“As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Yes, God alone is good because God alone is the source of all good. In today’s gospel reading, our Blessed Lord, directs the man’s compliment of ‘good teacher’ towards God. Every Jew knows that only the one true God is perfectly good. Surely, this rich man was sincere in his quest to know how to inherit eternal life. But was he sincerely willing to pursue the path of that inheritance? As his conversation continues with the Teacher, we find that he ends up holding on to his worldly inheritance more tightly and than on to the path of eternal life. Does this situation sound familiar to you? Jesus knows very well, these inner battles…and his response is love and understanding…instead of instant condemnation.
There will always be Christians who resemble this man. Christians who fulfil many religious obligations, obey the commandments diligently, do works of charity, be hospitable to people and so on. However, they fail to realise that God desires much more than these from the one who desires Him. By asking us to empty ourselves just as He did to this rich young man, our Lord Jesus desires that we first live as heirs of His kingdom in order to inherit His Kingdom. How can we possess something which is not rightfully ours? Following Christ, especially in our emptiness is a fact because our Lord Himself promised in 2 Cor 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.
Most of us truly lack this one thing that our Lord desires. Total emptying of ourselves. Total abandonment to his grace. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, the camel will never pass through the eye of a needle as far as logic is concerned. But holiness is beyond logic, because we are life is beyond mortality. A person like the young & rich Francis of Assisi, who gave up his richness literally, followed and depended on His Lord Jesus totally. The one who is completely detached from everything precious, sentimental or reliable in this world. Such a child of God can hope to inherit eternal life. So, what’s it going to be? Your choice will decide your true inheritance. God bless you. Shalom!
Divine contact with faith, heals and makes one clean.
St. Augustine puts forth the fact that ‘the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. This can be profoundly examined and understood especially through the various instances where our Lord Jesus heals people. One such instance is in the gospel of St. Mark 5:21-34. The Lord has revealed Himself as the word in the Old Testament and in the New Testament He reveals His Divinity through His Incarnation. Christ Incarnate is the sole saviour of the world. And what He means by saving is aptly described by Pope St. John Paul II, who writes in his book, ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pp 70 “…To save means to liberate from radical, ultimate evil…Through the work of the Redeemer death ceases to be an ultimate evil; it becomes subject to the power of life…And, therefore, the world cannot be a source of salvation for man. Only God saves, and He saves the whole of humanity in Christ.” The woman in Mark 5:21-34; who suffered 12 strenuous and shameful years because of an infirmity, suddenly finds herself in close proximity to salvation. The one who is an outcast to her our people, is in search of The One who knew rejection from the very womb of his virgin mother. The woman who was branded unclean, knew that by faith in Christ; who was the closest to those who were unclean, will be surely be healed by Him. The Law of the Old Covenant in the book of Leviticus 15:19-30; concerning ritually unclean women did not dilute this unnamed woman’s courage and conviction in the Messiah. She did not fail to not only acknowledge but also believe in His presence among the chosen people of God on earth, in that time of history. She spent a lot of her money in various medical care but in vain. So it is not her trust in another stint of therapeutic cure, but rather, her belief in making personal contact with the Saviour, that healed her.
What’s really unique about this encounter that we need undoubtedly pay attention to, is how our Lord ‘brings to life’ the heart of the Law given to Moses by God, for His people’s government and righteousness sake. Leviticus 15 enlists the norms about uncleanness among women going through their cycle in the month and how they are to be purified, by the Mosaic rituals, based on the duration of the uncleanness. The matter is of serious concern because whoever comes in physical contact with this unclean person automatically becomes unclean and needs spiritual purification. Until then, the unclean person would not be permitted to have, proximity with God’. The Lord on the other hand, who is the Law Himself, given to Moses, written on the tablets, has now been touched by one who is unclean. And the Law demands of the Jew, now defiled by one who who is herself contaminated, to be set apart as unclean, until purified by the rituals of the Law. But is it so in the case of our Lord? No. Christ, shows that He has truly come to set us free from the bondage of sin and death. He publicly choses to justify the action of the unclean woman of approaching God in her ‘defiled state’, which is ‘truly right and just, our duty and our salvation’ (Roman Missal – Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions – English translation formally approved in 1995) to believe in Jesus as our Lord and saviour, and that He alone can gives us salvation and freedom from every sickness, disease, infirmity and death. And that no Law on earth or in heaven can bind a believer from coming forward to receive his bounty from Jesus the Divine Healer. The Lord completely overturns a possible scandalous situation into a mighty manifestation of faith and salvation.
