Saturday, September 20, 2014

The 'F' Word

When I was growing up, I don’t remember exactly, but I guess it was somewhere towards the end of the school days and initial days of college that I came across the ‘F’ word. This word used to be such a taboo during those days. The moment it was said in public, it would raise eyebrows, followed with immediate judgments (silent ones) being passed on the person who dared to utter the word.  Then, soon, this word became the new in-thing, and everyone using this was considered ‘cool’. So lots of ‘dudes’ and a few ‘dudettes’ would throw around the word here and there, now and then. Well, now, I don’t think I need to tell you guys, but the ‘F’ word might just be the most commonly used word around, right from kids to the oldies, being used in all situations, to convey all emotions!

These days, I guess we have found a substitute to the ‘F’ word. You say this word in public and it would definitely raise some eyebrows, you would definitely be judged, you would definitely be considered weird. And that ‘F’ word is fidelity or faithfulness. In these times of quick fixes and fast food, of immediate gratification, of numerous substitutes, of convenience, of a notion of living a no-struggle life, of extreme individualism, the virtue of fidelity is slowly becoming a taboo. I’m sure that there is a lot of goodness around, but at the same time I see and experience a society where a young teenager is applauded if he has multiple girlfriends, where ‘no strings attached’ relationships is a fad, where sex is considered just a means of deriving pleasure, where the first solution advised to a married couple going through a difficult phase is divorce,  where a mother is so casually advised to abort the child growing safely within her, where having kids is looked upon as adding excess baggage, where taking care of elderly parents is considered a burden, where our interactions are mostly give-and-take. Many a times our personal preferences, comfort and aspirations, make us forget that we are called to a life of fidelity even if it means we should compromise on certain aspects.

This short animation video, spoke so loudly to me about fidelity.

The stork and the cloud were working together as a team. The cloud was definitely different from all the others, because of which the stork had to suffer. He saw better experiences elsewhere and could have so easily left its cloud and gone to another one to have a more comfortable life. But he chose fidelity over convenience or comfort. He knew that they were meant to be together and that brought him joy to overcome all the suffering that he was going through and would go through in the future. All the problems or issues with the cloud seemed to fade away in front of the stork’s faithfulness.

This short video was an eye-opener for me. Many a times, it’s so easy for us to find faults in the other – who might be our spouse, our partner, our parent, our child, our friend, our colleagues, even our ministry, our team, our calling. And these faults become so big and so seemingly insurmountable, that we let it go. Our comfort, our choices and our convenience becomes more important than faithfulness to that relationship, than fidelity to our calling. But is that how we are supposed to be? Once again I look up to God.

In God, I see true meaning of faithfulness. The Bible says, “.. the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever” (Psalm 117:2) All throughout the Bible we would see God’s faithfulness to his people, who were at times sinful, at time rebellious, at time blasphemous, at time unbelieving, at times even His enemies. But He remained faithful to them, no matter what! “If we are faithless, He remains faithful.” (2 Timothy 2:13) It’s high time we reciprocated! Not just to Him but to our families, our friends, our colleagues, our ministries, our commitments, our responsibilities, our calling!

The bible challenges us to be holy as He is Holy (1 Peter 1:15), to be perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48), to be merciful as He is merciful (Luke 6:36). May I dare to add: be faithful just as our Heavenly Father is faithful!

God Bless!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Oracle about Oracle!

A little more than a month back I quit my second job and joined my third organization – Oracle. I had shared with you earlier, how I landed my second job. Click here to read it. Well this time the experience of leaving the second job and joining the next was pretty similar, a little bit more direct though.

On my way to work, I always used to cross the Oracle office. I have been taking the same route for more than a year, and it was just another office building, but since the beginning of this year I started thinking about job opportunities there. God, who knows my heart’s desire, knew this desire as well. Within a few weeks time, one of my college friend who works with Oracle dropped a mail to all our batch mates about an opening there. The profile and the location of the job opening was exactly what I was looking for! However, I couldn’t respond to that mail promptly since I was away on a vacation and my resume wasn’t ready. I managed to send the resume in a few days time, but I guess it was late by then. I didn’t hear anything for a few days. I, then, left it to God’s providence. Why do I worry! If He has planned a job for me at Oracle, it would happen. If not, it won’t. As I would eventually come to know, God actually did.

