Friday, September 29, 2006

Gandhi and Christianity

29 September 2006

God’s Kingdom is within us. Part II

October 2nd.2006 will be Mahatma Gandhi’s 137th.birthday. He was proclaimed by many as one of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders, not of the century but of all times. He was ranked not just with Thoreau,Tolstoy and St.Francis,but with Buddha, Mohammed and even Jesus. In fact to me he is the human version of modern Jesus.

He was a devout Hindu but became the conscience in the hearts of all men,including the British colonialist who were predominantly Christian. He lost his life in the hands of his own Hindu followers for protecting the Muslim minority in India during the time of post-independence partition. His actions demonstrate what the ruling majority in a political system should do to protect the minorities under their rule.

Fr.John Dear recalls that when Gandhi was asked what advice he had for Christians, the great Indian independence leader wisely replied,

“First, I suggest that all Christians must begin to live more like Jesus Christ.

Second, practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down.

Third, emphasize love and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity.

Fourth, study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is within them, in order to have a more sympathetic approach to people.”

His advice to Christians should make us ponder on our own words and deeds as the followers of Christ. Gandhi, a staunch Hindu has understood Christianity better than many of us as he recognized that love is central in Christianity.

The following words of Gandhi bear very special significance to all mankind especially Christians:

“The Kingdom of God is within us and that we can realise it not by saying, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but by doing God’s will and work. Therefore if we wait for the Kingdom to come, as something coming from outside, we shall be sadly mistaken.”

He continues “Do you know that there are thousands of villages where people are starving and which are on the brink of ruin? If we would listen to the voice of God, I assure you we would hear God say that we are taking God's name in vain if we do not think of the poor and help them. If you cannot render the help that they need, it is no use talking of service of God and service of the poor. Try to identify yourselves with the poor by actually helping them.”

Today most of us indulge in all sorts of activities like fasting, abstinence, meditations, offering masses, holding mammoth prayer sessions and so on, imploring the Kingdom of God to come to us to heal us from all ills. We wait for the Kingdom of God by carrying out all these rituals but fail to appreciate that His Kingdom is within us.

For us Christians, the Kingdom of God, is the love of Christ burning within our hearts, ready to be shared with others around us – our spouse, parents, children, priest, colleagues, friends, the poor and needy, the sick and dying and even our enemies.

Gandhi realized this love of God within him and shared that love with the millions of downtrodden in India. He saw God in the poor and the suffering and become one with them. By doing so he has demonstrated himself as a better Christian than many of us.

“Man, for instance”,says Gandhi, “cannot be untruthful, cruel or incontinent and claim to have God on his side."

In the light of these words of the Mahatma, where do WE stand in our daily life?

Dr.Chris Anthony

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