The woman who lived more than a decade in a state of defilement, showed immense faith and confession of that faith, for scripture says she kept on repeating, “For if I touch his garments, I will be healed” Mark 5:28. It was not mere determination to approach Jesus to touch at-least his garment, but it was more of her faith that she will surely be healed if she touched the hem of the Lord’s garment. That is precisely what she was constantly assuring her mind. Sickness, disease or near death situations can numb our faith by letting our mind over power us. It happens to the best of us. But a faithful and repeated confession of God’s word will act as a weapon against the blows of doubt and anxiety. The question which the Lord asked His disciples; when He knew someone touched Him, was not simply a logical one, as the disciples had thought, because the Lamb of God was surrounded by a large crowd of people, pushing and brushing each other’s way to follow him on his way. The question which was a result of Him perceiving that power had gone forth from Him – Mark 5:30, was infinitely more significant than just ‘who touched me’. It meant, who manifested this mountainous faith in Me, this impenetrable belief in Me. Who defied society, risking excommunication and a possible life of solitude for the sake of salvation? But of-course, as the disciples were themselves caught in the rush of the crowd around our Lord, they could not instantly fathom what their Master was inquiring? The Lord, instead, was as though, eager and excited to see the child who came believing in the Son of the Father.
Fear of the world will always suppress faith. Fear of God will always destroy fear contracted from the world. The enemy – the devil; uses fears, sicknesses, diseases, infirmities, anxieties, doubts, guilt, low self-esteem, and so on as heavy blows upon the faith of the believer. The Son of man has “overcome the world” – John 16:33, and therefore has brought salvation into this world. In other words, true and real freedom from the most radical and ultimate evil – death, as John Paul II reminded us. The unclean woman was healed because of her faith, as the Lord affirmed it to her Himself, by saying, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” Mark 5:34. The world today is repeatedly attacked by evil in various forms. The most current being the coronavirus pandemic. All of humanity has to avoid social contact, stay sanitised, take necessary precautions of personal hygiene, in order to stop the chain of infection. The faithful face a catastrophic – temporary unavailability of the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. Nonetheless, the Lord, reminds us, as well as, assures us gently, as He did the woman in this passage of scripture, of the gift of salvation which He has given us freely. Though the woman approached Jesus with trembling and fear of being reprimanded, was surprisingly received with compassion by the Saviour in whom she so firmly believed, with acceptance of not only her faith but also her public act of faith. In the same manner, may all who suffer, irrespective of its tenure, may we never shy to touch Jesus in His flesh, through worthy reception of the holy communion and in spirit through the other sacraments. And when in a time of social lock-down, may we do so worthily, faithfully, fearlessly, through spiritual communion and prayer. The Lord is with us, until the end of time – Matthew 28:20. Believe and work out your salvation.
“God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel’ (Sir 15:14), so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 1730. This teaching of the Church is followed by an illustrious quote of St. Iranaeus of Lyon, “Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.
The source of the creation of man is the will of God. This prompts us to the truth that God has a will. He willed everything into creation, into being. ‘He saw everything that He created and said it was good. Man He created and said it was very good.’ There is no reference in Holy Scriptures or the teaching of the Church, which speaks in contrast about the goodness of the will of God. According to the angelic doctor St. Thomas Aquinas, God does not only have intellect but also has a will.
By creating the human person in His holy image and likeness, God has established an indelible mark of uniqueness upon man which sets him apart from every other created creature in heaven or earth. God’s intention and will for this superior being (man) has always been that of love, abundance and intimate union with Him. God’s choicest blessings poured upon man is categorically expressed when He says to him, “Behold I have given you…everything that has the breath of life” (Genesis 1:29-30). For because of man’s disobedience, he forfeited the dominion which God gave him, and his soul throughout every generation there-on cries, “restore us to yourself , O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old” (Lamentations 5:18).
Now, after having severed his intimate union with his Creator, man found himself in the frightful need of his salvation. In the very depth of his conscience, man hears the deafening warning of God, “they do not say in their hearts, let us fear the Lord our God…and your sins have kept good from you” (Jeremiah 5:24-25); which strangely also sounds as a bugle of hope for the one who repents truly and desires eternal union with God. It is only because man is loved the most by God, for he is a creature most lovingly created by God, the truth in the words of Blessed John Henry Newman will echo until the end of time, “I am created to do something or to be someone for which no one else is created; I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has… God knows me and calls me by my name.”
Having created us that we may have joy, God the Father, through His beloved Son Jesus, desires that we be wholly and fully united with Him for eternity, that our joy be complete (John 15:11). What is good, acceptable and perfect in the sight of God is the will of God for man (Romans 12:2). Therefore, St. Francis of Assisi, exulting in the Holy Spirit, cried out, “This is what I want, this is what I seek, this is what I long to do, with all my heart!”
