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!