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01 Certainty of Christmas - Fr. Anthony Charanghat

posted Dec 13, 2018, 11:10 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 13, 2018, 11:18 PM ]

Certainty of Christmas

Fr. Anthony Charanghat

This Christmas, we proclaim the certainty of the coming of Christ amidst a deep sense of uncertainty in the state of the world. There have been concerns about the current instability in economic prospects, the ineffectiveness of political structures, an increasing fragmentation of the unity of peoples, hazards of climate change and the scandal of priests and nuns who have fallen from grace owing to a tepid spirituality. Yet we confidently announce the certainty of the good tidings of Christmas, ‘Christ has come, Christ is coming, Christ will come.’

Uncertainty in the midst of much prosperity which few have access to, is a sign of our trust being in the wrong things. It tells us that our values are in the wrong place. Political power, economic progress, advances in technology that has intervened with God’s creation and communication marvels have not resulted in the reign of peace, justice for all and harmony among peoples.

Yet it is in these anxieties and fears, that we must recognise the moment of ‘Kyrios–the Lord’, which is what Christmas is all about. Here we come to a deeper centre, to Bethlehem, to Him who shows us the foundations on which we must build, the priorities we must seek. Christ is the Lord-The Alpha and Omega and the Centre. The Alpha-the beginning, the Omega-the end–and always centre of our life.

The eternal dimension of Christ’s birth celebrates sacramentally every moment He comes into our hearts as the Saviour, made possible by His historical coming more than two thousand years ago. The end of 2018 may turn out to be one less predictable and certain, due to new avatars of terrorism that create fear and division by the mindless killing of innocent human and animal lives and destruction of their habitats. But the certainty of peace that Christmas augurs, brings us a new awakening to prepare for the final welcoming of Christ who comes in glory to calm the storms of life.

Our modern world is quick to dismiss Jesus’ virgin birth in the small town of Bethlehem as a myth. It is beyond their comprehension that the host of angels should choose to announce the birth of the promised Messiah to a bunch of confused and ignorant shepherds. Given their lack of communication skills, they would be incapable of delivering such astounding news--that God had come to dwell with humankind to save us, with any telling impact.

Our celebration of Christmas as God’s decisive action to send His Son to take on human flesh to redeem us, looks like God’s apparent mistake, a plan that has gone awry. Yet this is no mistake, but the greatest plan there ever could be. Because, in this child we see the way God calls us to relationship with Him, to lives of purpose and to being witnesses that God is with us. Not only is the manger an invitation to life, but of life abundant, full and free.

In the manger this Christmas, we are empowered to have a new perspective to see something completely different from all our human strivings for freedom. It is amongst those on the edge, those ignored, persecuted and sinners that we have most clearly seen the glory of God, a glory that makes it possible to chase away the fear of terror, the power of death, the economies of despair and to have courage to repent and the awareness to reject fake news that divides.

Syrian martyrs have found strength to witness to faith in the face of decapitation and torture; the lonely and the elderly sick from advanced nations have discovered new hope to battle against odds in humanitarian outreaches; even in India, survivors of human trafficking oppressed by a culture of silence, have begun to find their voices to raise protests. We are also experiencing a groundswell of rumblings against the man-made growing carbon footprint.

Liberation begins with the risky birth of God in the form of a baby of a teenage mother, in a poor family, in a war-torn country ruled by an infant slaughtering psychopath. Jesus’ life continues mostly in obscurity, ends in betrayal, abandonment and humiliating execution, but this child offers the seed of hope for the flowering of enduring Peace. He is power seen in humility, and He offers freedom expressed in loving service. There is no power in the universe stronger than God’s love and it is directed towards the liberation of human beings.

Those in power love to slavishly cling on to it. The self-emptying, helpless, stable-born baby who is God has brought and continues to bring more freedom than all powerful leaders. In Mary, we see the right response to Christmas when we accept the invitation of God to use the gift of freedom in generous self-giving. It may involve suffering and self-denial, but above it all is a life of fulfilling freedom. The nature of God who has all power, and from whom all power comes, is to lay it aside for love’s sake and without fear, force or manipulation to offer true freedom for every human being.

The certainty of Christmas manifests this truth of freedom in its most complete form, Love in its purest aspect, the true Light of freedom all wrapped up in the Baby in Bethlehem. He unravels God’s plan to free us through the power of the Light of His Truth and Love. It is the truth that dispels the darkness of sin and the Saving Love that calms the turbulence of human relationships and the tremors of natural disasters. This is the reality of Christmas challenging us to live to the full, dying to the self as the centre of the world. A radical loss of self-centeredness and a transformation of our lives—the real hope of Christmas for a world of genuine Justice, Peace and Love.