Our words, thoughts and actions should correspond with the will of God. We’ve understood what the will of God for us is that we may be one with Him for we have been formed by him. Such a correspondence to the will of God requires perseverance. To persevere and not give up in glorifying God by conforming to His perfect will for us each day of our lives, is the mark of a man truly reciprocating love to the Father, through Jesus Christ. How does one understand what pleases God and honours His will in our lives? St. Ignatius answers this most eloquently saying, “Better than anyone else, the Holy Spirit will teach you how to taste with the heart and carry out with sweetness what reason shows to be for the greater service and glory of God.”
The human spirit experiences perfect peace in submitting to will of God. When man understood the power of the beatitudes and found it relevant for all generations, (practiced even by those before Christ; who learnt it from the veiled words of the prophets of God), he believed that the hand of God’s hope, deliverance, justice, mercy and peace will flow even out of the horrors such as the holocaust, world wars, genocides, abortions, abominations, sacrilegious, slavery and so on. St. Gregory Nazianzen therefore justly proclaimed, “Voluntas tua pax nostra” – “In your will is our peace”. God’s word attests this as truth when He speaks through His prophet saying, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). We become the brothers, mothers, sisters and fathers of our Blessed Lord Jesus when we do the will of God, (Mark 3:35).
That we may live a life worthy of the Lord, the saints pray for us, as St. Paul’s says, “we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9-12). Even though the will of God may seem strange and unacceptable by those who live by the flesh. Obedience to that perfect will is the food for the body, heart, soul and spirit of the righteous. It silences “the ignorant talk of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15). “From the rising of the sun to its setting” (Roman Missal), may every human heart and mouth proclaim, Matthew 6:10, “Let Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Valuables and invaluables, life gains momentum by the thrust of both. Or does it really? Except for the ones who are homeless, utterly poor, or afflicted with desperation, excluding them, the rest of the population in almost every part of the world, spends on things and services which are not in anywhere relative to their income. There is no estimation of what’s available at our disposal to make a life..how much ever short or long lived that life may be.
Historians believe or rather claim that it took around 2000 years…yes, you read it right, 20 centuries to finish building the great wall of China. According to a 2009 estimation, it would have costed £54 billion to build this 13, 171 mile structure. The two year executive education program run by the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania costed a student a whopping $192,900 in 2016. Brian Acton tweeted this on Aug 4, 2009, “Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life’s next great adventure.” And then he moved on to created a multi-billion dollar company called ‘Whatsapp’. Whether you’re ambition soars as high as building a wonder of the world or you aspire to graduate with the most expensive degree offered in the world, so that you earn the highest salary ever offered, or you wish to multiply the wealth of your enterprise by investing in a pathbreaking business idea, any of this will demand of you to make an estimate of what you have, what you can give, what you can expect in return and what it will make of you in the end. An intricate due diligence of the sacrifices to be made, challenges to be faced, obstacles to be overcome, so on and so forth.
No matter how great is the desire of your heart, is there any desire that can cost you your life and yet let you keep it? There’s none such desire save one. The desire to be a disciple of Christ. Being a disciple of Christ, not merely a follower, comes with an incomparable cost…your very life. In today’s world, more than ever, money plays a very important role in acquiring or possessing comfort or luxury. In the ancient of days as well, money in the form that it was used, played a significant role in determining the standard of living. In the Old Testament however, we learn a very unique role of money, which directly influenced the state of the soul. In ancient Israel, BEKAH, SHEKEL AND TALENT were important currency. Bekah has special significance because it was used as atonement money, for the service of the Tabernacle. From the age of twenty and above, every Jew had to pay half a shekel of silver (1 Bekah) as a ransom for his soul. The Lord promised them that there would be no plague upon them if they paid this tax faithfully (Ex 30:12:14).
A Disciple of Christ is called to renounce himself/herself completely. There is nothing so dear or precious in this world than his Lord Himself, for a disciple to hold on to. The Lord categorically explains the COST OF DISCIPLESHIP in His own words in Luke 14:33, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has, cannot be my disciple”. This cost estimation preludes with a very severe warning. Luke 14:26 says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brother and sister, yes, and even his own life, he CANNOT [emphasis added by me] be my disciple“. In our case, after reading this, and in the case of the great crowds that accompanied Him (Luke 14:25), after listening to Him, we all might be tempted to re-think about fulfilling the 4th commandment given by God Himself. However, there is no love on earth or in heaven that the human heart can experience and reciprocate to, than the love for God and fulfillment of His word, while at the same time obeying every commandment of His. There is none greater than God and therefore there is none that we should obey first than God Himself. The crowds, no matter how great, followed The Lord for miracles, food, astounding speeches and discourses, love and even an escape from their day-to-day tensions.
