Friday, March 29, 2013

The Saving Swap!

The Passion of the Christ is one of the most moving movies I’ve ever seen. I still remember the first time I saw it in on the big screen, I could hardly hold back my tears during most part of the movie. The images, the dialogues were so powerful; they just pierced though my heart. Many of them I still can’t forget, still speak to me, still inspire me. I’ve seen the movie over and over again, and every time I see, it’s as if I’m seeing it for the first time, as if I’m reliving the betrayal,  trial, passion and death of Jesus once again! For me, it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
However, the same is not the case with some of my friends. Some find it just another movie, some find it gory, too violent, exaggerated etc etc etc. I guess, I would have also felt the same way had I not realized that it was for me that Jesus died, that it was for my sins that He was punished. Everything that’s depicted in the movie – the lashes, the pain, the agony, the humiliation, the torture- should have happened to me; that it was I who should have felt the pain and suffered, I who should have been chastised, humiliated, crucified, punished for all the wrongs I did. But, instead, Jesus swapped himself for me. He took my place and He saved me.
As Isaiah prophesied 700 years before it all happened:  
“He was wounded and bruised for our sins!
He was chastised that we may have peace,
He was lashed and we were healed!
We are the ones who strayed away like sheep;
we, who left God’s path to follow our own,
yet God laid on Him the guilt and sins of every one of us!
From prison and trail they led Him away to His death.
But, who among the people of that day
realized it was their sins that He was dying for,
that He was suffering their punishment?
He, who had never committed a crime or told a lie,
was counted as a sinner, and He bore the sins of many,
and He prayed that they might be forgiven.”
(Isaiah 53)

Today we observe Good Friday - a day which will always remind us of this saving swap, the ultimate sacrifice God made for us, the greatest sign of His love for us. “God has shown us how much He loves us – it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

And this Love is not limited to just a few; it is there for each one of us. “He died for all.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)
May we all know God’s personal love for us, may we realize that it was for us that Jesus died and may we experience the power and glory of His resurrection.
God Bless!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Coming Home!

Kolkata – a hot n humid, polluted n populated city for some. But for me it truly is the City of Joy. I spent the best year of my life there, working as a fulltime volunteer for a youth group. Last weekend, I got a chance to go back to Kolkata after five years and relive the best days of my life once again. Can’t thank God enough for that!! Every street I walked through, every place I visited, every friend I met brought back so many memories!!!

One such memory was rekindled when I met a close friend of mine. During my earlier stay, a retreat was arranged in his school and as a part of the retreat everyone was encouraged to confess. This friend of mine was also one among them, but every time he reached the confessional he would back out. I ran behind him, caught him, took him to the confessional twice and made sure he confessed. Last weekend when we met we talked and laughed about that incident, but both of us knew that incident played such an important role in his life! He still talks about it and shares his experience with others.

Confession was a dreadful experience for me as well. The thought of recollecting and telling all the sins I did was scary!! Before I joined my engineering college, I confessed only twice and that too because it was mandatory and that too half-heartedly. But then one confession changed it all forever. It was towards the end of my first year in college. I reluctantly went for a youth retreat. The first couple of days were fun, but then came the day we had to go for Confession!!! I thought of making it as quick as I could. But when I started, I went on and on and on. All the sin and the filth in my life, which I had hidden deep inside me for years, just came out. I started crying and I still remember the priest’s hand becoming wet by tears which were rolling down my cheeks. At the end of it, he just said, “your sins are forgiven. I absolve you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” No questions asked! No conditions kept!! I can’t share with you, how I felt when I heard those words. It was as if a big huge load was taken off me and suddenly I could breathe freely!! I knew I came back home, I came back to God, my loving Father!

Since then, confession has helped me strengthen my relationship with God. Coming to think of it now, my decision to go for the one year fulltime volunteership - the best decision I ever took in my entire life, also came from a confessional.  Sometimes confession is such a strong experience for me when I feel transformed, touched, healed, liberated; and sometimes I don’t feel anything at all after confessing. But I know that no matter what, every time I confess, I’m cleansed of my unworthiness, I receive His abundant grace, I’m welcomed with His arms wide open. I recently read a mail written by a priest in which he said, “The Confessional is a place where people let God's love win. In Confession, we meet Jesus who reminds us, "You are worth dying for . . . even in your sins, you are worth dying for." Confession is always a place of victory. Whether you have confessed a particular sin for the first time, or if this is the 12,001st time, every Confession is a win for Jesus.”

I rediscovered one of the most amazing Psalms about confession. It goes like this:

When I kept my sin secret, my body wasted away,
I was moaning all day long.
your hand day and night lay heavy upon me;
draining my strength, parching my heart
as in the heat of a summer drought.
Then I made known to you my sin
and uncovered before you my fault, saying to myself,
“To the Lord, I will now confess my wrong”.
And you, you forgave my sin and removed my guilt.....
You are my refuge;
you protect me from distress
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
(Psalm 32)
In this season of lent, as we prepare to partake in the suffering of Jesus and wait to experience the joy of His resurrection, let’s make use of this opportunity to confess, to come back Home, to meet the life-transforming, costly love of God . . . freely given to us every time we ask for it.

God Bless!!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Grazie Benedetto!!

28th Feb, 2013: The world witnessed something it hasn’t witnessed in more than six centuries – resignation of a Pope. A couple of weeks ago, I was in office, when I first saw the news flash showing the then Pope Benedict XVI expressing his desire to resign. Like most of the world, I wasn’t even sure then that a Pope could resign! I was slightly surprised, but it didn’t have a major impact on me. But on 28th Feb, as I saw him leave the Vatican, fly out to Castel Gandolfo, giving his last public address as the 265th Pope, I felt a deep sense of loss, a slight sorrow and great respect for the then Pope Benedict XVI.

In the almost eight years that he was the Pope, he inspired many across the globe, including me. I thought of sharing three of his quotes which touched me the most.

“Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist.” – 18th August 2005, World Youth Day, Cologne.

“Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.” – 17th September 2010, London

“May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives" – 28th February 2013, last tweet of Pope Benedict XVI. 

Thank you for your love and sacrifice and for your service to the Church, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

As the seat lies vacant (Sede vacante), lets pray for the next Pope who will carry on the tradition that Christ himself established when He made Peter, the rock on which He would build the Church, the first Pope.

Jesus said, "And now I say to you: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church; and never will the power of death overcome it."  - Matthew 16:18.

God Bless!