02 Fairest of Creatures - Fr Anthony Charanghat

posted Dec 6, 2018, 11:41 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 13, 2018, 11:16 PM ]

The Immaculate Conception, God's glorious work, indicates His loving power to make us holy. Our Blessed Lady's integrity or holiness right from the moment of conception to be the fairest of all creatures is not something achieved by her own human effort. It is a pure gift of God, graciously given to her for a saving purpose, on behalf of us all.

Today's feast is grounded on belief in a provident, gracious God, who foresees the future, and entrusts to His children their assigned task in life, even before they are born, a God who equips us with all we need to play our assigned role.

While still in the womb, unborn, God anoints those men and women whom He chooses as prophets and leaders of His people. Jeremiah was told, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."

God does not send us into this world to fight among ourselves for the survival of the fittest, as in the animal kingdom. This is not the destiny of the people of God, redeemed by grace from the harmful effects of the Fall. As we admire our Blessed Lady, God's most favoured one, 'Full of grace' on the feast of her conception, let us thank God for His love and mercy which embraces us right from the moment of our own conception

Everything is gift; everything good in us is by God's grace. For we all, children of God, are also favoured and heirs of God's grace. Yet, Mary remains the most favoured one, the mother of all graced ones, the one that enjoys the fullness of grace. For it was supremely fitting that the woman who brought our Saviour into the world should be herself totally free from sin and available to do God's work.

Today, we honour the Immaculate Conception—the creation of Mary in her mother's womb—and we are awed once more at how God works. God so loved the world that in the fullness of time, He gave the world His only begotten son. Yet we recall that He also gave us Mary—this perfect vessel to contain His son, a woman unstained by original sin, so that, from the moment of her conception, she was Immaculate.

To a skeptical world—or to a puzzled teenager in Nazareth—it all sounds impossible. But of course, nothing is impossible with God. A popular carol from this time of year rejoices in the 'wonders of His love'. This feast underscores the extravagant love that places at the forefront a humble peasant girl 'full of grace'—the great collaborator in God's plan for our salvation.

In doing that, God set the stage for the beautiful event mentioned in the Gospel of the Annunciation, which brought about another conception, when Mary conceived Jesus in her womb.

How could we not exult in this? "Sing to the Lord a new song," the psalmist tells us tonight, "for he has done wondrous deeds." He has made His salvation known! In particular, we remember it is a salvation that began long before the first Gospel was written.

It began before the words He spoke or the miracles He worked. It began before the empty tomb. It began before Calvary. It started before the stable in Bethlehem, and even before the visit from an angel in Nazareth. It is a salvation that, in a real and tangible way, began with the event we commemorate—the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

The Immaculate Conception of Mary—just like all the other great moments of our history—is a moment that defines us and uplifts us and that bears, somehow, the fingerprints of God.

03 Season of Contradictions and Challenge - Fr Anthony Charanghat

posted Nov 29, 2018, 4:59 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 13, 2018, 11:16 PM ]

As our civil year is drawing to a close, the Christian community is celebrating its liturgical 'New Year' – Advent. This makes it a kind of 'beginning-end' time, a season of contradictions and challenge. A greening that springs from the old Church year; a greening of hope that there is an end, not of the world, but for the world, when human history will come full term, and God will be everything to every one. (1 Cor 15:28)

Although the images that accompany the Advent preparation in the Gospels may startle and even frighten us, such responses are caught up in the mystery of Christ, who comes with confidence to liberate us. In the midst of any suffering, tension, opportunist politics or natural disasters, the Word of God urges us to be people of Hope.

The beginning of the new liturgical year tries to make us once again, more attentive to, hopeful about, and prepared for the Advent of God–the infant child whose name is Son and Saviour, into our midst, and into our hands and heart. He stirs and comes to save, inaugurating His Kingdom of peace and love, truth and justice in our midst.

On the first Sunday of Advent of the Church year, many of us will gaze on the single burning flame lit on the Advent wreath. It seems so small and insignificant against the background of world events, and even our own lives. We are often so physically exhausted at the end of the year, that we may be inclined to be sceptical about what this tiny flickering flame can offer us.

But as we enter this season, the Church encourages us to have hope in the promises of God that can so easily flicker in and out of our consciousness. Just as at the first Genesis Creation God brought a new cosmic ordering, a new liberation from chaos of nothingness, so will Christ, in His Second coming as the glorious Son of Man, liberate the cosmos and all humanity from fear and menace.

Many are not at home with emphasis on the future at the beginning of Advent. We are comfortable about the past coming of 'baby Jesus' – but that is not where the Church wants us to be. Advent plunges us into a liturgical riptide that drags us away from the safe past into the unchartered end of human history to the second, and as yet unrealised, coming of Christ.

Advent, therefore, is preparing for facing the contradictions of the One who has come, and yet is coming, mindful that it is our life's work to conceive Christ in the Spirit, with God's grace, and to bear Jesus to our world. It is a stirring in the womb of our complacency: a time for turning and returning, for straightening crooked paths in our relationship with God.

