, Louisville, will see the place Thomas Merton stood. I wish that you all glow with grace of God. I wonder if everyone glows with the grace of God how would be the city look like?
What is grace? Grace is Divine presence and Divine energy in us. If everyone is led by the grace of God the world would have been so graceful and peaceful.
Oh God, when it will happen?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Perfect Joy

It is beautiful how St. Francis Assisi puts perfect joy. He says to Friar Leo, "When we come to St. Mary of the Angels, soaked by the rain and frozen by the cold, all soiled with mud and suffering from hunger, and we ring at the gate of the Place and the brother porter comes and says angrily: 'Who are you?' And we say: 'We are two of your brothers.' And he contradicts us, saying: 'You are not telling the truth. Rather you are two rascals who go around deceiving people and stealing what they give to the poor. Go away And he does not open for us, but makes us stand outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry, until night falls-then if we endure all those insults and cruel rebuffs patiently, without being troubled and without complaining, and if we reflect humbly and charitably that that porter really knows us and that God makes him speak against us, oh, Brother Leo, write that perfect joy is there!

'And if we continue to knock, and the porter comes out in anger, and drives us away with curses and hard blows like bothersome scoundrels, saying; 'Get away from here, you dirty thieves-go to the hospital! Who do you think you are? You certainly won't eat or sleep here'--and if we bear it patiently and take the insults with joy and love in our hearts, Oh, Brother Leo, write that that is perfect joy!

And if later, suffering intensely from hunger and the painful cold, with night falling, we still knock and call, and crying loudly beg them to open for us and let us come in for the love of God, and he grows still more angry and says: 'Those fellows are bold and shameless ruffians. I'll give them what they deserve.' And he comes out with a knotty club, and grasping us by the cowl throws us onto the ground, rolling us in the mud and snow, and beats us with that club so much that he covers our bodies with wounds--if we endure all those evils and insults and blows with joy and patience, reflecting that we must accept and bear the sufferings of the Blessed Christ patiently for love of Him, oh, Brother Leo, write: that is perfect joy! Joy is the attitudes that we create. According to Francis we can have it wherever we are and in whatever situation we are. A millionaire can be an unhappy person.

You might have heard about St. Maximilian Kolbe. He is a polish Franciscan friar who did sacrifice his life for another man in the concentration camp of Hitler. The biographers says that his cell was happy and the soldiers heard singing and praying from the cell. He proves that joy is that we create.

According to Democritus, Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold, the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul. Aristotle says: "Happiness depends upon ourselves". Hellen Keller has a beautiful thought on it "When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us". We learn from all these that joy is that we create, even we can create joy from the most miserable state of life.

One of the Indian guru asks what dies the flame does? It goes up and keep your flames up and be joyful in every situation.
Once a lady came to Buddha and asked him to give life to the dead body of her son. Buddha said that is not possible but she insisted. Buddha said go to the village and visit houses if you find a house without sorrow bring a handful of mustard seed from that house. She came back by evening very tired and she said everyone in the village has sorrow. The story teaches that everyone has reasons to be unhappy. Therefore, let us always remember Francis "perfect joy".

Toxic waste

A clean heart and mind is an essential requisite of spiritual life. In India, we call those people who have purified mind, soul and heart as "yogi". He is like a lotus: lotus lives in a dirty water but the flower is most beautiful and shining, never affected by dirty surroundings.
Psalmist prays, create in me a clean heart o God and renew a right spirit within me ( 51:10). He Knows that clean heart is important in the spiritual life. The Bible says "blessed are the pure in heart, they are able to see God". It is quite natural that the shadow of the moon can be seen only on a clear water thus also God in our hearts.
We give lots of importance to clean our body, buys advanced body care lotions and cosmetics to appear beautiful and handsome. That is fine! We should care our bodies but we shall not forget our hearts and minds. We put all toxic waste like, hatred, envy, anger and fear into our minds. As the years pass they accumulate as mountains of trash and toxic waste which causes psychosomatic diseases. That is why the Bible always asks us to cultivate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control( Gal. 5: 19-23) which make you strong and joyful.
We clean our house everyday to keep it liveable place. Let us clean our hearts and minds for a healthy life. Let us open our hearts everyday to God's love so He can work nonstop in us.

Friday, December 21, 2012

When I am worried

"When I am worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessing instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings" (White Christmas)

Have you ever tried this method? I tried this method personally and I would recommend; count my blessings and slowly fall in to asleep.