Are we the same, one among the crowds, or even worse, among the mob that follows Him to trap Him, attack Him and then finally abandon Him. It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. It is in giving that we receive. It is in loving that we are loved much more. It is in forgiving that we are soaked in Divine Mercy. It is in total abandonment to God and absolute emptying of oneself do we become Disciples of Christ. No ambition, no career, no relationship, no wealth, no prosperity can atone our soul, except for the cost that was paid by the Son of the living God. Only 1 Bekah each was so precious that it could atone for their souls, among the chosen people of GOd. In the case of you and me however, it was not money (as underestimated by Judas), rather t’was One soul that had the power to atone and redeem all souls, starting from the beginning of time and until the end of it. That One soul, that one Bekah of the Divine economy, is Jesus Christ. The perfect estimate, most accurate for salvation of all mankind. Life Himself in return for all life.
So, just like the temple money had to be Jewish and could not be Roman money (which had pagan images), the cost of Discipleship has to be our own lives (the image of God) and not any holocaust or vain sacrifice (pagan). So, let us not undervalue the cost that our Lord paid for our eternal freedom and life, let us not underestimate the work of grace, which empowers us to pay the singular cost of discipleship. Because everything else, as King Solomon – the richest of all, once said, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”.
Accepting various realities of life is possible with the right disposition towards those realities. Whether it is done so as a community of people or as oneself, with or without the comfort or security of the obvious things of earthly living, relationships, familiar environments, etc. There is one of many, peculiar reality of life, which not only is life altering but something that makes life defining, at the very core of it. That is the reality of suffering.
Some overcome suffering by either denying its importance (Stoicism) or its very existential reality (Spinoza), or further more by consciously seeking the self or that someone’s passing away from this world. No matter what the human mind prompts as a resolve towards one’s suffering, this intrinsically personal aspect of human life cannot be ignored or evaded each time it knocks the gates of our mortality. The world as we know, has since its inception, been the stage for human suffering in gastronomical measures. Some so intrinsically evil that recounting those ghastly episodes evoke a great measure of psychological, emotional and spiritual trauma. Mass murders, the holocaust, genocides, rape, continual spree of abortions (in some places by very crude practices), forced starvation, forced economic deprivation by lords of war and corruption, and the list keeps getting bloodier.
Ap Photo Dmitry Lovetsky
Many philosophical and religious schools of thought have proposed soul traversing ideologies and paradigms about this in-expendable reality called suffering. A mammoth figure of Christian light to all generations, St. Augustine believed and taught the classic philosophical view of evil which states that since everything created was created by God and He called it all ‘good’ (Genesis 1:31), evil is not self existent, but rather is the absence of good. This essentially being a neoplatonic doctrine has a historic presence in Jewish philosophy as well.
Antonio Rodríguez, “Saint Augustine”
So, if we look at suffering through the lens of St. Augustine, then we should believe that where there is no good, which in other words, through authentic Catholic verbatim, would mean an absence of authentic beatitudes, the suffering becomes real and many a times overwhelming too. Therefore, this Augustinian principle should naturally evoke in us the quintessential necessity of good in everyday life, in every culture, upon every soil. This ‘good’, however, is in fact, the fruit of the cause of creation in its known and unknown entirety. That cause is agape. Love, which is ‘the Creator’ Himself, God. Which is from the Creator, for the created, leading towards the certainty of eternity.
The love of God is the stimulus for real balance in the world. It is the source of knowing God as He is (1 John 4:7). It is not only the perfect and only rightful abode of the human soul, it is also on the other hand that which transforms the soul into the most desired sanctuary of God for His eternal dwelling. “If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4: 12). Now that we know that it is love which cements the human soul in concreteness with God, it is the luminous light which should and can perpetually exterminate the darkness of evil, which is the good as God conceived it in His immaculate and holy mind.
The economy of this God-epitomised love does not create perfection of balance in world existence, it beautifully creates a rather a peculiar imbalance that progresses the soul’s upward pilgrimage to heaven in a way which is forever alien to the mind enslaved to the world. This love reaches its pinnacle in the ‘theo-phenomena’ of the Incarnation. The Incarnation is Truth and Love glorified. The Incarnation is Truth and Love personified. It is the perfection of good. It is a person. The person is Jesus Christ, the only begotten fruit of God the Father. It is this God-Man, Son of the living God, the eternal Good of His Father, who glorified immeasurable suffering by making it the only source of man’s salvation. The cup of suffering has been made into the chalice of His holy blood, poured out for the redemption of you and me, and as a ransom for eternal life in true freedom.
Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Christ our beloved Lord, the second person in the Holy Trinity, personalises suffering as a virtuous means of attaining God Himself. What the world uses (suffering) as an instrument to inflict pain, sorrow, hopelessness, fear, anxiety, isolation, animosity and even death – even ignominious in kind, the source of all good – God the Son, actually embraces this bottomless pit of darkness (suffering) as an innocent child might merely imagine to embrace a whole garden of exquisite flowers. When Satan, the one who was first to rebuke Perfect Love, and was cast out of the Beatific Presence of the Almighty Creator, looks at suffering as an opportunity to drag the human soul into his eternal abyss of self-hate, the God-Head Jesus, commanded suffering into a spring of His Holy Blood, which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI so eloquently phrased it as – ‘transubstantiating the world’.
