Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Greatest Love!!

"You are mine."A
"I’ll be with you." B
"I’ll give up whole nations for you, because you are precious to me and because I love you."C
"Nothing can separate you from my love."D

Valentine’s day just got over and you must be thinking that I’ve picked up these words from some love letter or some romantic movie or some poem. Don’t be surprised if I tell you that these words are from the Bible. Who says these words? Almighty God! And to whom does He say this? To you and me!!

In my last post I wrote about love being the greatest thing. And through this one, I wanted to share with you what is the GREATEST LOVE!

Ever since I came to know God in a deeper way, I realized that for Him it’s all about Love!

God created us out of free and unselfish love.E It was He who formed our inmost part and knit us together in our mother’s womb.F He says, “Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you. I have written your name on the palm of my hands.G Out of love, He gave us freedom and free will. He said, “Today I’m giving you a choice between good and evil, between life and death.”H And out of love He asked us to choose life, that we may live loving Him, listening to His voice, being one with Him.I But we made our own choices. All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going our own way.J But still God said, “I’ve loved you with an everlasting love.”K “Though the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love will not depart from you.”L In spite of that, we didn’t realize His love for us. He sent prophets who spoke on His behalf; He worked miracles to help us realize how much He loved us, but we never paid attention. We had eyes, but we didn’t see; we had ears but didn’t hear.M However, God didn’t stop. He gave us the biggest gift.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.N And this Son, Jesus Christ, was born among us humans, lived a life like that of a mere mortal, went from village to village, town to town, performing miracles, preaching and practicing God’s love; asking us to love one another.O He said, “I love you just as the Father loves me, remain in my love.”P And then, He told, what THE GREATEST LOVE is. “THE GREATEST LOVE a person can have for his friends, is to give his life for them. And you are my friends.”Q He being God, didn’t refer to us as mortals or slaves or followers or devotees. He called us friends! And for His friends, He laid down His life. He was arrested and sentenced and led off to die, and no one cared about his fate. He was put to death for the sins of people. He was placed in a grave with evil men, even though he had never committed a crime or ever told a lie.R

But His love for us was so great, that death couldn’t stop Him, the grave couldn’t hold Him. The third day He rose up from the dead and He promised us that His love will never leave us. He said, “I am with you always until the end of this world.”And He is faithful to His promises.

As I write this, it’s not that I had realized and reciprocated God’s love since I was born. From the time I remember, I grew up asking a question, “Why me??” I had a troubled childhood, raised up in a broken family. As I grew up I was haunted by loneliness, suffered from lack of self esteem, self respect, self confidence.  Church and God seemed irrelevant to me, distant from my life. I soon graduated to addictions, leading a filthy life, becoming selfish, pessimistic, self centred. Though from outside I was happy, free and content; I was hollow within. I used to go to church now and then, but in reality I was running away from God. However, I couldn’t go far. Almost ten years ago, God caught up with me. He started speaking to me, helping me understand His immense love for me, and showing how even in my darkest hours He was with me, standing by my side showering His love for me. I realized that someone loved me so much that He even died for me on the cross.  I realized and experienced what GREATEST LOVE is. Today, I know that no matter what happens, God loves me as a loving Father and His love is the source of my joy, peace and strength.

This day, lets pray that we may understand how broad and long, how high and deep is the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge.U May we experience His love which is with us every moment of our life.

God Bless!

Please find the references to the quotes in bold.
A. Isaiah 43:1, B. Exodus 3:12. C. Isaiah 43:4. D. Romans 8:38, E. Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church – 1 and CCC 1-3, F. Psalm 139:13, G. Isaiah 49:15&16, H. Deuteronomy 30:15, I. Deuteronomy 30: 19&20, J. Isaiah 53:6, K. Jeremiah 31:3, L. Isaiah 54:10, M. Ezekiel 12:2, N. John 3:16, O. John15:17, P. John 15:9, Q. John 15:13, R. Isaiah 53:8&9, S. Matthew 28:20, T. Psalm 145:13, U. Ephesians 3:18,19

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Greatest Thing: Love!!

A few weeks ago, while browsing through YouTube, I came across the thumbnail of a video in the trending videos section. It was posted by The New York Times, was almost 12 mins long and looked like it had something to do with Physics, lecture, classroom etc. I thought it would be something boring and decided not to watch it. Within a couple of days, I saw the number of hits shoot up and my curiosity took over. I saw the video and I’m glad I did. Thought of sharing the video with you. Please have a look at it.