Dear friends, If we need to be worried and spend time worrying we have millions of reasons. Think about Anne Frank, she had tons of reasons to be sad in the concentration camp of Hitler but I think she counted her blessings and made her life happy and joyful.

In today's gospel mother Mary sings when she has lots of reason to be worried and sleepless. She can worry thinking about her husband's reaction when he knows that she is pregnant, she can think about the judgment of the society when they know that she is pregnant without her husband. But look at Mary, she sings a beautiful song known as Magnificat, counting her blessings. She counts her blessings one after another. She praises God, what a beautiful example. She is so happy and she makes even her cousin Elizabeth happy.

So dear friends when you are worried remember mother Mary, Anne Frank and many other people who made themselves happy thinking about their blessing.

One of the Indian Gurus said if you are worried and cannot sleep, listen to the people who are more worried than you. And still it doesn't work go and spend few days in mental hospital and you will realise how blessed you are for not being there.

Dear friends if you are worried and cannot sleep remember these lines : 
When I am worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessing instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stockholm syndrome

I hope my readers might have heard about Stockholm syndrome. It is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy, sympathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. Stockholm syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm in which several bank employees were held hostage in a bank vault from August 23 to August 28, 1973. During this situation, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, rejected assistance from government officials at one point and even defended them after they were freed.
I feel many of us, especially those who are considered leaders and role models, have Stockholm syndrome that they become part of what we suppose to be against.
Parents are supposed to be the role models for children. It is from the parents that children learn moral values and love. I was visiting a family and a phone call came for the head of the family and the youngest son attended the call. He said dad, Mr. J was on the line very softly, closing the mouth piece. Dad said, tell him that I am in Bangalore, and will be back in a week. I do not know who is on the other side of the line, may be somebody that he loaned money or a friend whom he wanted to avoid. Whatever the case is, he teaches his son to lie. I have many examples to tell, I fear to write on a blog. We become what we are supposed to be against, I think this is the tragedy of most of us.
A parish priest was preaching about forgiveness and everyone in the parish knows that he is not in communion with the ex trustee. What message he is conveying? He has become part of what he supposed to be against. I think you can imagine tons of things that you have become part of, which you were not supposed to be part of it.
I urge you to reflect if you have become part of what you are supposed to be against. Let this thought give you a push to rethink.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Did we kill God in our hearts?

I was shocked last week to hear from one of the students that we shall not say Merry Christmas in the public schools instead we shall say happy holidays! wishing Christmas without naming Jesus!!Do you feel something wrong? Is this feeling because I am an Indian?

According to Karl Marx, man is a material being and according to Freud, man is a sexual being. But religions reminds man that he is a spiritual being. Recently, I read an article which says 60-80% of Indian youths are happy because they are connected with spiritual centres and in Japan only 9% of the youths are happy! When I write this, you may feel how come he comes with all these data? The ancient cultures and civilisation of thousands years back tried to explain this great Reality. We consciously forget history and take God away from the society and human hearts. The materialistic world teaches that God is dead and long live superman. Are you not hearing digging of the God's graveyard? Yes we are keeping God away from human hearts.

I remember a picture of Jesus knocking at the door. He is powerful to break the door but he knocks to enter because He respects our freedom.

I saw on the Internet a Somalian boy drinking urine from the back of a cow to quench his thirsty. It is a shocking scene for all but I would say hunger is not the problem of today, the problem of today is that we are keeping God away from our children. We have stopped reading bible in the school, using God's name in public and talking about God in the class room. Churches have become empty places and many churches are on sale or even clearance sale! Darkness rules the hearts.

I saw many different texts on Face book in response to the shooting in Connecticut. Somebody asked where is God? We have forgotten God and asks where is God? That's really funny! God is there in all the innocent children and adults who were killed. It is God who suffered.
I liked a Face book message that we need more people to teach about love, yes we shall not forget we need to teach about love, peace and justice. The world is not merely material. We should bring back God in to our society. We write on our dollar bill in God we trust. It is high time to really trust in Him. I hear that the church is full when there is a calamity or catastrophe and recently in Connecticut service. We may forget Connecticut soon but let us pray not to forget what God teaches and also not to forget history. Let us pray with Indian rishis "thamasoma jyothir gamaya- let the darkness be removed and light come in.