A couple of months later, I got a call from a recruiter in Oracle regarding a similar job posting but in a different city. I proceeded with the rounds of interview and what followed next were days that I would never forget. I realized that God was more interested in my life and my career than I was. I realized how strongly and directly God would communicate to me regarding the plans He had for me. I realized once more that God is alive and active and working in my life.

I was going through multiple rounds of interviews. On one of those days, during my daily time with God, I came across a Bible passage in the book of Isaiah. I was going through it and when I came to the last verse, a surprise awaited me. The last verse had the word ‘oracle’ in it! That was the name of the organization I was being interviewed for! I took it as a sign from God. Little did I know that it was just the beginning of many days through which God would speak to me personally and precisely about my career.

26th April: I completed all the rounds of interviews and was waiting to hear from them. Even before my recruiter spoke, God did. Again during my personal prayer time I came across the verse 2 Samuel 16:23, this also had the word ‘Oracle’ in it.

28th April: I was rushing to work and just had a few minutes to watch TV as I gulped down my breakfast. I was browsing through the channels when I came across an image of a man holding a placard which had the word ‘Oracle’ written on it. I was on that channel for just a few minutes, but God used this opportunity to speak to me. That day evening, the recruiter called me to get some additional information regarding my salary.

2nd May: I was in my hometown. Again during my prayer time, God led me to a passage in the book of Proverbs. And you guessed it right; I came across another verse which had the word ‘Oracle’ in it!  Proverbs 16:10. That night I got a call from the recruiter who wanted to discuss the compensation package they were planning to offer me.

In all the years put together that I had read the Bible, I have never come across this particular word so many times; leave aside it happening within such a short span of time. Of all the scores of books, hundreds of pages, thousands of verses and millions of words in the Bible, God was guiding me towards these specific ones and speaking to me so directly! It was as if He was physically present right next to me and telling me where He was taking me.

9th May: I received the offer letter from Oracle and that too for the location I wanted! But I think that was the easy part when compared to what followed.

13th May: I was asked to join Oracle within two weeks. This was a very short time when compared to the two months’ notice period that I had to serve with my previous organization. I didn’t even want to demand this because I felt it was unfair on my part. I thought a lot and finally conveyed to the recruiter that if its two weeks, I won’t be able to accept the offer.

14th May: During the Holy Mass, I was inspired to ask God to make this offer happen. God, being a loving Father, has always encouraged me to ask from Him just like a child would his father. And so I did. And within minutes, I got a call from the recruiter saying they are trying to take an exception approval from the highest authority. I clearly remember him saying, that such requests usually do not get approved and if it does it would be a miracle. When I heard this, I smiled and said to myself, “He doesn’t know that my God works miracles day-in and day-out.” I was sure he would get his miracle.

15th May: He did get his miracle. In the evening, he called me and informed that the joining date has been extended by two more weeks, so I will be able to serve one month’s notice period. That seemed reasonable to me.

16th May: I spoke to my superior and resigned.

What followed next was a tug-of-war between my present and future employer regarding my relieving date: one wanted me to be relieved as late as possible and the other wanted me to join as early as possible. I would have easily got tensed and worried about the situation, but then again God spoke to me saying, He is in control and that I don’t have to do anything. I just have to leave it to Him and trust Him, which I did. And boy was it difficult.

20th June: More than a month after my resignation, I still hadn’t got a confirmation about my date of relieving, though my superiors were working hard towards that. Once again God let me know that he was in charge. He spoke to me through a Bible passage once more which had the word Oracle in it. Nahum1:1. This was another confirmation of His plans for me.

