April 4, 2020 – 5th Week of Lent

“Choosing ‘goodness over popularity’ because some ‘popular’ things can lead to death and destruction!”

(Based on Ezek 37:21-28 and Jn 11:45-57)

A person who had his house near the forest, found a large number of rats that had infested his house.

Not finding an easy way to get rid of this menace…
… he went to the city to find a solution.

A flavoured poison for rats, attracted his attention and he bought a few to his house.

He kept a few of these boxes of flavoured poison around his house, including one under his bed.

That night he could not believe his eyes!

Below his bed, was a feeding frenzy…
… a number of rats were relishing the flavoured poison!

The following morning, he checked the boxed and found them all clean – perfectly licked!

In order to make sure that his plan would work, he tried the same method the following day as well…
… placing the boxes of flavoured poison everywhere.

The rats once again, savoured the “poisonous food” again!

But in the few days that followed…
… everything was quiet!

The tasty and popular “food” did its trick!

All the rats were dead!

The rats who had “enjoyed the meal” became a prey to the popularity trick!

All what is “popular” need not, always be good!

Some “popular” things can lead to “death and destruction!”

The one who chooses “goodness over popularity”…
… are the ones who will prevail and persevere!

The Gospel of the Day is the presentation of how Jesus remains as a Symbol of “Goodness being chosen over popularity”…
… in the face of extreme hatred and pitiless feelings.

Life often crushes us and cause immense disappointments.

When things don’t shape up as we plan, we get greatly frustrated.
When people don’t behave in the way we expect, we get totally devastated.

But through today’s Gospel reading, the Lord invites us…
… to not get shattered or disappointed with life’s bad-turns or evil-leanings…
…Rather, to gather strength and courage to fight the evil, arm oneself in faith and hope and seek to live a life of holiness and conviction…

“Seek Goodness over popularity!”

The Gospel of the day, on this eve of the Holy Week, introduces us to culmination of the sharp antagonism and hatred that was building up against Jesus.

Jesus had raised up the dead Lazarus (Jn 11: 1-43)

This event garnered a lot of attention…
… many people began to believe in the person of Jesus, as the Messiah and Lord.

But many others, also began to have a greater bitterness towards this Man who was working wonders!

Many people grew in their following of Jesus and placed a greater trust and confidence in Him

But many others, had their flames of jealousy intensified and began to have greater plotting to finish off the “law-breaker” and “blasphemer”

The good that the Lord had done, was apparently turning out to be an evil for the Lord!

The “life-giving” action of the Lord would immediately result in a “life-taking” act on Him!

The event of blessing to Lazarus would apparently turned out to result in an occasion of curse on Him [since dying on the cross was considered to be a curse ( Deut 21: 23)]!

In the ensuing planning and plotting by the chief priests and the Pharisees, the High Priest said, “… it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish” (Jn 11: 50)

Jesus had grown to be a big threat for them

Jesus had gathered up much popularity and had become a menace for the leaders.

Therefore, the High Priest suggested a “quick-solution”… to kill Jesus!

But, everything in life has a purpose…
… Because God is the ultimate ruler, preserver and nurturer of this universe!

They plotted death but God planned life

They were selfish but God made Him the Saviour
They sought for political gain, but God ensured spiritual gain.
They hoped to spare one nation, but God saved the whole world.

They intended the worst evil for Jesus but God turned it into the greatest good.

They wished to scatter all His followers, but God brought them together as one holy nation.

Our life also follows this same pattern…

The events we think are bad, also have a purpose in God’s mind.
The moments that we consider as cursed, also can be turned to a blessing by God.

Sometimes, it’s just too hard to accept this teaching
… too difficult to understand this concept…

But we have a beautiful answer in this our painful moments: the Cross.

Look to the Cross and find strength from Him…
… who was abused though He was pure
… who suffered immensely, thought He was faultless.
… who underwent tremendous agony, thought He was sinless.

This was the way of God…
…mysterious to us, but life saving for the world.
… baffling for us, but redemptive for the world.

What is most important is not to get discouraged or disheartened…rather…
… to seek the Lord wholeheartedly in all those situations
… to be faithful to the Lord in steadfastness and patience.
… to be strong and joyful, finding strength in the love of the Lord.

