Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Thursday 2010 - Serving one another

Washing of feet, sign of extreme humility

Jesus washing his disciple's feet
a sign of extreme humility

This is a very important week for Christians - the Holy Week started with Palm Sunday and continues into Holy Thursday, Good Friday and which will culminate in Easter commemorating the resurrection of Jesus. Holy Thursday we commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist which has become the fundamental focus of our faith. On this day we will witness the priest, like Jesus, washing the feet of his 12 “apostles”.

This act of Jesus was a revolutionary one which would have been scorned by those in power. By Jesus washing the feet of his apostles he has demonstrated the most extreme form of humility and love for man and this love resulted in the ultimate sacrifice of His life for us on the cross. He may have done that more than 2000 years ago but the significance of his action remains relevant even today.

As the followers of Jesus, we are asked follow Christ, to humble ourselves, to wash the feet of others especially those under our care. It may be easy to enact that historic scene of washing of the feet but in real life it is not that easy to demonstrate that humility and love for those below us. Are we willing to go down on our knees to serve others? Are we willing to sacrifice whatever we can for the betterment of others? These are the questions we must ponder on this auspicious day.

If only we had that humility a lot of troubles would never have occurred. If only we had the humility to admit our mistakes and seek forgiveness from those we had hurt most of our problems could have never surfaced. On the other hand lack of this humility was the cause of violence and war throughout the history of man.

Today our Church is being confronted with the biggest challenge in recent times in the form of the clergy sex scandal. If only those involved regardless of their position had the humility to take responsibility for their sins or their cover up of justice, we will not be experiencing this problem that is threatening the credibility of the Church as the moral guardian of humanity. Are the priests, bishops and the Pope willing to follow Jesus in washing the feet of the victims of the sex abuses?

On a smaller dimension if only each one of us had that humility of Christ, marital problems resulting in divorce and family break up with “orphaned” children will be minimal. Our families would be happy and intact.

Every year our priests make it a point to wash the feet of their twelve "apostles". To many it may be just a ritual and they do it as an obligation. In fact the act itself is reminder that they are the servants, not masters, of their parishioners.

Pope Benedict XVI washing feet feet of his apostle

The washing of the feet is a lesson not only for the priests but for of us as well. It is a lesson for us in our relationship with those we encounter daily - our spouse, our children, parents, priests, friends and particularly our subordinates. Do we treat them with the respect and love they deserve?

The washing of the feet is a clear demonstration of Christ’s second great commandment to us – love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said, “If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each others feet”(John13:14).

Mother Teresa had this great virtue of humility in abundance as she fulfilled this commandment to the fullest by ‘washing the feet’ of the poorest of the poor in a midst. It is pertinent here to examine ourselves to see where we stand on this scale of humility that was demonstrated by Jesus on Holy Thursday. How willing are we to wash the feet of one another as Jesus commanded.

Mother Teresa with her apostle

On this special day let us ask God to give us this great virtue of humility in abundance so that we can in our own small ways, bring about the peace and harmony in our own surroundings by 'washing the feet' of our neighbor in particular our enemies.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Religious Conversion

Gandhi on religious conversion

If I have the power to make laws in India,then the first law will be of
Converting peoples to their own religion is just to achieve their greedy nee

Where do we stand on this policy?How do we sell our policy of evangelism?
Modern meaning of evangelism would be to make someone a better human in his own religion than converting him to ours.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Palm Sunday 2010 - more than just blessing and waving palms

Its upholding truth in facing adversary

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of the Holy Week when we would relive the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Palm Sunday commemorates the joyful entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

When we were children Palm Sunday was a day of excitement,joy and celebration as we witnessed the blessing of palm and the procession that followed. We were happy to wave the palms and many of us took them back to place in our homes and even cars. As children Palm Sunday was all about blessing and waving of palms and nothing more.

Today we are older and after going through the various experiences in life we tend to see Palm Sunday differently. Jesus entered Jerusalem to face his imminent torture and death on the cross which he was well aware of. He took it willingly and placed full trust in God. Jesus was willing to walk the path of truth knowing very well that it is going to cause him immense suffering and death on the cross.

We too are very often asked to bear witness to truth in our daily lives. Are we willing to walk the path of righteousness in an environment of hostility and ridicule? Are we willing to be bold enough stand firm to our principles in facing up to the challenges in life? Many of us may think we would but only to succumb to the temptations of greed, lust and hatred.If we look around us we realize that very few people are willing to stand up bravely to defend their principles in life.Today many of us are willing to sell our souls to the devil for some material reward.All we want is money,luxury and comforts in life.

The main reason we succumb to temptations is our lack of faith and trust in God. Real faith is tested not during good times but at times of great trouble and difficulty. It is easy to say we trust God when we have everything going our way but it is more important to hold on to that unwavering trust when we are encountered with failure after failure.

We are all well aware that even many hardcore Catholics, laity and clergy alike, have given up their faith in deep frustration as they feel God did not answer their prayers in their time of need. They feel that despite being steadfast in their faith, God did not come to their aid when they badly needed Him. They fail to realize that God answers our prayers in ways we dot not recognize or comprehend. Whatever He gives is what we deserve and is the best in the circumstances we are in.

Today our Church is undergoing a severe crisis of confidence.The clergy sex scandal is threatening very foundation of the Church that was built on the teachings of Christ.What has gone wrong?It is timely to reflect on our imperfections and mistakes and take measures to rectify them instead of accusing those who have exposed our wrong doings as trying to destroy our Church.No evil force will be able to destroy us as long as we are in the right path.Jesus will be always on our side as long as we do the right thing at all times come what may.Let us find the courage to face the truth in the way Jesus did on his way into Jerusalem and Calvary.

