Saturday, January 26, 2013

The "Shrek Song" - Hallelujah!

A few weeks back, I, along with my friends went to watch the now Oscar nominated movie: Wreck-It Ralph. We thoroughly enjoyed the movie, so much so that when it got over we clapped along with others in the movie hall.  That night I was reminded of one of my favourite animated movies – Shrek, and particularly one of the songs of the movie titled “Hallelujah”. In no time I was searching for it on YouTube and over the next few days kept on listening to version after version of the song over and over again. The song written by Leonard Cohen, has been performed by numerous artists across the globe including himself, Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, JustinTimberlake, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, K D Lang, the Norwegian quartet....... Below is the video of the song sung by K D Lang during the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

I was mesmerized by the song. As I listened to it repeatedly, I started paying attention to the lyrics (click here for lyrics) and was stunned at the deep meaning it had. The word “Hallelujah” means “Praise Yahweh” or “Praise God” and I always used to associate this word with joyful thanksgiving, something you would say when you are happy and content. But this song brings out other types of Hallelujahs: cold, lonely, broken Hallelujahs. It tells about the lives of King David and Samson who were so close to God, but in their moment of weakness, they gave into temptation, abandoned the God whom they loved so much, committed adultery and murder. From their depths, in their weaknesses and sorrow they cried out “Hallelujah!” It showed me that we can and should praise God in all situations no matter how bad it is. The last few verses of the song put it together so well:

“And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”

A couple of days back I came across an e-mail sent by one of my friend’s friend. The mail started with the words “Praise be to Jesus and Mary”. As I read, I was stunned at what this young guy had to share. He wrote about how hard these last couple of weeks have been for him and his family, how his father was admitted with multiple complications, how his health deteriorated and how his father breathed his last while he was at the airport on his way back home. He wasn’t able to see his father alive. I was shocked at how someone who has gone through such a personal crisis, such a huge loss could start his mail by praising God!!

It’s so easy to thank and praise God when everything in our life is going on well, when we get what we ask, when all our prayers are answered, when we have no problems or issues. But we are called to praise Him not just then, but even when we are irritated or disturbed or disappointed or sad, when things do not go according to our plans, when whatever we do ends up in a failure, when we are facing problems after problems and don’t see a way out, when everyone around us has abandoned us, when we struggle to make our ends meet, when none of our prayers get answered, when we feel lost, betrayed and alone, when we can’t make sense of what’s happening around us, when we lose a loved one, when we are plagued by diseases, pain and suffering. It’s in moments like these that we should praise God, sing Hallelujah and realise that “Trials of every sort come to us, but we are not discouraged. We are left without an answer, but do not despair; persecuted not abandoned, knocked down but not crushed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8,9). Because our God is the God of impossibles, who is by our side every second of our lives and because of whose love for us we can confidently say:

“God is our strength and protection,
an ever-present help in affliction.
We will not fear, therefore,
though the earth be shaken,
and the mountains plunge into the seas,
though its waters foam and roar,
though the mountains quake and totter.
For the Lord of hosts is with us,
the God of Jacob, is our stronghold.”
(Psalm 46:2-4)

Hallelujah! God Bless!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Doomsday" Revelation!

What do you do when you know that the world is coming to end? You must be wondering why am I asking you this question now. 21st Dec, 2012 - the doomsday - has come and gone. I’m bringing it up because that day I stumbled across a realization which took me by surprise.

So, I come back to the same question. What do you do when you know that the world is coming to an end? Do all that you ever wanted to do, go on a shopping, eating, drinking spree; visit places you've always dreamt about, catch up with your old friends, spend time with family, mend broken relations, pray for the next life....... Well to my surprise, when I went to church that day I found a long line of people waiting to confess their sins. And guess what? I was one among them! However, I hadn't planned it. I didn't even realize it was 21st Dec till I came back home. I went to attend the morning Mass and after the Mass I felt the strong urge to confess. As I prepared myself for confession, as I made my way towards the confessional, as I knelt down, the power of seven words which I was about to say took be my surprise. I was overwhelmed when I said, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”

That’s a prayer, we say every time we begin our confession. But that day it made me think. Isn't there something wrong in that sentence? Why “Bless me, Father”? Shouldn't it be “Have mercy on me, Father” or “Please forgive me, Father” or “Spare me, Father” or “Please don’t punish me, Father”. Instead of asking for blessings, shouldn't we be scared, afraid, guilty to approach the Almighty God, against whom we have sinned? I remember, during my childhood, after fighting with my sister, I was so scared that she would complaint to my mother about what I did. I saw the same with my nephew who is petrified when we tell him that we are going to tell his dad about his mischief. Don’t we feel the same when we have to face our boss after messing up at work? But instead of approaching God with guilt, fearing His rebuke and punishment and pleading with Him for forgiveness, He gives us an opportunity to approach Him with confidence, with love and ask for His blessings and grace irrespective of what we did.

For God, our loving Father, it doesn't matter if we are liars, drunkards, murderers, prostitutes; it doesn't matter if we are addicted to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, pornography; it doesn't matter if we have been a bad, mean person; it doesn't matter if we were thankless, jealous, deceitful; it doesn't matter if we didn't support human life; it doesn't matter if we never bothered about Him, if we ran away from Him, forgot Him, disobeyed Him,questioned or denied His existence, it doesn't matter if we are the greatest sinner in the world, as long as we go back to Him, stand in front of Him, repent and say “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” Then He would embrace us and fill us with His love which knows no limit, His peace which is beyond our understanding, His joy which gives us strength and His hope which never fades.

That morning when I came back from the confessional, I felt as if a heavy weight was off my chest. And as I knelt before the crucifix, I could feel His love envelope me. I felt humbled before Him, humbled by the power of seven words – “Bless me Father, for I have sinned”, humbled by the power of His love and forgiveness.

“The Lord is gracious and merciful, abounding in love and slow to anger; .... He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve. As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love  ....; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.” (Psalms 103:8-12)

God Bless!