I was touched by the video and especially the part where the Professor so emphatically says that the greatest thing is Love. Bible also mentions the same. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St Paul writes: 

“Love is patient, kind, without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant. It is not ill-mannered, nor does it seek its own interest. Love overcomes anger and forgets offences. It does not take delight in wrong, but rejoices in truth. Love excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love will never end........ Now we have faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”  (1 Cor 13:4 – 13)

This is the best definition of love that I've ever come across. However, today, thanks to a good friend and guide, I asked myself the question: what does love mean to me? Personally, I think love is also about sacrifice, it's about letting go of one's desire, likes, interests, priorities for the other's. I have experienced it through my Mom who let go of her career, her ambition, her likes so that I could have a good life. I've experienced it through my sister, my family, through my friends. And through God, who gave the biggest sacrifice. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

That's what the greatest thing - Love, means to me. What does it mean to you?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

They said, "Yes"!

Today, the parish I moved into recently, celebrated its feast day! The celebration, which included many accepting their first Holy Communion and Confirmation, was grand, with hundreds of people, many Sisters and Fathers and the Archbishop attending it. However, one important person, who played a major role in preparing for the celebration was missing – our Parish Priest. Yesterday evening, during the Mass we were asked to pray for the soul of our Parish Priest’s mother who passed away early that morning. He left for his hometown hundreds of miles away to attend the final rites. He had mentioned to us about the deteriorating health of his mother earlier, but instead of being by her side he chose to serve the Church, he chose to serve the people. And today, as we enjoyed the fellowship meal, the one who worked tirelessly in arranging the entire event was away, grieving and praying.

This incident reminded me of the sacrifice made by numerous priests and religious for the love of God and people. Father Damien was one such priest. He volunteered to go to the island of Molokai, Hawaii where hundreds of lepers where exiled to prevent the spread of the disease which was then thought to be highly contagious. They were left there to suffer and die by themselves. But Father Damien reached out to them, helped them, nursed them, served them, worked with them, prayed for them. He later contracted leprosy himself, but he continued to work for them and their welfare till his death. I was also reminded about a French movie I saw a couple of months ago – “Of Gods and of Men”. It depicted the lives of seven monks who lived in Algeria, and in spite of the looming danger of death by militants, they continued to help and be a support to the people around them. They were kidnapped and after two months, found dead. These are just a few among hundreds and thousands of priests and religious across the world, spread over centuries who left everything they had to be dedicated to God and people. Many of their stories may not be as well-known as these, but the sacrifice of each one of them is as precious and valued.

As I write this, I’m aware of the various allegations and court trails going on right now. I’m not oblivious of the fact that many have been found wanting. I myself, have across some not so good experiences. And that’s when I realize that the person behind the cassock is as human as I am, has the same weaknesses that I have, goes through the same feelings and emotions, but has made a sacrifice that I can never imagine. He has left his family, friends, home, money, possessions, everything to be a wanderer, to move from one place to another not knowing where he will go next, to be with people who are most of the times ignorant, irresponsive, thankless, inconsiderate; working tirelessly for something that is not going to help him in any way ever. I can never imagine doing that. And for that, I respect them.

The names and faces keep changing, but there has been numerous occasions when a priest has touched my life. He was there when I first entered into a church and I know he’ll be there when I will be carried out for the last time. He came to my home every year to bless it and also when we wanted his help to tide over our family issues. He was the one who helped me realize how much God loves me; he was there to listen to my darkest confession when his hands became wet with the tears that rolled down my cheeks; he raised his hands to absolve me, he laid his hands on my head to bless me; he gave me a place to stay when I had none; he was there to pray for me, to guide me, to challenge me to follow God; he was there to offer Mass for me every morning, to make me be able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ each and every day. It was through him that I saw God, heard God’s words, experienced God’s love and still do

When many of us can’t live without our family and friends, when many of us can’t live a life of uncertainty, when many of us are busy planning our own ambitious life ahead, when many of us can’t imagine to live a life of obedience, poverty and chastity, when many of us didn’t hear, want to hear or answer God’s call, they said “Yes”!!!! That's courage! Something that I and many of us reading can never do. Lets respect all the priests, nuns, Brothers and religious and pray for them.

Jesus said, “For those who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or property for my name’s sake, they will receive a hundredfold and be given eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29)

God Bless!!