21st June: Early in the morning, as I entered a retreat center to spend some time in prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, I noticed a banner which read: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:14). I have crossed that place a few times before, but never noticed this banner. That day God drew my attention towards it and assured me once again that He is in control, I just had to relax. And that’s what I tried doing. But let me tell you it was so difficult. So many times during the day I would feel like checking with my boss about my relieving date, but then this verse would come into my mind and then I would resist the urge of pinging her or calling.

Within a few days the person who would take over the responsibilities from me was identified and the knowledge transfer began.

4th July: I was relieved from my previous employer.

7th July: I joined Oracle. It’s been a little over a month now here and things are going on well. I do not know what future holds for me here, but I’m sure whatever it is, it is as per God’s plan for me.

I’m sharing this experience of mine with you, not to show-off or boast, but to convey one simple thing. “You cannot imagine at all how much you interest God; He is interested in you as if there were no one else on earth.” (Julien Green, French writer).

If you have any issues with your laptop, TV, smart phone, bike, microwave etc. etc., you might approach any of the dubious mechanics, but you know that the most reliable solution is from the manufacturer’s service center.  The one who created the product knows it inside out and is the best one to tell you how to use it; and when it doesn’t function well, how to repair it. Each of us is created by God in love. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”  And the One who created us, knows us best. Our lives would be so much more meaningful, if only we approach Him, trust Him, love Him, speak to Him, listen to what He says, obey Him and let Him direct our paths.

How long do we run around like headless chicken? How long do we act as if we decide our lives knowing very well that what happens the very next second is not in our hands? How long do grope around and falter in the dark when all that we need to do is switch on the light?

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” – St Augustine of Hippo.

God Bless!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Use and Throw God?

I was suddenly reminded of my childhood days. After joining school, one of the first achievements that we look forward to is the day when we can stop using our pencils and start using pens. It’s a proud moment, but it came along with the clumsiness of using an ink pen. Thankfully, soon we moved on to the ballpoint pen and then later to the use-and-throw pens. A no frills, no tension, no maintenance, no pain pen available at dirt cheap price – what else could we have asked for!! We all know what happened next. Except for when it comes to gifting, most of us use nothing but a use-and-throw pen.

Nowadays we don’t limit the use-and-throw concept just to pens, but to lot of other products and objects and sometimes sadly to humans as well. Just a few days back one of my colleagues was talking about her friend who changes his girlfriend at the drop of a hat! I felt sorry for him. But then I realized that it’s not just him, there are many of us who use-and-throw people, who value people only when they need them, when they are worth something and once that is over we forget them. We do this to our family members, our friends, our partners, our office colleagues, our parish priests, our ministry members! But there is one to whom we can look up to, one who definitely doesn’t use-and-throw: Almighty God, our Loving Father! And I feel the biggest proof of the same is the Assumption of Mary!

The feast of Assumption of Mary is celebrated on 15th August as a Holy Day of Obligation. I came to know about this some years back when I got more involved in the Church, but rarely did I try knowing more about it. I knew it as an important feast day and that we contemplate about it when we pray the fourth decade of the Glorious mysteries of the Rosary, but nothing much beyond that. A few weeks back I was asked to share about this feast in a Jesus Youth prayer meeting. And I’m grateful to God Almighty for that. I didn’t have many days to prepare, but during the time I had, I could see Holy Spirit leading me beautifully to understand this mystery.

Assumption of Mary is last of the four Marian Dogma believed by Catholics worldwide. On 1st November 1950, Pope Pius XII through the Apostolic Constitution “Munificentissimus Deusproclaimed:
“we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”  
Assumption is different from Ascension which means rising up or ascending on one’s own strength whereas Assumption means rising by someone else’s power. Jesus ascended into Heaven and Mary was assumed into Heaven by God.

Though it was declared as an official dogma in 1950, the Assumption of Mary has been believed and celebrated since the time of the Apostles and the early Christians. The earliest credible mention about the same is in the Council of Chalcedon in 451AD, when the Bishop of Jerusalem on being asked by the Emperor about the body of Mary said that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St Thomas, was found empty. Pope Leo IV officially confirmed celebration of the feast in 847AD. It was officially defined as the fourth Glorious mystery by Pope Pius V in 1569AD.