This season challenges us to let our hopes reach beyond our fruitless preoccupation with the past to the huge and human hope of a new creation. It is the opportune time to remove the stumbling blocks that trip us on our path to good relations with our sisters and brothers along our journey of discipleship.

Advent is welcoming and befriending the vulnerable, the arid desert places in myself and others. Just as a woman watches for the signs of the birth of her child, Jesus urges us to be alert to the birth pangs of the reign of God in all its fullness. God is nurturing and preparing for the birth of a new earth and heaven.

Nor are Christians to be the captives of frantic seasonal consumerism. We are called to be people awake and alert to the promises of God already revealed. Grateful for what has been liberating, and confident in the gifts yet to come!

04 Cozy or Cosmic? - Fr Anthony Charanghat

posted Nov 22, 2018, 5:12 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 13, 2018, 11:16 PM ]

Is the Kingship of Christ Cozy or Cosmic? That is the large and exciting question that challenges us on this last Sunday of the liturgical year as we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King. It is the celebration of the climax of this year’s liturgical celebration of grace and also the Alpha, Omega point of the mystery toward which we orient our entire lives and all creation, in this world and beyond. No one and nothing is greater than Christ our King. His kingship cannot be restricted to any cosy comfort zone of our lives. He is the Lord of every cosmic race.

As Vatican II document Church in the Modern world teaches: The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and civilisation, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart, and the answer to all its yearnings. But looking at the news in recent times, we wonder how many people understand that? How many really believe that?

How many Christians really believe that? Read the headlines. Scan social media. Check the comments on Facebook or Twitter. Listen to our politicians. The overwhelming sense you get is that many today are not ruled by Christ the King. They are ruled by something else, by fear, by mistrust. Some are even ruled by hate.

The current debate is about refugees. Right now, there is a loud chorus of people who believe we need to wall off the world. Advanced countries turn away refugees specially those who are fleeing violence and terror. Still worse is to only admit people to one's country based on religion and only give shelter to those who are identical to one's culture and social mores.

If we truly affirm Christ is our King this needs to be said: This is not who we are. We are Catholic Christians, who stand for compassion. We stand for mercy. We stand for human dignity. Regardless of race or religion. We stand, in short, for the sacredness of life. This is the time for us to profess our allegiance to Christ and allegiance to fear or exclusion or mistrust or hate. Those cannot rule us. We already have another ruler. The world must know: We are Christians and our King is Christ.

How do we reflect that? First, we believe the truth of what our King taught. We follow his greatest commandment: “Love one another.” Unconditionally, we honour his teaching: “When you welcomed a stranger, you welcomed me.” And we take courage and consolation from four words He repeated again and again—the words that banished all fear and helped turn a small movement of frightened apostles into a worldwide phenomenon that even now is driving out doubt and affirming hope. Those four words are, “Do not be afraid.” We are not afraid for Christ is our King.

We believe that His Kingship has universal, eternal, and cosmic authority because it is the power of redeeming love that consecrates the community in the offering of glory and praise for the salvation of creation in Jesus Christ. God who reveals Himself in Christ as the ‘I AM’ who is not the cosy God but the dynamic, transforming and cosmic God. His mystery shows us a new way of love, that can reach out to traditions other than Christian, enabling them to make contact with His spiritual and real presence abiding in the aspirations of their heart.

On this feast, we not only acclaim that, but also resolve to give witness to it every day with how we live and with how we love. We stand beside the weak and the helpless, the persecuted and forgotten, regardless of race or religion simply because Christ is our King.

05 From Network Community to Human Communities - Fr Anthony Charanghat

posted Nov 15, 2018, 10:36 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 13, 2018, 11:16 PM ]

The theme for 2019 ‘From Network Communities to Human Communities’ is a development on the theme ‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32) for World Communications Day 2018 the Pope explained the difference between fake news and journalism for peace and how one can recognise the truth of statements from their fruit. Whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or whether they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results. 

In this message he had also invited all people to promote ‘a journalism of peace that is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines. A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those who have no voice.’ 

He argued for less emphasis on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflicts, in order to promote a deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous processes. A journalism that has to be committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence. 

Continuing his reflection for this coming year, the Pope pleads for Christians to do more to make sure the media, especially social networks, are places of dialogue and respect for others, and human communities rather than highlight differences and increase divisions, said Paolo Ruffini the prefect of the Vatican communications office. 

On the same day when the theme chosen for the World Communications Day 2019 was released, Paolo Ruffini the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communications remarked, "The risk in our time is that of forming tribes instead of communities - tribes based on the exclusion of the other". We are members one of another: From network community to human communities. 

