Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Gaze

This Sunday was Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday. The gospel reading narrated the Passion of Christ from the last Supper to His body being laid in the tomb. As I was listening to the narration about the day that changed our lives forever,  I heard so many names – Jesus, Pilate, Judas, Caiaphas, Simeon, daughters of Jerusalem, Herod......  But the name struck me the most was Peter; the incident that shook me up was him denying Jesus three times, the moment that touched me the most was the gaze that Jesus gave Peter after his denial.

During The Last Supper, Peter was so confident about his commitment to the Lord and so unaware of what was going to happen that he boldly proclaimed that He would be with Jesus all through and won’t leave Him at all even if it meant prison or death. Peter never would have imagined what unfolded in the next few hours. Jesus, his master, who performed so many miracles, who healed the deaf, the lame, the dumb, the blind, the leper, who calmed storms, who walked on water, who multiplied bread, who brought back dead from life, whom everyone welcome with songs of Joy and shouts of Hosanna just a few days ago, whose proud disciple he was; the same Jesus was standing in front of an angry crowd who was jeering at Him, spitting on Him, slapping and beating Him and Jesus who had the power and authority over everything was standing helpless. Peter was shattered seeing all this and that’s when people surround him and accuse him of being a follower of Jesus. He denies Jesus. Three times. “And the Lord turned around and looked at Peter.” (Luke 22:61) Jesus gazed at Peter, looked straight into his eyes.

Jesus’ gaze didn’t mean – ‘See, I told you so. How could you do this to me? You of all the people! What a wretched person you are.’ It was not a gaze which had anger, contempt, hatred, disgust, disappointment in it. It was a gaze full of love. It was a gaze which meant – ‘I love you. I love you just as you are; in your weaknesses, in your shortcomings, in your failures, in your fear, in your denial. I love you and I am going through all this for my love for you, so that we could be together in eternity. I know you have denied me, but I don’t hold it against you. What matters to me is your love for me, is that you come back to me.’  And that gaze, I believe, changed Peter’s life. He came back to Jesus, spent the rest of his life for Him and died the way His master died – crucified, but upside down.

I can so relate to Peter, at least the denial part. I believe many of us can. So many times we decide to be all for Jesus, to do whatever God wants us to do, to obey Him, to be good but very soon we betray Him, we deny Him, we disobey him in ways big and small. In so many situations we forget what God desires of us and do just what we desire. In moments of temptation we don’t bother about how God longs that we choose to be with Him, but instead we just give into our weaknesses. So many times we fail to stand up for our relationship with our Father. But at the end of all this, what awaits us is the same gaze full of love, the gaze that desires that we come back to Him, the gaze that says – ‘I know. I understand. I forgive.’, the reassuring gaze that strongly invites us saying ‘Come, follow me.’  

Let’s spend these days gazing at Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Bible. Let’s gaze at the face of the crucified Lord, who died and rose again, all for His love for us. Let’s look into His eyes and find the meaning of our lives. Look straight in His eyes and your life will never be the same again.

Let’s also look at others with the same loving, forgiving gaze when they wrong us, hurt us, do or say bad things about us, betray us. Your one gaze can change other’s life as well. It’s difficult but we are called to do exactly that - to love and forgive, the way Jesus did.

O Lord, who am I, that your eyes that see my sin, would look on me with love and watch me rise again! Thank you so much for loving me.

God loves you!

God Bless!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mercy Quotient

In the past two years of my life here in Chennai, I have come across many who put others before themselves, who go out of their way to help others, who can never say ‘No’ to any request. I really admire them especially because I lie on the other extreme end. I am someone whose default answer to any request for help is “NO.” In some cases I might say “I will try”, but that’s also effectively a “NO”. And in some other cases I will postpone it which is even worse than a “NO”. For me, my priorities and plans are most important. Rest everything comes after that. But during the last few days, the Lord has been trying to change me. And today morning, while praying, He taught me about the Mercy Quotient (MQ). Will let you know what it is, but before that I want to share how it all began.

Well, it all started on the night of 13th March, during the monthly Night Vigil prayer conducted by Jesus Youth in Chennai. One of my friends, who was leading the Praise and Worship asked us all two very simple questions to think about and then share. 
  1. Think about an instance in which God has shown mercy on you.
  2. Think about an instance in which you have shown mercy on others.

The first question was easy and I had so many experiences to share, but the second question left me searching for an answer. I couldn’t think of a single incident in which I showed mercy on others. I was completely blank. And that is when it hit me so hard. All through the past few years, I have been receiving God’s loving mercy immensely, but I never shared it with anyone. I just kept it to myself. I was never bothered to go out of the way and help someone or sacrifice my happiness and make someone else happy or take that little bit of effort to make somebody’s day. It was always me and my comfort zone. But that night God showed me what to do.

After the midnight Mass, I rushed to the priest and confessed and no sooner did I repent was I filled with a desire to help, to share God’s mercy. And as it is with God, who always knows my slightest desires and fulfils it, He did it this time too. After the Hole Mass, my friend Praveen and I were coming back to the hostel at around 2 o’ Clock in the night. On the way back through a deserted road, we met a guy whose bike ran out of fuel and there was no petrol bunk anywhere nearby. Even we didn’t have enough fuel to share with him. Had it been the usual me, I would have suspected that guy to be a thug, refused to help him and just walked away. But this time we took a little bit of effort and made sure he reached were he wanted to go. Before we reached hostel we got a chance to help one more person. We were happy that God gave us a chance to help two persons. So the count stood at 2. But at that time, it was almost 3 am, we needed the watchman’s help to enter the hostel. And thankfully he helped. So Praveen said that, the net count is now 2-1 = 1. We were both very happy that at the end of the day we were able to help someone out. That night I hit the bed with a smile on my face and so much of peace in my heart.