Suffering not only triumphs over evil, it inspires life itself. Suffering not only elevates the soul into the spiritual realm, but also brings hope into the material world. Suffering not only makes shame immaterial, it makes persecution glorious. But all this can be rightly attested to suffering, only when it is embodied in love. Love suffers for goodness sake. Goodness aspires to godliness. Godliness transforms suffering in the world into holiness.
Ancient Greek groups were famously known for bravely marching towards their enemy in their organized phalanx formations. They did so by singing hymns or ‘paeans’ as they would call it, to invoke upon the god Apollos for courage and ease their nerves. But as they came closer to the enemy they would cease singing the hymns and voice loud battle cries like “Alala!” or “Eleleu!” while banging their weapons against their shields to rattle their enemy horses.
The ancient Roman legions were known for marching silently in their ranks, but at the sight of their enemy their battle cries would erupt like the sound of a stampeding elephant. They borrowed “Barritus”, a war cry of the Germanic warriors, many of whom had joined the Romans. An ancient chronicler Tacitus described the Barritus as a “harsh, intermittent roar” and highlighted that the legions would “hold their shields in front of their mouths, so that the sound is amplified into a deeper crescendo by the reverberation.
To seize the Holy Lands from the Muslims, Pope Urban II launched the ‘Crusades’ in 1095 by urging Europeans Christians to under this spiritual quest. Charged by the Pontiff’s speech, the crowd now known as ‘Crusaders’ are said to have hollered “Deus hoc vult!” (“God wills it!”) in support. This Pope sanctioned slogan remained the war cry of the Christian warriors until the late 13th century when the Crusades finally ended.
There are numerous examples from history such as the above, of warriors and their legions shredding the spirits of their enemies with dreadful war cries. These loud and intimidating slogans before launching their bloody attack has in many instances defeated the enemy even before actual physical or artillery combat could commence. The book of Joshua in the Old Testament testifies the power of the sound of his armies trumpets which brought down the walls of Jericho. The eerie truth of conquering the city and the spirit if its defenders without even lifting any weapon yet.
Today, on Ash Wednesday, I see a strange yet compelling similarity between ‘ashes on a Christian’s forehead’ and a war cry. Biblical history speaks volumes of the significance and use of ashes. It usually remarks it to be a sign of deep mourning and repentance. A sign of shame and abandonment of oneself to the mercy of God.
As the Priest marks a child of God with ash on the forehead or the scalp, the penetant is reminded that “dust thou art, unto dust thou shall return”. A profound yet austere reminder of nothingness of the self, of the irrevocable necessity of humility, of truthful repentance and the ultimate self abandonment to Divinae Misericordiae (Divine Mercy).
St. Thomas Aquinas teaches “Penance is virtue” and this Angelic Doctor of the Church through his magnum treatise “Summa Theologia” assures every sinner that the power of Christ’s passion “through which Penance produces its effect” is such that no sin is incapable of being pardoned through the sacrament of Penance. The mark of the ashes on the forehead is a great outward sign of repentance but is also a cry of battle by the Militant Church against her ‘Enemy’ Satan. Repentance is the fruit humility. God exalts the humble and draws them ever closer to his glory. Therefore, by wearing of Ashes during the holy season of Lent we not only surrender ourselves in humility at the merciful judgement of God, trust in God’s eternal loving kindness by repenting for our sins, but also holler (ironically without even making a sound) a terrible battle cry against Satan and his demonic legions. A battle against sin and it’s master with the unconquerable power of grace, and impenetrable armor of the word of God, prayer, alms giving, fasting and sacramental life.
This holy season of Lent, put on the ashes as your promise of repentance and also be a warrior of God, with the banner of Christ, humbly surrendering only to the holy will of God and charge forth victoriously against the attacks of Satan and win glory for Kingdom of God Most High.
A child has a tremendous sense of emptiness at the loss of a prized or dear possession. The sense of loss is so profound in a child because at that tender age where a human slowly but inquisitively discovers the art of expressing his/herself through the mesh of emotions, adapt to reactions, connect to possibilities both significant and insignificant, it is this important phase of life where the child; through these events, also encounters and adapts to fear due to something being lost. This is fear of loss affects and plays a very pivotal role in the spiritual realm.