Many things point towards the fact that Mary’s body was assumed into Heaven. The Church is aware of the mortal remains (relics) of all the Apostles which are preserved in churches across the world, but none has been attributed to Mary. Even the Bible, though not explicitly, leads us to believe the Assumption of Mary. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant as can be inferred from the book of Revelations. In Rev 11:19, John writes about his vision of seeing the Ark of the Covenant in Heaven. In the very next verse (Rev 12:1) explaining the vision of Ark, he describes “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Reading further we realize that this woman is the mother of the Savior i.e. Mary. Just like the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant carried the presence of Yahweh, the New Testament Ark of the Covenant, Mother Mary carried Jesus – God himself – in her womb. And what would be the fate of the Ark of the Covenant? Psalm 132:8 says, “Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.” This clearly shows that the Ark of the Covenant, which is Mary, would be where the Lord is right now – Heaven. Ark of the Covenant of the Old Testament was holy and pure, so much so that no human could touch it. Uzzah who tried grabbing it to prevent it from falling was immediately struck dead (2 Samuel 6:1-7). Wouldn’t the new Ark of the Covenant be similar – holy and pure that God would prevent it from any corruption?

“And who, I ask, could believe that the ark of holiness, the dwelling place of the Word of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, could be reduced to ruin? My soul is filled with horror at the thought that this virginal flesh which had begotten God, had brought him into the world, had nourished and carried him, could have been turned into ashes or given over to be food for worms.” – St Robert Bellarmine.
Apart from all these facts and theological evidence, what makes Assumption of Mary so obvious for me is simple common sense! God chose Mary to bear His Son, to give birth to Jesus, to bring the Savior into this world. Mary played a very important role in this plan of God. And God prepared Mary for this role keeping her holy, pure and sinless from the time of her conception. Would God who protected and preserved her from sin when she was alive, not protect and preserve her from corruption after her death? Would God forget her after her role in the salvation history was complete? Would God use-and- throw her? I believe the answer is a resounding NO. We humans are capable of using and forgetting people, but God who is full of love and mercy is not! It seems only obvious for God to Assume Mary into Heaven after her earthly life. St John Damscene, a 7th Century Saint, would say,

“It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions”
Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus writes,
“She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.” (MD, 5)
But, more than all these, what made me convinced about the Assumption of Mary, was a simple realization. Towards the end of my preparation for the session and after having read the Apostolic Constitution - Munificentissimus Deus – I thought of googling the meaning of its Latin name. I was stunned when I realized it meant “The Most Bountiful God.” A document which was only about the dogma of Assumption of Mary, was not named “The Most Blessed Mary” or “The Glorious Mary” or anything related to Mary. It was named “The Most Bountiful God”!! And that’s when I realized that more than about Mary; the Assumption is about God, about a God who is so bountiful, so merciful, so faithful that He doesn’t forget those who are His, those who have been called according to His plan, those who have said “Yes” to Him. Even though we as humans may not remain faithful to Him, but He who is all powerful, almighty, He is faithful. When He says, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Deut 31:6),He means it. He has a plan for us, a plan not just for a few days or weeks or months or years but a plan for eternity, a plan which is the best for us not just for this life, but beyond it as well.

If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful.” (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

This 15th August as you celebrate the feast of Assumption of Mary, let this feast be a reminder of God’s abundant mercy and love for you; let this feast give you the courage to trust in God’s plan for you; let this feast help you experience God’s fidelity towards you; let this feast fill you with Hope of the everlasting life which lies ahead. If ever in your life, you feel dejected, you feel left alone, you feel that God has abandoned you, you feel the sacrifices that you made for God went in vain, may this feast of Assumption remind you that God understands, values, appreciates, remembers every single incident, every single sacrifice. He holds you close to His heart and has a wonderful plan for you. 

God Bless!