Prophet Ezekiel reminds us of the Covenant that God had with His people…
… “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.

My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people!” (Ezek 37:26-27)

We are reminded of the Faithfulness of the Lord…
… and invited to place our hope and trust in this Faithfulness of God!

It is this hope and trust that should assure us that Everything…
…YES… everything in life, happens for good!

All what is “popular” need not, always be good!
… b’cos some “popular” things can lead to “death and destruction!”

The one who chooses “goodness over popularity”…
… are the ones who will prevail and persevere!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Honours, ranks and dignities are like saffron…which grows better and flourishes when trampled underfoot!”

April 3, 2020 – 5th Week of Lent

“Avoiding stony-hearts and instead seeking to nurture tender, loving, understanding and compassionate hearts!

(Based on Jer 20:10-13 and Jn 10:31-42)

“We are strewn all over the ground.

Some of us are considered useless….

Some of us are just stamped upon…
Some are made use in some hard labour…
Some of us…
… well…some of us, however, are made use for some inhuman practices.

This includes making use of some of us, to hurt others
… to cause pains and wounds to others
… and some even to cause fatal deaths!

Our life is often long…
… but sometimes, such kind of painful moments and incidents, ooze out any bit of feelings we may have (though we are considered not to be having any sentiments!)

Are you wondering who we are?

… we are the family of stones!

Yep… Stones!

Strewn all over…
Sometimes useless, right?
Sometimes just stamped upon, right?
Sometimes just made use for hard labour, right?
But sometimes, some of us, the stones
… also become objects of injuring and causing pain to others

One such occasion was when, as you read in the Gospel of St John 8
… some of us were picked up by a gang of highly malicious, judgmental and selfish people, to cause death to a woman who was caught in an act of immorality.

We were ready to thrown on that woman.
We were set to become objects of brutality and terror.

However, that day, we encountered the most amazing personality.

He had glorious eyes.

He had a breathtaking voice.
He had a tremendous authority.

His name was Jesus!

And His one sentence, “He who is without sin, let him be the first to stone” dropped the jaws of all those blood-thirsty and cruel people.

We were all released from their hands.

We saw them all turning their backs and going home, in shame.
We also saw, the wonderful triumph of Mercy and Love and Compassion.

However, a few days later, some of us were soon back to find ourselves in the hands of those blood-thirsty men.

This time, the target was none other than that same charismatic person named Jesus.

You read about that in John 10:31, “The Jews took up stones again to stone Jesus”

We were left wondering why this innocent man was being targeted so badly.

He was after all preaching the Kingdom of God.
He was bringing the message of God’s Love and salvation to the world.

By His Life, He was declaring Himself to be the Messiah from God.

By His works, He was also proving Himself to be the Son of God.

But none of these “clear-cut” evidences were able to convince those people.

They still believed that Jesus was a blasphemer.
They still were determined to think that Jesus was a heretic.

And so they picked us up
…yes, we the stones
… to indulge themselves in a blood-bath of the Blessed Man of claimed Himself to be the Lord and Saviour of the World!

Prophet Jeremiah also had a similar experience of being denounced by the people…
… and centuries ago, recounting his own struggle, had written these prophetic words about the Saviour: “For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side!
‘Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall.
‘Perhaps he will be deceived, then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him!’” (Jer 20:10)

Our thoughts go out to those people who have such ruthless and stony intentions….

God had blessed them with such beautiful hearts.
God had showered them with so much of wisdom to discern and understand.

Yet, they failed to make use of these divine gifts and instead, had hardened their hearts!

What a pity, that those human beings had become like us
… stones!

Yes, just how could they become stone-hearted?

… that they failed to be open to the possibility of God’s hand at work.

Stone hearted
… that they were adamant to be closed to any explanation of the Lord.

… that they were stubborn to listen to the voice of God’s Spirit in their lives.

We, the stones, now appeal to you, dear readers, to be wary and examine your lives: Are you also sometimes acquiring a nature like us, the stones…
… hard to the feelings of other people and failing to understand them?
… rigid to the inspirations of the Spirit of God and not letting Him work in your lives?
… inflexible to have changes and transformations in life, to attune oneself to God’s Will?

There are already many of us in the world…

On your streets, on your roads
… we are all, indeed strewn all over the place
…we, the stones.