Whether we are fortunate or less fortunate, blessed or deprived, able or enabled, many of us receive something or the other from those who care about us or are obligated to us; not necessary that they be those who love us truthfully. It could be presents or generous donations or in the case of those who are among the poorest of the poor; anything given to them becomes possession of great value and they try to protect it with their life. Our possessions are no only a collection of gifts but also of our own hard earned money. By our labor, sacrifices and perseverance we accumulate belongings and treasures. At the loss of such things, the sense of being deprived of them and the fear of having lost it can at times also lead to a rolling some effect in life. If we especially loose something that we were meant to protect or manage then the fear of loosing that item or person is tremendous.
Fear…according to the dictionary is an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm. The connotation of fear is quite negative. According to its meaning, it is unpleasant. It is not something that one would desire or yearn for. The fear of underperformance, unpreparedness, loss of a beloved or a valuable and also the unique fear of the possibility of loosing something and not being able to replace or restore.
God on the other hand reveals a very unique and endearing aspect of fear which is contradictory to the worldly consensus about this human emotion. There are several instances in scripture where the first and instant reaction toward God or His heavenly messengers have been ‘fear’. In Revelations 21:8 tells us the “cowardly” or “fearful” (King James Version) will not be in God’s Kingdom. However, there is a particular reverential attribute given to fear in Holy Scriptures. In the beginning there was ‘fear of The Lord‘, now ‘fear of God‘ is most prevalent. Take the example of all heavenly beings who surround God and His most high and holy throne above the heavens. All these innumerable ‘creatures of light’ – seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and angels (according to St. Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Summa theologiae’) present their beings before The Lord of Hosts with a mysteriously profound sense of awe, submission and holy fear. This ‘fear of The Lord’, in Hebrew ‘yirah’, or the Greek noun ‘phobos’ makes a person receptive to knowledge and wisdom. The priests, prophets, kings and patriarchs submerged themselves in this fear in all their thoughts as well as encounters with God. Even the peasants and the lowly such as the shepherds who received a thunderous annunciation of the savior while they were tending their flock by night, were filled with this fear. The Holy Virgin Mary – Mother of God, submitted herself with to her creator’s most holy will, with holy fear in her being for Him.
Going back to loss of something precious, let us remember that faith in the One True God – the Most Holy Trinity is the most precious of gifts that we receive from The Trinity Themselves. St. Paul in Ephesians 2:8 says, presses the truth saying, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”. God is our creator, this is our belief and He who is love has given us an immeasurable and unfathomable measure of love by the sacrifice of His only begotten Son Jesus. Therefore we are bound by love to protect, safeguard, nurture, feed, share and build this invaluable gift of faith. However, the earth and life on it is constantly batter with sin and corruption. With the loss of the appetite for the holy and obsessed with the abnormal hunger for that which is unrighteous and evil, our being which was created holy and powerful has become vulnerable and at times mortally victim to sin. Constant susceptibility to concupiscence and the loss of self-control drives us to the loss of what could be the loss of God Himself.
The loss of God is indescribable and unmatched. Man can profit the whole world but with the loss of God, he looses his very soul. This is irreparable loss. The corrupt and evil will never have or seek remorse for having offended God and His people. The sinner who repents truthfully will however be lifted up out of sinful bondage, cleansed and purified by Divine Mercy and exalted by agape. Against the gigantic tides of the culture of death, perversion, sin, sacrilege and corruption in the world, we our summoned to be holy warriors of The Kingdom of God. The one who rejects His Creator and God will curse The glory of The Cross, but a sinner who humbles himself and delights in the shame of having to even crawl towards God’s forgiveness, will glorify The Cross and exalt the ‘Son of Man’ nailed upon it, wounded for the sinner’s transgressions (Isiah 53:5). Satan may claim that he can steal, kill or destroy the human soul. But faith and fear of The Lord negates every attack of ‘the enemy’. The one who has been beaten by ‘the enemy’ yet seeks The Lord, will embrace his/her cross and complete the journey of reconciliation and faithfulness. The world may see it as a walk of shame, but the repentant child of God will embrace and glorify it with humility and love for God.
Therefore, God, through His word, Church and working in individual as well as community lives, is constantly reminding us of the magnanimity of pain and suffering our soul would bear if we do not keep in safe possession the faith He bestows upon us. He is constantly reminding us the we need not be scared of Him or be afraid of Him as we are at the threat of danger or terror, rather he gently caresses us towards cultivating reverence, worship and holy trembling/fear for Him. This holy fear does not add anything to the eternal and incorruptible glory of God, but rather adds immeasurably and unequivocally to our redemption and pilgrimage to our Father’s home.
A repentant sinner bears humiliation, mockery, pain, sorrow, abandonment, with the hope that his ‘fear of The Lord’ grants him a sense of holy shame, leading him to conversion with a contrite heart and in the end await the crown of righteousness.