This Theme for the forthcoming World Communications Day is a call for "reflection on the current state and nature of relationships on the internet, starting from the idea of community as a network between people in their wholeness," the Vatican said. "The metaphor of the web as a community of solidarity implies the construction of an 'us' based on listening to the other, on dialogue and consequently on the responsible use of language." 

Affirming that Pope Francis wants people to use social media as a network, not a web, Ruffini told Vatican News that Social media can nourish ‘true, beautiful, solid relationships forming friendship, but it also can trigger enemy mechanism feeding hatred’. When this happens, there is no real relationship. He reiterated the caution given by the Holy Father that we should not allow the digital media to trap us but enable us to be free and make us instruments of freedom. 

He elaborated that the use of new digital platforms not only requires significant technological updates but also a willingness to accept that the attachment to the past may prove to be a dangerous temptation. He added that “Catholic journalists and news organisations must realise that only by shutting down the noise of the world and our own gossip will it be possible to listen, which remains the first condition of every communication." 

The Pope warned that particularly in today's world of new media technologies, the speed of information surpasses our capacity of reflection; church members are exposed to the impact and influence of a culture of haste and superficiality and risk reducing the Church's mission of effective evangelisation. 

Sharing the Gospel with people at the peripheries might not even require stepping outside the door through encounters in our world of digital revolution. In an age when technology is ever-evolving, Pope Francis urged that Catholic news organisations must be willing to adapt to effectively proclaim the Gospel to all. 

Collated and adapted from CNS and EWTN

06 What Youth expect from the Church

posted Nov 8, 2018, 5:03 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 13, 2018, 11:17 PM ]

Young delegates from around the world in an encounter with Pope Francis and members of the Synod of Bishops made known their expectations that they no longer want to remain on the sidelines, but want to play an active role in the Church. 

Young men and women delegates who addressed the Synod in its opening days and spoke candidly about their hopes for the Catholic Church to address the challenges they face in the modern world."Young people don't just want to be treated as such," said Silvia Retamales, a member of the Chilean bishops' Youth Office. "We need a different and open Church that doesn't close the doors on social, sexual and ethnic minorities." 

As the Church in Chile continues to face a growing crisis regarding sexual abuse and cover-up by members of the clergy, Retamales told the Synod members that young Catholics in the country are "crying out for a structure that totally avoids any disposition that encourages, allows or covers up any form of abuse." 

The role of women in the Church, she added, must also be strengthened in areas "of real decision-making and participation in our communities. I would like to be part of a church in which everyone has a place, and in which the voice of each member is considered, without 'demanding' a certain prototype of faithful, in a profound encounter with the diversity in which Christ manifests Himself," Retamales said. 

Mariano Garcia, national coordinator of Youth Ministry in Argentina, said the Church needs to take greater care of young people, especially the poorest. Many young men and women, he said, "live under the scourge of poverty; young people with their social, economic and cultural rights violated, wounded by the exclusive systems we are immersed in and that do not favour equality, equity and justice for true human development." 

Garcia said the Church needed to help young people who are considered "the 'nobodies' of the society in which we live, young people who are cast aside, the ones who nobody cares about." 

For Yithzak Gonzalez, a Youth Minister and Executive Secretary of the Youth Office of the Panamanian bishops' conference, the Church should reconsider "the methods that are used to achieve a coherent and responsible discernment that doesn't turn us into a statistic: unemployed youth, delinquent youth, youth who neither study or work, youth with alcohol and drug problems, etc." 

"We want to be part of the solution to conflicts. We believe that young people must be the first authors and promoters of their personal fulfilment," Gonzalez said. 

Sebastian Duhao, a member of the Youth Council in the Diocese of Paramatta, Australia, recalled his experience playing saxophone in a youth choir, where he quickly learned that if he "wanted to be able to play alongside the youth choir, I would have to learn to play by listening." 

"The Church needs to create similar spaces where young people can voice their opinions, their hopes, their needs and their struggles, without being judged," Duhao said. "The Church, like I had to, must learn to use its ears to listen to the world around it, to listen to what is required of it, and most importantly, to listen to the voices of young people because we have something to offer." 

Cherylanne Menezes, the only woman in the 14-member Indian delegation participating in the Synod of Bishops, said the Church must recognise that young people are not just our future, they are our present. The complexities of our world today compel us as Church, as humanity, to invest our best resources for the benefit of our young generations. We have to start from fundamental questions and problems, and we have to work together, young people and adults, if we want to ensure a new and better world. 

She added, "The youth are looking for clarity in the teachings of the Church and its relevance in today's context. They are hoping to be accompanied in their life direction by mature adults. They are searching for their space to contribute to decision-making processes, to experience the sense of belonging in a community. I also think as Catholics in India, we need to still find our way to be more integrated into our context, and more involved in working together with the youth of different faith traditions." 

Culled from CNS and Matters India Reports

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