But we sincerely beg you…
… not to let your hearts to become like us
… not to let your lives to be similar to our nature.

Let the world have more of, not stony-hearts…
… but tender, loving, understanding and compassionate hearts!

Let the world have more of, not hardened souls…
… but docile, open, submissive and humble lives!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “We do not become perfect by the multiplicity of exercises, penances and austerities…… but rather by the purity of love with which we do them!”

April 2, 2020 – 5th Week of Lent

“Deepening our Faith in the Divine and allowing Him – the Bright Star – to always shine in our lives!

(Based on Gen 17:3-9 and Jn 8:51-59)

It is said that during the First World War, in American town,s any household that had given a son to the war…
… was entitled to place a star on the window pane.

A certain man was walking down a certain avenue in New York, accompanied by his little boy.

The lad became very interested in the lighted windows of the houses, and clapped his hands whenever he saw a star at the window pane of the houses.

As they passed house after house, he would say: “Oh, look, daddy, there’s another house that has given a son to the war!

And there’s another! There’s one with two stars!
And look, there’s a house with no star at all!”

After quite some time, they came to a some vacant places where there were no houses.
However, in the vast expanse, the evening star was seen shining brightly in the sky.

The little fellow caught his breath and with an excited exclaim said: “Oh, look, Daddy,” he cried, “God must have given His Son, for He has got a Star in His window.”

“He has indeed!’ said Daddy!

Yes, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn 3:16)

This Gift of God – Jesus, the Son of God – is the Person of controversy in today’s Gospel.

Not all people were able to digest this fact, that Jesus, could be fully divine.

Not all were able to grasp this aspect that Jesus, could be the Son of God.

It is such a debating discussion over the Divinity of the Lord that forms the chunk of the Gospel of the Day.

One of the constant companions of the Lord, all through His life was…
… being hated!

It was especially His declaration on having a Divine origin that generated greater sparks of hatred.

The debate continues between Jesus and the Jews.

The Jews had immense pride in calling themselves as the children of their Father, Abraham.

As the debate continues, the Lord puts forward the gem of His defense…the core of His revelation: “Truly truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn 8:58)

Those words of Jesus hit his critics, directly on the face…
“Before Abraham was, I AM!”

“I AM” was the title of God Yawheh!
“I AM” was the sole privilege of the Lord Almighty!

This was the name that was given by God to Moses: “I AM who am. This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you” (Ex 3:14)

It was pure blasphemy for any mortal to use it for oneself.
It was sheer heretical for any human to apply it to oneself.

I AM – the Name…
… demanded fear as to none other
… commanded respect as to no one
… contained awesomeness as in nothing else

In the book of Genesis, we read God Yahweh – the Great “I AM” time and again encounters Abraham.

“Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ;Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations!” (Gen 17:3)

The Jews who were well aware of these incidents, were highly infuriated, when Jesus would call Himself as the “I AM”…
… not only claiming superiority over Abraham
… but equating Himself to be God!

And so, the Lord had to face the consequences of this “blasphemous” act:
“So they picked up stones to throw at Him” (Jn 8:59)

And so the life of the Lord expounds an important truth:

Where there is the mention of Divinity…
… there are forces of the evil seeking to cast it away.

Where there is the presence of the Divine…
… there are powers seeking to destroy the sacredness.

Jesus, the One hated the most, was the Most Divine.

Jesus, the One who was always contrary to the moods of the world, was the Most Divine

Fulton Sheen picks up this beautiful aspect, to present a secular, rational and a logical reasoning to see the Truth in the Holy Catholic Church.

We quote him here….

“If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world;
… in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hated.

My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh.

If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world!

Look for the Church…
… that is hated by the world as Christ was hated by the world!
… that is accused of being behind the times, as our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned.
… which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth.
… which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils.
… which, in seasons of bigotry, men say must be destroyed in the name of God as men crucified Christ and thought they had done a service to God.
… which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because He called Himself the Truth.
… which is rejected by the world as Our Lord was rejected by men.
… which amid the confusions of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its Voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly it is other worldly. since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself.

But only that which is Divine can be infinitely hated and infinitely loved.

Therefore the Church is Divine.”