2. Catholic Encyclopedia:
3. Wiki:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Sinner's Resolve

A few days back, we celebrated the feast of St Mary Magdalene. Who is she? The sinful woman from whom seven evil spirits were driven out by Jesus or the prostitute whom Jesus saved from being stoned to death or the woman who anointed Jesus or the one who washed Jesus' feet with her tears or in more recent times the one who is wrongly being portrayed as wife of Jesus? For me, when I look at her, I see just one thing: a sinner who received the Saviour’s touch! And that’s what draws me to her; that’s how I relate to her.

In her I see someone who was drawn and bound by the powers of sin so strong that she is referred to as being possessed by not one or two but seven evil spirits! When I think of her, I can imagine her struggling to break free from the force of sin so strong that it would have taken complete control of her, taken away from her the innocence of humanity, the joy and peace of belonging to God. I can imagine her being shunned away by the society, treated as an outcast, feared as a threat, distanced as an untouchable; I can imagine her longing to be accepted, thirsting to be loved, desiring to be joyful, hoping to be forgiven. And I believe she would have continued in this state of being, had she not come across Jesus – the Almighty powerful God of Heaven and Earth, the Creator of the Universe – but for her a Saviour, her “Rabboni”. He forgave her sins, wiped away her past, healed her inequity, cast out evil and gave her a new life. This new life – she accepted, nurtured and pursued, even against all odds. She resolved to do everything it takes to be with Jesus all through her life. During the Crucifixion of Jesus when all His disciples, except John, had deserted Him, Mary Magdalene was there. After His death and burial, when all of His followers were devastated and mourning, Mary Magdalene dared to go to His tomb and there she became the first one to witness His resurrection. The Lord of Lords and the King of Kings, gave her the privilege of becoming the Apostle of Apostles! She was faithful to Jesus and the Way of Life He called her to and that’s how she went from being a sinner to a Saint.

When I look back into my life, I realize that we have lots to learn from her. Just like her, we struggle with sin; we struggle to come out of its clutches. She came out of this pit of filth when she encountered Christ and resolved to never fall back in it again. What happens when we encounter Christ who is the “same yesterday and today and forever”? Do we let Him work in our lives, do we believe in His power to set us free, do we accept Him as our Saviour, do we follow the Way He shows us? Very often we set out on this path of holiness and purity, but we never stop looking back. Slightest opportunity and we make use of it to go back to our earlier ways. Slightest temptation and we lay down our arms. And this is where St Mary Magdalene challenges us through her life. She never lost sight of Jesus. She wasn’t afraid to follow Him along the Way of the Cross, she wouldn’t leave Him even at the sight of His heart- wrenching death, even despair and feeling of loss wouldn’t keep her away from going to His tomb. In those moments when He seemed to go farther away, she took all efforts to follow Him and to be with Him.  Aren’t we supposed to do the same? In those moments when we do not experience God working in our lives, when we do not feel His presence, when we slowly drift away from Him; instead of being discouraged and helpless, we should take extra effort to come closer to God, to trust in God’s power and His ways, to resist evil and to strive to stand firm in our faith and in our relationship with Him. We see in Mary Magdalene, how a sinner’s resolve can make him/her a saint. If she can do it, so can we with God’s grace.

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.  No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” – Romans 6:11-14

St. Mary Magdelene, patron Saint of penitent sinners – Pray for us.

God Bless!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Forgiven to Forgive

A few days back, I was reminded of an incident which happened in my first job. As an HR representative for more than 4000 employees, the volume of mails and calls that I would get was mind-boggling. After a period of a weeklong vacation followed by a weeklong offsite meeting and then some hectic travel schedule I was left with thousands of mails in my inbox to clear. In the midst of all this I skipped checking one very important mail which I shouldn’t have missed at any cost. This was a serious miss from my end. No matter what justification I gave, it wasn’t enough. I had a discussion with my boss and was expecting to get a call from my super-boss: the HR head for our region. The dreadful call finally came. I accepted the call nervously, my fingers almost shivering. I sheepishly said, “Hello” expecting to be scolded from the other end, expecting to hear a barrage of chosen words from my super-boss. But what happened was just the opposite. He spoke to me very calmly, said he understood what happened, reiterated that he trusted me and what I was capable of, asked me to learn from the mistake and get back on track. When the call ended I was dumbstruck. He had all authority, power, reason, right to penalize me for the mistake, but he chose to forgive. My respect for him just shot through the roof and I would never forget this incident ever in my life to come.

