Books, Books, Books!!! If I had my way I would make all the books in the whole world disappear. I know it’s blasphemous for those who love reading, but I know I can never make it into their tribe. I still admire and look in awe and disbelief at people who can gobble up a big thick book in a matter of hours. But sorry guys I can’t do it. My mother tried her best. When I was in 8th Standard, she gifted me a not-so-thick book – “The Count of Monte Cristo”. How was it? I don’t know, coz I never made it beyond 8 pages. Till now!! The same was the case with every other book.
In our house there was one important book – The Holy Bible. My experience with it was very limited. Well, to be frank, almost zero. The first reason being that it was in Malayalam – my mother tongue or, as I would often say, my mother’s tongue. I could hardly understand it, let alone speak or read it. I never could pick up the long alphabets which went round and round and whose beginning and end I couldn’t make out. The second reason being that the Book was considered very holy. So holy that it was kept wrapped in a cloth, up in our showcase all year long. I remember it being taken out only once a year on Good Friday, when my mother would read the Passion of Christ. And after that it was back in its resting place.
But all this was set to change. It was during my Engineering college days that I started getting to know the Book. Through a youth prayer group and later a youth retreat and later through the daily prayer meetings in one of our hostel rooms, I started hearing it attentively. Soon, I started reading it myself. However, initially, I couldn’t understand a thing. The English was so difficult and archaic. Plus, I didn’t have any idea who was Matthew or Paul or Jeremiah or the Colosians...... or what Old and New Testament, the Gospels meant. Couldn’t make head or tail out of it. Still, somehow I felt that I should go on, even if I didn’t understand a word I should continue reading. And I did. And I’m glad I did. Soon I realized that those were not just black and white alphabets printed on white paper, or words spoken by someone long time ago. I realized that those words were alive and active, those words still carried their meaning, still applied in my life, still spoke to me. I realized that it was not just any Holy book, it was the Word Of God! The Word of God which lives on forever. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
Over the years the Word of God has been my companion. It guided me at times of confusion, corrected me when I was wrong, helped me when I needed it so badly, strengthened me, inspired me, taught me. Let me tell you about an experience which changed the course of my life. It’s regarding one of the most important and difficult decisions I had to take at that point of time. Towards the end of my engineering course I had to decide what next. I had two options: either to join a software company which had already offered me a job or to go for higher studies. There was a third option of going for a volunteership for a spiritual youth group for a year, but that meant a gap of at least an year in my resumé which could have disastrous consequences. As time went by the Word of God started speaking to me. One Bible verse kept on ringing in my head: “Seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be added unto you.” I didn’t even know where it was in the Bible, but still it kept on speaking to me. Some days later, a Priest told me the exact same verse (Matthew 6:33). By that time I was convinced what I had to do, but I had to convince my mother. In a matter of few months, the Word of God spoke to my mother as well. She had started reading the Bible daily and one day she called me and told that she read a verse which said “Does a person gain anything if he wins the whole world but loses his soul?”(Mark8:36). She told that I can go ahead with my one year volunteer plans. I went ahead with the same. And even today I’m so grateful that I took that decision. It was the best year of life. I still cherish each and every day of that year. That one year shaped my life. I took the right decision and it was because of the Word of God, which was alive and which spoke to me, which spoke through my mother, which spoke through the priest.
The Bible at my home has been replaced by a new one. Still in Malayalam, still considered Holy, still wrapped up, but opened and read every day. I have one for myself now, an English one, wrapped in a black leather cover, lying right next to my pillow, a little torn, a lot underlined, referred daily, still considered Holy. The Word of God is Holy, but not too Holy to stay away from us, from our daily lives. Even God who was all Holy, all powerful , all mighty, didn’t choose to stay away, didn’t choose to look at his people from up above but decided to come down to earth, to live with us, to be born among us, to become flesh and body. “The Word became flesh and, full of grace and truth, lived among us.” (John 1:14)
As we await to celebrate the day Christ was born, the day when God became man, the day when Word became flesh, let’s spend time with the Word, let’s spend time reading the Word of God and putting it in practice, let’s get to know the power of the living Word and let’s give the Word a chance to become flesh in us.
“My mother and brothers are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.” - Jesus (Luke 8:21)