Our own lives sometimes becomes an object of hate when we stand for Christ, the Truth

The more we tend towards being Divine…
… the greater is the opposition we face.

The more we tend towards being Spiritual…
… the higher is the shame we encounter.

Jesus, is the same, yesterday today and forever (Heb 13:8)

As His true followers, we too will have to undergo agony, pain, humiliation and even suffering….

Let us be firm in His grace and stand bold, facing the challenges to our faith

Let us grow in our love and commitment to the Holy Church and share in Her suffering.

Let us deepen our Faith that “God has given His Son, for He has got a Star in His window”…
… and may this Bright Star – Jesus – always shine in our lives!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Nothing else purifies the intellect of ignorance and the will of depraved affections…… better than prayer!”

April 1, 2020 – 5th Week of Lent

“Being faithful to the Lord, even when we know it is God’s Will that is permitting us, to experience momentary suffering and struggle!”

(Based on Dan 3:14-20, 24-25, 28 and Jn 8:31-42)

Valiant stories of courage and faith are always an inspiration!

One such beautiful incident is narrated in the 3rd Chapter of the Book of Daniel

This chapter describes how the Jews were forced to bow down before a golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar.

However, three young men – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – refused to do so, and held on to their faithfulness to God Yahweh.

This act of defiance infuriated the king and he warned them of severe consequences if they failed to to do what he commanded.

At this, the three young, displaying immense courage and faith in the Lord responded:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
But if not, be it known to you, O king…
… that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up!” (Dan 3:16-17)

The three young men were convinced of the mighty delivering Hand of the Lord…

But not only that; they also boldly offered themselves to the Will of God and declared…
… “even if it is the Will of God, that we should momentarily suffer in this fire, we will still be faithful to God!”

That’s Faith! That’s Trust!

Holding on to the Lord, not only because you wish that God will answer your prayer, in the way you want, and in the time you want…
… but being faithful to the Lord, even when you know it is God’s Will that is permitting you, to experience momentary suffering and struggle!

Being convinced of the Truth and Beauty of God’s Will…
… they were willing to make every sacrifice – and go against every stubborn temptation!

Are we ready to open our eyes to this Truth of knowing and accepting God’s Will in our life?

Or do we remain stubborn and defiant in the ‘temptation to think and do as per our own wishes’…
… and fail to experience the Divine Power of the Lord?

The Gospel of the Day is a continuation of the Jews getting into arguments with Jesus on the question of His Divinity.

The Lord invites them open their eyes to see and experience the Truth…
… but they close their minds, and choose to remain stubborn, in their own understanding

The Lord exposes before them the futility of being ignorant and the advantage of knowing the Truth…
… but they wilfully choose to remain stuck in their past knowledge and be unwilling to open their hearts to possibilities of change.

Jesus, the Truth-Incarnate, declares: “You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free” (Jn 8: 31)
But the people retorted and answered: “… we have never been enslaved…” (Jn 8: 33)

They considered slavery from only a physical perspective!

They were extremely offended when Jesus considered them to be slaves!

But Jesus brings the focus into right perspective (as he does always!), and speaks of a deadlier form of slavery and a higher form of freedom…

A slavery to Sin…
… that causes one to be away from God and His people

A slavery to ignorance and error…
… that causes one to be closed to God’s Word and prevent His transformation to take place within

He invites to receive Freedom in Him…
… that enjoins with knowing and doing the Father’s Will
… that liberates one from the bondages of death, and leads into peace and joy!

The danger to remain stagnant in sinful or ignorant ways constantly lurks in our life:

The Truth of the Bible is often presented to us in appealing and interesting formats…
… but we often seek to remain ignorant or don’t show any interest to read and understand God’s Word

The beauty of the Sacramental Life and the Teachings of the Church is laid before our eyes…
… but we time and again, tend to be lethargic, casual and sometimes even, hostile to them

Our eyes often come into contact with the suffering lot of people, in and around us…
… but many times, we turn a blind eye to them and remain indifferent in our cosy lifestyle

Each of us needs a purification…

Each of us needs a movement…

A purification from our stubborn ways to a life of obedience and docility to God’s Word

A movement from a sluggish life of faith to being a fervent and committed Christian

Yes, Jesus is constantly extends His Nail-Scarred Hands, inviting us to a life of holiness and sanctity.