Let me pause and ask you a question. Have you ever made a mistake in your life? I’m sure you have and so have I. Not one or five or ten, but many!! A few days back, during the sermon a Priest in our parish said, “All of us humans have faults, all of are weak, all of us are vulnerable, all of us make mistakes.” So true. And what do we do when we realize that we made a mistake? We would want to correct it, we expect to be forgiven and given another chance. But do we do same – forgive and give another chance - when somebody else had made the mistake? Most often not!

I recently came across a video which shook me and challenged me! It was about the most prolific serial killer in US - Gary Ridgway. Well, what he did can’t be termed a mistake. He has been convicted of killing 49 woman in a timespan of almost two decades. He, however, confessed murdering at least 71! After being sentenced to 48 life sentences without any parole, the judge asked the relatives of the victims to come and share their story in front of the whole court. These would be the last memories Gary would have before being led into prison for the rest of his life. The below video shows a glimpse of that. I request you to have a look at it.

Woah! I was left speechless, surprised to see, how can someone, who has lost probably the most important person in his life, forgive such a remorseless, hardened criminal!! But then, that’s we are called to do. We are forgiven so that we can forgive! We all know if God starts keeping a record of all the wrongs that we do and not forgive us - where will we be!!

Right now, we may not come across a serial killer to forgive (I pray that we never do in our lifetime); but we know that there are many whom we need to forgive and reconcile with. It may be our family members, our friends, our office colleagues, our boss, our Parish priests, our teachers, our ministry team members.......  We can either chose to be angry, retaliate, hold grudge against them, hate them, talk ill about them, curse and condemn them or we can choose to forgive them and be at peace with them and ourselves. Our Lord asks us to do the latter. 

“Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:31, 32.

Let’s take these words to heart and take genuine efforts to forgive others. Whoever he or she is, whatever he or she has done, even if it’s entirely their fault, let’s pray for them, forgive them, reconcile with them, love them!

Someone said, "Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself." I think it goes beyond 'yourself' and touches the heart of the one being forgiven! The power of forgiveness heals both: the forgiven and the forgiver! Don’t you want to experience it?

God Bless!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Died For All

Today is Good Friday. Today's service at Church, had a simple yet profound part : veneration of the Cross. The Cross used to be a sign of torture, pain, agony, shame, death, humiliation, failure, a sign to be despised. But the death of Jesus on it, made it venerable!

Today during the service, God gave me an opportunity to stand right next to the Priest who was holding a Cross for the faithful to come forward and kiss the crucified Lord. As I stood there, I saw all sorts of people come, hold the Cross and kiss the feet of Jesus. There were infants, small kids, youngsters, elderly, poor, rich, simple, extravagant, men, women, people belonging to different region, states, race, who speak different language, dialect; religious nuns, lay faithful.... All sorts of people! And that’s when a realization filled me: Christ died for all. As St Paul says, "..we are convinced that One has died for all." (2 Corinthians 5:14) He didn’t die for any particular group of people, He didn’t discriminate or favour anyone, He loved everyone and He died for all and that includes you and me! When Jesus was on the Cross, we were on His mind.

All of us, for whom He died, are different in many ways. But there is one thing that is common in all of us. Sin. We are all sinners. We don’t need anyone to tell us that, we know it! We know the sins we commit: small one, serious ones, public ones, the ones we do in secret, the ones against God, against others, against ourselves. But Jesus didn’t let our sins come in the way of showing His love for us. "God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) While we were still sinners!!! While we kill the soft voice within us asking us not to sin; He prays for us saying, “Father, Forgive them for they do not what they do.” While we continue to enjoy the momentary pleasure of sin; He goes through the painful way of the Cross. While we question, complain, curse, challenge, rebel against God; He stretches His hands and feet to be nailed on the Cross. While we are still sinners, He dies for us!!!