There are precious moments in the hours when light emerges from the darkness, when the sun dawns upon the earth and the moon fades into the clouds. Those moments when these incredible celestial bodies play see-saw, the whole world is at the brink of a whole new beginning. Those who live to see the day break, either acknowledge or are oblivious of the fact that God has chosen to be merciful and loving towards them, and is giving them another chance to discover the awesomeness, extraordinary potential and unique charisms that He has poured to the brim in their lives, to bear great fruit.
Thousands of thousands of people all around the world are seeking to find, to know and experience the purpose of their lives. Some want to know what best they can do to make their life fulfilling. Some others who realize and live their kingship with God – are yearning to know their call. God’s children choose to discern their ‘calling’ – purpose in life. In James 1:5 it is written “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Wisdom is the key to discern the will of God in one’s life. It surely is not easy by mere human intellect or emotions. God’s grace is the supernatural link to embark on the journey of discernment as well as to decode the will of God in one’s life, a will which is holy, perfect and that would bring great glory to God alone (ref Jeremiah 29:11).
But it is surely not very easy to know what’s in God’s mind for us. His plan for us has been in His mind even before the creation of the world. He is a God of unthinkable, unspeakable and immeasurable omniscience. To come close to an understanding of such an implausible design for life, many saints and mystics have generously and freely taught by experience – of what I call the art of being ‘collaborators of love’. Our life is a gift of love – God. To live life to the fullest can be possible only when the fruit of that love is manifested precisely as Love would expect. The best part however, is that Love is never forced upon us. So, one needs to seek, find and fulfill. Among the many saints, doctors and mystics of the Christ’s Church, many have recommended and even designed systematic ways of discerning one’s call in life. Be it St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Paul, St Augustine and so forth.
One of the most important aspects of discerning one’s calling/vocation in life, common in all the recommendations of saints, is to have a heart and mind that is willing to explore. Cooperation with God’s grace will do the rest. One common challenge or rather shortcoming in discerning vocations is that we fail to see in and around our own circumstances. We look for answers or for God’s voice everywhere, but seldom in the very present circumstances of our lives. This ‘angle’ is as important as every other. It is clearly and repeatedly evident in the lives of many of those who responded to God’s call, mentioned especially in the Holy Gospels. Jesus entered in to the very now of people’s lives, spoke to them in the midst of their day-to-day realities and called them. Now those who said yes to His call did not spare time in doing so. By grace, they let their hearts and minds to follow the call, to experience the possibilities and in the end bear fruit that would be greater than their most unthinkable imagination.
Peter and Andrew were fishermen, and Jesus entered in the very center of their lives and called them to be ‘fishers’ of men. The same He did with James and John. Jesus met Matthew just as he was – a tax collector. Wanted him to experience God (Himself) in his very own house, and then at His call of ‘follow me’ – Matthew left everything and followed Jesus. When Jesus calls, He expects us to respond and not procrastinate. That’s because when He calls, He is also mindful that our weaknesses, commitments, attachments, etc, make it impossible for us to follow Him. This is why He gives us grace, and longs for us to cooperate with that grace at the earliest or rather immediately. Failing which, such grace may not occur again. When the rich young man asked the ‘Good Teacher’ what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus acknowledges that the man lived his life following the commandments but yet there was one thing that he had to do. Jesus did not mince words in letting him know what that one thing was. Jesus said, “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Mark 10:21)”. You see how Jesus spoke to him in a language that the ‘rich man’ was accustomed to all his life? The language of possessions, wealth and treasure – but only now it had a paradigm shift in meaning. So what did the rich young man do? Scripture says, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Dear friends, most of us desire to fulfill God’s will in our lives, but not all of us have the same spirit of obedience after God reveals his plan for us. God surely knows us better than we do. Holy Scriptures in Psalm 139:4 says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” God speaks to us in our every day circumstances. He wants us to look into ourselves. He speaks to us in ways that we can surely understand, if and only if we have the true desire to submit our will to Him and to cooperate zestfully with His grace, to a call that will illuminate His image and likeness, with which He fearfully and lovingly created us. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).” Let us be open, be willing, be courageous and let ourselves be willed towards heaven by His grace.
“Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54). In the beginning, God who is eternal spoke the Word and there came into being all that He saw and considered good. How glorious and indescribably overwhelming to even begin to discover the joy creation might have experienced when it came into being by the sound of the voice of The Almighty God. This same Word, which was with God, became incarnate as man, taking the species of flesh, blood and soul. Through His salvific purpose on earth, Jesus, fully God and fully Man, gave purpose to man’s grafting into the vine that is holy and everlasting. The Body and Blood of God Incarnate – Jesus, is the Word that became flesh.
The feast of Corpus Christi is the celebration of the reality of God present in the lives of baptized Catholics, around them and within them, not only for the nourishment of their body and soul, but also as the source of Divine Utterance from the mouth of The Father, constantly at work, creating all things new, and with a sigh of immeasurable contentment saying, “it is good” (Genesis 1:31). Jesus gave us His body and blood not as a symbolic gesture for intellectual or spiritual contemplation, but rather fundamentally as life to our soul that falls victim to the fatal corruption of sin.