We are constantly exhorted, to live in holiness and purity…
… but often, we stubbornly choose to inhabit in sin, shame and ignorance!

We are invited, to a life of spotlessness and sanctity…
… but often, we remain satisfied to dwell with the unclean and dirty things of life!

Let us make a self-examination of our state of life…
… realize the need to have a purification and a movement…
… and embrace and live with Jesus, the Truth, “Who sets us free”!

Today, let us make a firm commitment – like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the three young men in the Book of Daniel, whose life was a valiant story of courage and faith

And hold on to the Lord, not only because we wish that God will answer our prayer, in the way we want and in the time we want…
… but being faithful to the Lord, even when we know it is God’s Will that is permitting us, to experience momentary suffering and struggle!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “God will unfailingly be pleased with our patience and take note of our diligence and perseverance!”

March 31, 2020 – 5th Week of Lent

“Opening our hearts – in repentance and contrition – and allowing Him to reveal “the light” of His love and grace in our hearts!”

(Based on Num 21:4-9 and Jn 8: 21-30)

St. Augustine speaks of a conversation, he had, with an unbeliever.

The other man showed him his idol gods and said, “Here is my god; Where is thine?”

He again pointed to the skies and said, “Lo, Here is my god; Where is thine?”
He further showed some of the land creatures and said, “Behold, here is my god; Where is thine?”

“But” St Augustine says, “I showed him not my God;

Not because I had not one to show him, but because he had not eyes to see Him”

Unless one open’s one’s eyes to the Divine realities…
… one cannot see the Divine!

If one chooses to remain closed to the light of Divinity…
… then one continues to remain in the darkness of life!

The Gospel of the Day is the account of Jesus presenting Himself as the Light of the World and his continued debate with the Pharisees, who chose to remain in the darkness of error and ignorance.

Jesus is at the Feast of the Tabernacles (Jn 7: 10)

It is a kind of a harvest festival.

It’s a festival of going up to Jerusalem and join in the festivities with many of the other farmers and vineyard-keepers…
… being grateful and expressing one’s thankfulness to God Yahweh, who has blessed with a good harvest.

In the evening of the Feast day, everyone gets together in the Court of the Women at the Temple to dance and praise God for his goodness.

There is an elaborate ceremony involving the pouring out of water from great pitchers and then the lamps are lit.

Four huge oil lamps are positioned around the courtyard and the priests’ assistants pour great quantities of oil into the bases of them.
Massive wicks are created from the worn-out clothing of the priests and stuffed into the necks.
Darkness falls quickly with very little twilight between the strong sunlight and the rising of the moon, which follows very rapidly at this time of year.

Suddenly the lamps are lit and the whole courtyard is bathed in their light.

A cheer goes up from the revellers and from around the city, as the light can be seen from every part of Jerusalem.

Using the contrast between…
… the glowing exuberance of the brightly lit courtyard
… and the growing darkness in the atmosphere

Jesus makes a loud and bold proclamation:
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8: 12)

But the Pharisees objected and spoke in retort:
“You testify on your own behalf, so your testimony cannot be verified” (Jn 8: 13)

There was a contrast-play, on here….

The Temple was lit brightly
… Jesus declared Himself as the Light of the World

The evening had set and the surroundings were growing darker
… The Pharisees, by rejecting the person of Jesus, chose to remain in darkness!

Jesus was constantly giving witness to the fact that He was the “light of the world”

He brought the light…
… of healing – to those sick and in distress
… of salvation – to those in sin and guilt
… of power and grace – by His words and teachings

But the Pharisees and many of the “creamy class” of the Jewish society, chose to dwell in “darkness”

They remained in the darkness…
… of ignorance – by not being open to the teachings and works of Jesus
… of death – by continuing a life of sin and error and refusing the offer of grace from Jesus

Jesus wishes to be the “light of our life”!

One of the most tragic statements in the Bible reads thus:
“He came to His own, and His own rejected Him” (Jn 1: 11)

What about us?

Do we open our hearts to allow His light to shine through us?

Or do we get stagnant in darkness, and choose to reject His teaching in our life…?

Do we seek the Lord in honesty seeking, to cause His light to shine in our minds?

