Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pope Francis on Lent

 Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year
No need to throw out the chocolate, booze, and carbs. Pope Francis has a different idea for fasting this year.
Christians around the world mark the beginning of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. This ancient day and season has a surprising modern appeal. Priests and pastors often tell you that outside of Christmas, more people show up to church on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year—including Easter. But this mystique isn’t reserved for Christians alone. The customs that surround the season have a quality to them that transcend religion.
Perhaps most notable is the act of fasting. While Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during the Lenten season, many people—religious or not—take up this increasingly popular discipline during the year.
But Pope Francis has asked us to reconsider the heart of this activity this Lenten season. According to Francis, fasting must never become superficial. He often quotes the early Christian mystic John Chrysostom who said: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”
But this isn’t to downplay the role of sacrifice during the Lenten season. Lent is a good time for penance and self-denial. But once again, Francis reminds us that these activities must truly enrich others: “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”
So, if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, Francis suggests that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others.
In his annual Lenten message, the pope writes, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”
Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalization of indifference, Francis writes that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” He continues that, “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”
But when we fast from this indifference, we can began to feast on love. In fact, Lent is the perfect time to learn how to love again. Jesus—the great protagonist of this holy season—certainly showed us the way. In him, God descends all the way down to bring everyone up. In his life and his ministry, no one is excluded.
“What are you giving up for Lent?” It’s a question a lot of people will get these next few days. If you want to change your body, perhaps alcohol and candy is the way to go. But if you want to change your heart, a harder fast is needed. This narrow road is gritty, but it isn’t sterile. It will make room in ourselves to experience a love that can make us whole and set us free.
Now that’s something worth fasting for.

Lent 2016 - Repent and Return

We are once again in the season of Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday today. The imposition of ashes may be just a ritual for many but it signifies that we all mortal and the end will come one day. It is the arrogance of invincibility that continues to rule those in power, suppressing and abusing others below them. If only we remember that the end will come one day, we may be better people.   
This year Lent is of special significance as we also mark the Year of Mercy, which was launched by Pope Francis last year. The year of mercy reminds us that mercy is not only shown by God. It should also be shown by us. 
Pope Francis in his message has called on Catholics around the world to use the ongoing Jubilee year of mercy to “open wide” the doors of their hearts to forgive others and to work against social exclusion, even of those that may have caused them bother or upset.
With this background of the Pope’s message the theme for this lent should rightly be “Forgiveness and repentance”. The word forgiveness refers to the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness today is often seen as a sign of weakness not strength.
Over the years as we journey through life, many people hurt us in various ways as we too hurt others knowingly or otherwise. Those who hurt us can be anyone even from within our own family. Even our own spouse and children may hurt us. Very often we tend to respond with anger and revenge, which are normal human reactions to such hurt.
However Jesus through his passion, which we observe during lent, tell us to react in ways which we don’t comprehend or accept in the world today – to forgive those who hurt you. The words of Jesus that strike me most were those that he uttered as he hung dying on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”(Luke 23:34).
This Lent it may be a time for us to reflect on these words of Jesus to understand what he was trying to tell us as he walked through those 40 days of fasting, praying and the finally dying unjustly in the hands of those in power. They killed him is the most cruel and inhumane manner by crucifying him on the cross but yet Jesus was willing to forgive them. His magnanimity for forgive resulted in the repentance of those who hurt him so unjustly.
God will definitely forgive us of all the evils we have harbour in our hearts if only we are willing to repent and return to Him. Let this Lent be the turning point in our lives. Let us repent for our sins and for the hurt we have caused others by our selfishness, greed and arrogance and return to the path of righteousness.

“To hurt someone is bad but to continue doing so without realising is evil”


Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas 2015 - Hope amidst gloom?

This year we celebrate Christmas in an environment of national gloom, depression and despair. This is due to the action of the government which imposes all sorts of unreasonable restrictions on religious minorities, in particular the Christians. Even celebrating Christmas freely may become a problem for us in the country. The government is indifferent to our plight and hopes for a better future for us and our children. We are being made to feel strangers in our own country.

For some of us even our personal and family lives are in disarray with members who were once united as a family are becoming separated due to misunderstanding over petty disputes. Families are divided with loss of the most important essence, love and understanding. To many of us Christmas is not as joyous as it used to be when we were young.

 Despite this sense of hopelessness in the country and our families, we still continue to celebrate this special day with great hope as it is the birth of none other than the man who came to save us from all our woes. Yes, Jesus came to us in the most humble way, being born in the wilderness in a stable among the poor shepherds and their flock. He did not come as a King as we expected but as a poor shepherd. He demonstrated extreme humility as example for each one of us.

Christmas is a celebration of hope and despite the gloom over us let us have the hope which the infant Jesus represents.
We all have our problems, who doesn’t? Despite our setbacks, let us adopt the virtue of humility in our lives and try our best to reach out to those who are worse off than us and at the same time touch someone with our gestures of love, compassion and simplicity. Let us try to get rid of all ill feelings towards those who have hurt us, especially towards our family members and friends.

It is the hope in Jesus that gives us the strength and inspiration to plough on through our difficulties in our country and our families. God knows what is best for us so let’s move on with full trust in Him.May this Christmas bring back its sweet magic into your lives once more.

Wishing you and your family a very blessed and merry Christmas.