Oh Lord, help us fathom this love of yours for us!
Oh Lord, help us reciprocate at least a fraction of this love!
Oh Lord, help us to keep this love more close to our heart than anything else!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The A-Team

If you are in India, you know these are times full of action! The world's largest democracy is going through the most complex, awaited, hyped electoral process. The political drama, debate and mud-slinging have mushroomed over the last few weeks leaving almost no one untouched. All the political parties are busy publishing list after list of their candidates, fielding their best people from the best constituencies to ensure the best result for them. In the midst of all this flood of information through breaking new in TV channels, passionate Facebook updates, YouTube ads, Twitter retweets, roadside hoardings; in the midst of all this commotion I was made to think about one team, one party which changed the course of history! During one of my silent moments with God, I stumbled across a Bible passage which reminded me of the team that Jesus formed: His A-team of 12, the team whom He called Apostles.

Even a glancing look at the profiles of the A-team members is enough for anyone to understand that this team was far from being the best. In fact, this team looked set for failure! Jesus, being God himself, could have chosen the best of the best, the cream of the society, the highly intellectual, powerful, influential people to be His team. But instead, His team consisted of the least, the scum of the society, the illiterates, powerless, poor, outcasts, people without any great qualification or repute or social standing, who doubted everything, who were slow to understand, who lacked courage and conviction! His team consisted of stinking fishermen, hated tax collectors, sinners, people who were corrupt and weak in finances, who were fighting for their own position and powers!  An absolutely hopeless, disorganized group of men! Even after spending almost three years with Jesus, there was not much of a change in them. None of them, except one, stood by Jesus during his Passion and death. After His death many returned back to their earlier lifestyle, returned back to fishing, returned back to living a life of fear and hopelessness.

But look at the team now! These very same men (except one) became so bold and courageous that they could stand in front of the most learned, the most powerful and testify about their Master without any fear, that they would go to different parts of the world to share their faith, that they have been attributed to many miracles and thousands of conversion, that they were so full of conviction they would die the most gruesome, painful death for its sake and are now being revered as Saints. These same men, through their faith and deeds, left such an indelible mark in world history!

But how did this 100% transformation from a dysfunctional team to a team which turned the world upside down, happen? I came across a very simple answer to this: work of the Holy Spirit! Jesus foretold them, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts1:8) And that’s exactly what happened. Once they received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, their lives changed forever! They were immediately filled with boldness, faith and courage. They understood all that Jesus told and did ; they realized personally the love of God, our Father revealed through Jesus – His only begotten Son. Immediately after they received the Spirit, Peter raised his voice and addressed the crowd. The same Peter who was so afraid that he denied knowing Jesus three times, was standing in front of thousands, proclaiming boldly about Jesus. The Holy Spirit worked so strongly through him that within a day, three thousand persons believed in the Good News and were baptized! (Acts2:41) “And every day the Lord added to their number those who were beings saved.” (Acts2:47) Soon afterwards, Peter and John saw a man, crippled from birth, near the entrance to the temple and immediately they healed him in the name of Jesus, without fearing what the chief priests would do to them. A great miracle was performed, a life-changing sermon was spoken and their number increased to about five thousand. (Acts 3:4) There was no stopping!! The Holy Spirit continued to work through the apostles, and through everyone who received the Spirit from them.

Each of us have received the Holy Spirit on the day of our Baptism. He’s the same Spirit who transformed the Apostles and made them what they became. How much does our life change because of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives? Do we acknowledge His presence? Do we let Him work in our lives? Do we take guidance from Him? Are we led by Him? Do we speak to Him? If not, now is the time to start. He is the Helper, the Counsellor, the Advocate, the Teacher, the Source of all Wisdom, He gives us strength and fills us with love, joy, peace……., He makes us the Children of God!

“Your existence is not in the flesh; but in the Spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you….If you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery, but the Spirit that makes you sons and daughters of God.” (Romans 8:9-15)

Let the Holy Spirit work in your life today and transform it.

God Bless!