Or do we remain indifferent in darkness, and get stuck to our pride mentality and lifestyle…?

The people of Israel failed to see the Mighty Hand of the Lord leading and protecting them on their way to the Promised Land.

They got stuck with peripheral and materialistic concerns
… “And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” (Num 21:5)

As a result, they greatly offended the Lord and brought punishment upon themselves.

Yet, the Lord, in His Great Goodness, provided a solution – the bronze serpant – a pre-figurement of the Cross of Christ, which would bring redemption to the whole world!
… “And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live!” (Num 21:8-9)

The Lord comes to us, today…
… proclaiming Himself as the “light of the world”

Let us not remain closed; rather, open our hearts, in repentance and contrition…
… and allow Him to reveal “the light” of His love and grace in our hearts?

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Christian Doctrine clearly proposes to us…
… the truths, God wills us to believe
… the goods, He wills us to hope for
… the punishments, He wills us to fear
… the things, He wills us to love
… the commandments, He wills us to fulfil
… and the counsels, He desires us to follow

All of this is called the Signified Will of God, because He has signified and made manifest His Will and that intention…

… that these things should be believed, hoped for, feared, loved and practised!”

March 30, 2020 – 5th Week of Lent

“With faith, picking up the broken pieces of our life, filling the spaces in our emptiness with His love and being ready to start, all over again, in hope!”

(Based on Dan 13:41-62 and Jn 8:1-11)

“Let me start again … pick the pieces of my brokenness
Fill the spaces in my emptiness … Let me start again”

This a beautiful hymn that echoes the sentiments and feelings of a person who has suffered much and is yet ready to start life all over again.

Life sometimes can crush us really hard…
Life sometimes can wreck us really miserably…

The Gospel of the Day is a beautiful testimony of a person who…
… found herself at the lowest ebbs of her life
… when everything seemed all over
… in total tatters and brokenness

… was able to pick up the broken pieces of her life
… fill the spaces in her emptiness
… and start it all over again
All by the grace and power of the Lord, who intervened, and instilled a new hope and zeal in her.

The incident in focus is the ‘infamous’ occurrence of the woman who was “caught” in adultery.

This is the story of a tragic failure in life.
This is the story of immense shame in life.
This is the story of generous grace in life.

There are so many many things to be pondered and reflected on, through this incident…

Think of the “mean” and “disgraceful” attitude of the people who “caught” this woman “in the act” (Jn 8:3)
… Were they fitted with “special probing and lusty” eyes, that devilishly gazed into “intimate exchanges”, that too on an early morning?

Think of the “self-appointed” role of these “moralists” who sought to restore the innocence of the land, without realising that, perhaps, their own eyes were filled with lust, their hearts drenched in obscenity and their lives soaked in vulgarity.
… How was it that their “clean” consciences and “true” intentions caught hold of only the woman, “caught in the act”, whereas, the man involved, was left, scot-free?

Think of the “deadly” trap that they were laying before the Lord, in seeking to find his opinion on the accused woman
… How neatly they had trapped the Lord in a “most vicious” dilemma:

If the Lord permitted death, it would be going against the Law of the land – of the Romans – since only the Romans were permitted to take the life of a person
If the Lord did not allow to stone, He would be going against the Law of the Lord, which had ordered the stoning of the convicted adulterer to death.

If the Lord permitted killing, He would be going against His own teaching of mercy, and His fundamental mission of “coming to seek and save the lost”
If the Lord forgave her, He would be going against the principle of Justice, and that would be infringing the rights and duties of a Just God.

It was a near-perfect scene, for the religious leaders to dreadfully trap the Lord.

The woman had been caught “in the act” of adultery…
Jesus was now to be trapped “in the act” of breaking the Law…

The woman had been shamefully paraded and stripped of all her dignity…

Jesus was now to be gloriously humiliated and disrobed of His glory and majesty…

But all these were “mere” human thinking and wile wishes…

The wisdom of God is much greater than all human craftiness and cunningness
The mercy of the Lord extends much beyond all human wickedness and maliciousness.

In their wickedness, they failed to see, that they were testing the law with the Law-Giver Himself!