Palm Sunday is not just about blessing and waving of palms and shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna” but it is a solemn lesson for us all who claim to be followers of Jesus. Like Jesus who rode into Jerusalem bravely to face His imminent torture and death in the defense of truth, let us also try our best to emulate Him bravely, to uphold the truth, in our journey in this world particularly in times of hardship and pain.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mother Teresa's prayer

Mother Teresa's prayer

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
... Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
... Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
... Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
... Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
... Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
... Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
... Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
... Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

We can do no great things - only small things with great love.

- Mother Teresa


Very easy to quote this prayer but so difficult to practice.
But the challenge lies in trying to do what we pray.
God will on our side if we do the right things come what may.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Catholic Church and its clergy sex scandal

Rocks the very foundation of the Church

Repent, rehabilitate and move forward

It looks like the Catholic Church seems to be perpetually stuck with sex scandals involving its clergy. Child sex abuse appears to be so widespread and entrenched among the Church hierarchy that it finds difficult to get out of the scandal let alone redeem itself from the grievous sin.

First it was the sex scandal that rocked the Church in the US in 2007 where a huge sum of money, in the region of US$2 billion, was paid as compensation to the victims. Not only such a huge sum was wasted but the scandal itself dealt a serious blow to the credibility of the Catholic Church as a moral leader in the world. The secular international media left no stone unturned to inflict the greatest degree of insult on the Catholic Church.

Before the Church could recover from the effects of the clergy sex scandal in the US we are again hit by similar scandals in Ireland, Netherlands and now in Germany. It looks that such sex abuses among the clergy may be much more widespread than we imagined. It has placed the greatest challenge to the Church today.

Pope Benedict XVI has promised to fight hard to overcome the crisis by getting to the root cause of this problem. His recent strongly worded letter to the Irish bishops is commendable. His sincere and open apology to the victims of sex abuse is timely and greatly admirable. His willingness to openly discuss the humiliating scandal should be emulated by his brother clergymen. However the question is whether the Pope’s attempts to heal will succeed? Will he be able to redeem the Church to regain its past glory? People who looked up to the church are now condemning and ridiculing it as it has lost its authority to preach morality.

Throughout the ages the greatest weakness of man was sex and it is continues to be so till today. Many powerful kingdoms, empires, nations and families have been destroyed by passions driven by sex. It is not going to be the end but will continue to do so till the end of times. Will sex bring down the once powerful and influential Catholic Church? To our dismay the answer seems to in the affirmative at least in the US and Europe.

The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church actually has been composed of two interlocking, but distinct, problems: the priests who abused, and the bishops who failed to clean it up when they should have known better.

Although sexual abuses may be among the commonest crimes these days but the attempted cover up at the highest level of the hierarchy is a much bigger offence than the crime itself. If such abuses can occur in a society that is so educated and liberal as in U.S. and Europe it is frightening to imagine what may be happening in poorer so called Catholic countries where the clergy is revered for their godly functions.

It is unthinkable that such crimes were committed by our own priests against innocent children from their own congregation. It is even more dreadful to imagine they have continued to carry out their sacred liturgical duties despite living in such sinful states which they condemn in their sermons every week.

It is sad that many of us seem to be oblivious to what is happening in our church within and without. While the secular media keep harping on it there is total blackout of the crisis in our churches, in the bulletins and publications such as the Herald. While it is it is natural for us to shun from discussing such sex abuse due to embarrassment but it has to be addressed. The people must be told the truth however bitter and painful it may be. Admitting the truth may bring us humiliation in front of men but forgiveness and praise in the eyes of God. Instead of sweeping it under the carpet, we should use it as a lesson to prevent similar activities in the future.

The sex scandal is just an extreme example of the atrocities going on in the church. It is a sign that all is not well in our Church which is now becoming increasingly more irrelevant in the lives of modern men. Are we diverging from the true teachings of Jesus on which the Church was founded? Have we become too arrogant as to believe that ours is the only true faith that leads to God and ridicule others who differ from us? Have we become more ritualistic being obsessed with form rather than substance? Are our teachings becoming obsolete and cannot stand up to the scrutiny of modern scientific research?

The sex scandal also calls for a review of the selection and training of our priests. We may be facing an acute shortage of priests but does that justify the selection anyone who comes by? We say it is a calling by God but how do we recognize His calling? Why are our young men shunning the priesthood as a vocation? Why aren’t the teachings of the Church attractive to the youth anymore? In short are we becoming irrelevant in the lives of modern man? These are the hard questions on which we must ponder and to which we must find honest answers.

This is not the time to find fault and criticize the priests who have got astray. Who has not sinned anyway to cast the first stone? It is timely to repent, rehabilitate and put the past to rest and move forward with our mission of building God’s Kingdom on earth.

This scandal must also be a lesson for us all who claim to be followers of Christ. We must ask Christ to give us not just the courage, strength and wisdom to fight all the worldly temptations of greed and lust but also the humility to accept our weaknesses and seek forgiveness from those whom we have hurt.

Let us pray for those innocent victims of the sex abuse. Let us pray and do whatever we can for a speedy recovery from the wounds of their assault. Let us also pray for our priests who were involved in the scandal. May they repent and find consolation and forgiveness in the mercy of Christ.

The Pope's apology to the victims of these sex scandals paves the way forwards for reconciliation and repentance. Let's pray that the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen out Holy Father to find a solution to the crisis that has plagued our beloved Church.