And that’s how the Mercy Quotient came into being. This is what MQ is:

MQ = (Number of times you have helped someone) – (Number of times someone else has helped you)

For us that night it was, MQ = 2 – 1 = 1.

MQ can be calculated each day. And higher the MQ the better. The objective is to keep your MQ positive and do so by helping as many people as possible.

Caution: Don’t fall into the trap of 
  • Helping others just for the sake of helping without them actually needing it. 
  • Denying others who offer to help you, so that your MQ would be positive.  
  • Becoming complacent or proud once your MQ is constantly high

Remember, the entire focus of MQ is to be able to share God’s mercy, to go that extra mile to put a smile on someone’s face. It might be difficult to change all of a sudden. Trust me on this. But it will work if you are determined. For the past few days I have been consciously trying to improve my MQ by helping others. And it’s working. If you can’t do it on your own, ask the Holy Spirit to help you out. He surely will help you lend a helping hand.

And as Mother Teresa would say, “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” Let’s not help or give or serve out of compulsion, grumbling all the time; let’s do it with love. Sometimes it might be painful, but then it is nothing compared to the pain that Christ went through for each of us, so that we could receive God’s mercy.

So spread the Mercy of God and increase your Mercy Quotient every day. It might sound like a very simple thing, but it will surely change the way you look at life.

“Be merciful just as your heavenly Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

God Bless!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I'm not alone

Last month, in our college, we had a personal growth workshop and I took part in it. In the first session we were asked to introduce ourselves and give a brief description about who we were. The very first line that came into my mind about myself was – ‘I am a nomad. A wanderer.’ coz all my life I have been moving from one place to another. From Bihar to Jharkhand to Coimbatore, from Kerala to Kolkata, from Shillong to Chennai...... and within a month I will be moving out of Chennai to don’t know where. But no matter where I went, no matter how unfamiliar the place, food, culture may be, no matter if I didn’t have a single friend or relative, I never felt alone. Coz I knew the loving God was with me wherever I went. He was, is and will be the only one who would be with me always no matter what. No wonder the psalmist says:
 “You are all round me on every side; you protect me with your power.
Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence?
Even if I went up to heaven you would be there; if I lay in the world of the dead you would be there.
If I flew beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, you would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me.” (Psalm139:5-10).
The love of our God never leaves us.

But I was not born with this attitude. Through most of my life I felt just the other way round. I would be one of those guys who would sing ‘I am so lonely’ and would really mean every word. I suffered from the ‘Why me?’ syndrome. I spent days, months and years asking – ‘God, Why me? Why do I have to go through all these problems? Why does all this happen to me? Why was I born in this family?’ There were nights I spent crying all by myself, there were times when I wouldn’t talk with anyone in my school for as long as a week, there were days when I felt I had no friend – no one to speak to, no one to share my feelings with.  All this, while I could only helplessly watch my family fall apart. The daily fights, the anger, the hatred, the fear, the helplessness is all I can remember. My dad on the verge of axing me, my mom soaked in kerosene with a lit matchstick in her hand are my childhood memories. God’s love was the last thing I experienced. God was almost non-existent.

But all this changed one night when I sat before the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration. Some years ago, in a retreat, during an inner healing prayer, the preacher made us journey though our entire life – from the moment we were conceived in our mother’s womb till that very day. We had to remember all the past incidents and offer it to Jesus. As I was praying, I could see all that I have gone through, scroll right in front of my eyes – all the hurtful, painful incidents, all the fights, all the times I felt alone, crushed; I could see them all. But then I saw something special. In all these incidents I could see Jesus standing right next to me! Through all the pains I could see Him consoling me. All the moments I thought I suffered alone, I could see Him holding my hand. It was as if I was living my life once again, but this time with Jesus by my side. All these while I thought I was alone, but then, that night I realized that I was not alone. God was with me all through; each and every second. I was filled with so much of joy that I can’t explain. I just burst out in tears, tears of joy! And since then I have been singing – ‘I am not alone.’ Surely I faced problems and struggles, even bigger ones, after that night, but I never felt alone coz I felt the love of God always surround me.

Over the past few years I have learned one thing - no matter what happens in our life, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Even if you are going through the biggest struggle in your life, the love of God is right there with you. You might be struggling in your studies, or at work, or in your personal life, you might be crushed under the demands others put on you, might be absolutely clueless about your future, might be struggling to find a job, or to make friends, or to face people, you might be going through the biggest dilemma, pain, confusion in your life, you might be feeling absolutely lost, lonely, depressed, you might be chained by your sins or addictions,  you might think nobody understands you, cares for you, loves you, you might be going through the deepest, darkest phase in your life. No matter how bad the situation is, don’t worry coz you are not alone, the Love of God is always there with you to guide you, to protect you, to strengthen you. That’s why St Paul says:
 “For I am certain that nothing can separate us from His love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below – there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39)

God Loves You!

God Bless!!