And so, the Benevolent Law-giver, bent down, and wrote with His finger… (Jn 8:6)
… just as He had, centuries back, written the Law on the tablet and given to Moses: “… tablets that were made by God, having inscriptions on them that were engraved by God Himself” (Ex 32:16)

He wrote, not a new law, but He wrote to make the law perfectly understood..

He wrote, not a new commandment, but He wrote to make understand the true spirit of the commandment…
“Let the one who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn 8:7)

This statement shattered all those accusers who heard it!

Those who came to cast the stone had themselves stoned brutally, by the guilt of their sin!
Those who came to enjoy parading the nakedness of the woman, themselves were stripped naked, by their sin and shame!

Justice had triumphed!

Mercy had excelled!
Love had won!

All had left, save the one accused and the One who was Love and Compassion!

The one accused, stood in fear and trembling before the One who recreates and renews!

And so she was given another chance…
…. to pick up the broken pieces of her life
… and to start anew!

In the book of Daniel, the innocent lady, Susanna would undergo a similar experience…
… of being condemned and doomed to death!

But the Wisdom of the Lord would shine through the young boy Daniel…
… and innocent life was saved!

Susanna trusted in the mighty Providence of God…
… and her hopes would not be disappointed; she would not be left in desolation.

These are times when our world is going through immense difficulty

With hope, let us renew our love and faith in the Lord…
… trusting that the Mighty Hand of the Lord will deliver us from every “hopeless and fearful” situation!

Yes, life may very often reduce us also to the same state as this one who was accused.

We may find ourselves crushed….broken…accused… abandoned…shamed!

But the Lord, still gives us a chance….

Shall we not…
…. pick up the broken pieces of our life…
… fill the spaces in our emptiness…
… and start it, all over again?

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise! God, Whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He is your keeper.
He has kept you hitherto.
Do you but hold fast to his dear hand, and he will lead you safely through all things…and, when you cannot stand, He will bear you in His arms!”

March 29, 2020 – 5th Sunday of Lent

“Exclaiming with hope and trust: ‘Thank you Lord for the pain! I know there is a purpose! I know I am loved!’”

(Based on Ezek 37:12-14, Rom 8:8-11 and Jn 11:1-45)

An incident is narrated of a 6-year old boy, who was diagnosed with leukemia (cancer of the blood/bone-marrow).

One day, the child had to undergo a very painful procedure called “spinal tap”.
(‘Spinal Tap’ is a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the spinal cord in order to take out fluid for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment).

The mother, knowing that her child would have to undergo a lot of pain, approached him and told:
“Remember, if it hurts, it’s because you are loved, and there is purpose for the pain!”

The child remembered this sentence and took it to heart.

As the procedure was conducted, the child yelled and sobbed and cried…
… with the horrendous pain.

When the process was finally getting through, the child, with tears in his reddish eyes, looked up to the doctor and exclaimed:
“Thank you Doctor for the pain!
I know there is a purpose!
I know I am loved!”

(The incident goes on to say, that the child survived the painful illness and went on to live a normal life!)

Well, life often takes us through “painful procedures,” right?
(Just as all of us are going through painful moments of fear and suffering in the midst of the deadly sickness!”

In all such situations, our Christian faith reminds us:
“Remember, if it hurts, it’s because you are loved, and there is purpose for the pain!”

The Gospel of the Day – the raising of Lazarus – is a powerful teaching on this dimension of how we need to put our trust in the Lord…
… and realise, that there is a purpose that God has in store for us, even in the most painful situations of our life.

The narration of the raising of Lazarus is the longest single narrative/story in the entire Gospels (Jn 11: 1-45).

Long as it is, this incident also teaches us a number of essential lessons for life…

  1. The Providence of God, that answers, even when we do not “feel” His presence around us (Jn 11: 4-6)

“So when Jesus heard, that Lazarus was ill, He remained for two days in the place where He was” (Jn 11: 6)

Thus teaching us…
… we need to depend on the Lord at all times, even in our dark moments of life
… the Lord will never abandon us and in fact, can never leave us

  1. The slow understanding of the Disciples, who were with the Lord for a while, and yet had not understood His Ways and Words (Jn 11: 8-16)

“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved” (Jn 11: 12)

Thus teaching us…
… doubts and dilemmas are very much part of one’s life as a disciple
… the patience of the Lord in dealing with those who are called and chosen