St. Catherine of Siena was invited to drink the Precious Blood of Jesus, which flowed from His side. After drinking from the Fountain of His Precious Blood, she could not eat or drink anything more. For seven years before her death she lived on no food but Our Lord in the Eucharist. She was not hungry, but remained active and strong.
One of the most well known attitudes towards the real presence of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is the attitude of disbelief. Many believers and unbelievers throughout the ages have either lacked faith or trust in the actual, real and living presence of Jesus in flesh and blood in the species of the consecrated host. There have been numerous incidents around the globe where our dear Blessed Lord Jesus has been gracious enough to reveal the glory of His human nature in it’s very species of flesh and blood, within the transubstantiated Eucharistic bread.
A hardened heretic in the region of Tolosa challenged St. Anthony that if he can prove with a miracle that in the Eucharist of believers there is, however hidden it may be, the true body of Christ, he will renounce every heresy and submit myself to the Catholic faith. He said that if his mule, which he would starve for 3 days, ignored the fodder and rushes to adore the living body of Jesus in the host, and then he will instantly convert. St. Anthony agreed. Finally, asking for silence the man of God said to the animal with great faith: “In the name of virtue and the Creator, who I, although unworthy, am carrying in my hands, I ask you, o beast, and I order to come closer quickly and with humility and to show just veneration, so that the malevolent heretics will learn from this gesture that every creature is subject to the Lord, as held in the hands with priestly dignity on the altar”.
God’s servant had hardly finished speaking, when the animal, ignoring the fodder, knelt down and lowered his head to the floor, thus genuflecting before the living sacrament of the body of Christ. The faithful were filled with uncontrollable joy, and the heretic, renounced the his doctrine in front of all present, and from then on was obedient to the precepts of the holy Church (Benignitas16,6-17).
As the Church of Christ Jesus acknowledges the real presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, she ‘proclaims his death and resurrection until He comes again’ – Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I. She celebrates the meal, which assures eternal sustenance of the soul and life everlasting with The Trinity. The reality of a Catholic life is immersed as well as illuminated in the radical reality of the Body and Blood of Jesus in the species of the Holy Eucharist. Without this reality there is no Catholic faith, without the Catholic faith there is no hope for eternal life with the One True Eternal God.
With heartfelt gratitude to Pope Urban who instituted the feast of Corpus Christi and to St. Thomas Aquinas for his venerable work in praise and adoration to this glorious feast, I wish you all very Happy Feast of Corpus Christi.
The Ascending of Our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven is a glorious precursor to His indescribable Descending on earth on the Final Day. Swaddling clothes were the robes that adorned the King of heaven and earth when He became God incarnate and lay in a poor manger at His birth. In the moment of His Ascension the majestic clouds, which kiss the mighty sun and cradle the tranquil moon, had the privilege to be luminous garments for it’s Creator’s triumphant entrée into The Father’s court. While the Angels escorted their Lord and Master into His heavenly Kingdom, every essence of their being would have exclaimed an ecstasy of unimaginable joy and awe.
The earth’s sod that rejoiced when the Holy of Holies; Jesus strolled upon it. As He ascends Himself up to the heavens as the Risen Lord who defeated Death in its face, every grain of this soil also rejoices for being healed by the shedding of every drop of His immaculate blood on it during His passion and death.
Jesus ascends into heaven, not to abandon the world that He redeemed, but rather to present it to the Father for His full embrace that would last for all eternity. He assures us of His real presence here on earth even as He takes His rightful place with The Father. He manifests that great love by praying to His Father that He may keep us all one just as He and The Father are one, protecting us from the Evil One and ratifying that we do not belong to the world anymore, no more than He belongs to it.
‘The consecration’ which Christ makes to His loving and merciful Father exemplifies His constant protection and counsel for us. Jesus consecrates the world in Truth. During His mission on earth He proclaimed Himself as “The Truth…” (Jn 14:6). He also said “The Father and I are One” (Jn 10:30). Consecration to the Truth is consecration to the undeniable and unfathomable unity of The Father and The Son and also The Spirit who is the light of this Truth. The Prince of Darkness charged his mortal assault on The Light of all Nations, but failed in the conquest precisely because Truth pierces victoriously through every shield of lie. By this consecration in Truth; Jesus establishes The Kingdom’s coat of arms to be the Trinity itself. It therefore calls upon every baptized Christian to be a Testimony to this salvific Truth that radiates peace, love, joy and mercy.
Jesus ascends into heaven to let His Spirit descend upon His Church, so that Truth may be glorified and it bears testimony to life, death and resurrection of those who part take in the very life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.