  1. The power of trust and hope in the Lord, even in hard and trying situations of life (Jn 11: 21-27)

Martha said to Jesus, ‘Yes Lord, I have come to believe, that You are the Messiah, the Son of God…” (Jn 11: 27)

Thus teaching us…
… as gold is tested in furnace, so our faith will be tested in the crucible of pains and sufferings
… we need to resign ourselves to the Power of the Lord, even though we may not understand many things

  1. The empathy of the Lord in sharing with the pain of humanity (Jn 11: 35)

“And Jesus wept” (Jn 11: 35)

Thus teaching us…
… in our suffering moments, the Lord is very much close to us, and suffers with us
… our tears are precious to the Lord and He stores them in a bottle (Ps 56:9)

  1. The power of God’s Word (Jn 11: 43-44)

“Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!'” (Jn 11: 43)

Thus teaching us…
… the Word Which created the entire universe, is given to us in the Holy Bible, for us to read, cherish and find strength!
… the promises given by His Word will come to fruition in due season and no powers on this earth can diffuse or dilute it!

In the midst of all these and various other “food for transformation” that this incident offers…
… we focus our attention on one message: “God’s delays are not His denials”

Yes, God’s delays are, certainly, not His denials!

One of the striking aspects we encounter in this Gospel passage is the delay that Jesus “purposely” entails in coming to Lazarus.

The Gospel says that “… when Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.” (Jn 11: 6)

This statement is on one side surprising; while on the other, shocking!

It was clearly known that Jesus was closely associated with Lazarus.

“A friend in need, is a friend indeed” is a phrase that we are aware.

Then why did Jesus delay in going to Lazarus?

As the Lord Himself answers: “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (Jn 11: 4)

This verse then is the key to many of our problems and anxieties about “prayers not being answered!”

How many are the times, when we go through the struggles of life, and we expect the Lord to work a wondrous deed…
… But when nothing as such happens, we become feeble in our faith!

How many are the occasions, when we face a problem in our material or spiritual life, and we hope that something terrific is going to happen…
… But when the situation remains the same, we begin to waver in our belief!

This is where the words of the Lord, “this illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God”…
… ought to come to our aid!

We need to examine our life…
… Am I only having “belief in the Lord”, but not having “trust in Him”?
… Am I only “professing the Lord with my lips”, but failing to “recognize His power from my heart”?

“Belief in the Lord” would only consist of declaring oneself to be a Christian, and having a name that one is a follower of Christ…
… But “Trust in the Lord” would translate to also follow the commandments of being a Christian, and seek to live as Christ lived, by seeking and doing God’s Will in life.

“Professing the Lord with my lips” would only include saying vocal prayers, being regular to the practices of devotion and piety and finding satisfaction in doing the external duties of the religion…
… But “Recognizing His Power from the heart” would mean to also remain calm in the face of problems, being patient even in great darkness and being joyful in the midst of turbulent life situations.

As Christians, the only way is the “Way of the Cross”
… a way filled with pains and sufferings
… a way that enshrines hardships and struggles

But, we must also realise, that it is this “way of the Cross” alone…
… that would lead to the “joy of the Resurrection!”

All our “unwanted” situations of life – pains, struggles, difficulties and crisis – have a meaning and purpose in the eternal plan of God…

“… all things work for good, for those who love God…” (Rom 8:28)
“… I know well that plans for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe…” (Jer 29:11)

The Word of God assures us through Prophet Ezekiel and St Paul that God will raise us up from every grave and from every “dead situation” – the “grave and the death of sicknesses, hopelessness and fear!”

“And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people…
… And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord!” (Ezek 37:13-14)
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you!” (Rom 8:11)

Yes, in all our struggles and hardships of life – especially in this time when all of us are facing the harsh reality of sicknesses, let us seek…
… to move higher in our faith and belief towards a real “trust in the Lord”
… to advance from just “professing the Lord with my lips” to “recognizing His power from our hearts!”

And thus, in every situation of life let us with hope and trust exclaim:
“Thank you Lord for the pain!
I know there is a purpose!
I know I am loved!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father Who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations, and say continually: ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart has trusted in Him and I am helped. He is not only with me but in me and I in Him!’”