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Mystery of Mysteries

posted May 24, 2018, 10:27 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 24, 2018, 10:27 PM ]

Fr Anthony Charanghat

The focus of the feast of the Trinity – the mystery of Mysteries – is really the summit or the heart of God’s revelation of Himself to us. Any one who hopes to approach God as He really is, must approach Him as Trinity. From the very beginning several religious quests of a God experience has been intuitively Trinitarian. The mystery of the doctrine of Trinity of One God in three Persons, each distinct, but still one God that defies rational analysis, makes Christian faith distinctive.

Jesus commands the disciples to baptise ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ Paul embeds the person of Jesus in the mystery of the Godhead. In John, Thomas confesses that Jesus is ‘My Lord and my God.’ It took centuries for the Church to find the best words, but from the very beginning, in Jesus, God is glimpsed as Triune.

First, in Christ, we discover that God is love. It is not just that God loves, but that God is, at the very core of His being, love. When we love, we share in the very life of God. If God were alone from all eternity, then God could not be love. There would have been no one and nothing to love until Creation. Love would be accidental to God, and so God could stop loving which is against the eternal essence of God's love.

The ancient doxology prayer is familiar to all of us. “Glory be to the Father... As it was in the beginning, is now and ever will be, world without end.” God always was three in one, is three in one, will always be three in One. Our ancient faith expresses the enduring truth about God. God did not become three; God will never stop being three.

But would it not be enough for there to be just two persons of the Godhead? Why three? This is not primarily a mathematical statement, as if we could get to heaven and count the persons of the Trinity. It points towards a unique love which is utterly mutual, but which overflows, as the love of the Father and the Son overflows in the Holy Spirit.

When parents have children, they too learn that love which spills over beyond the couple. Love becomes Trinitarian as its mutuality is opened towards others. Otherwise, our love might become introverted and narcissistic. So the doctrine of the Trinity is not abstract celestial mathematics. It is the most down to earth practical lesson in the mystery of generous and fruitful love.

But why then do we insist that God is one? God is a love which is completely one. 'There is no other God like our God'. Could we not settle for three gods, happily loving each other from all eternity, like an everlasting happy family? The Trinity points to the utter unity of God - a flow of relationships of Love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and ourselves, who gathers us into the concord of His being.

From the earliest times a profound Christian spirituality, has been an experience of the mystery of this Triune love of God creating, redeeming and guiding us, which is fully revealed in Jesus. The everyday ordinary loving of a Christian disciple is marked with this mystery. It is a love which lifts us into communion equality, as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal. It is this communion that frees us from self-sufficient individualism, domination and manipulation.

Trinity is a fertile love, overflowing beyond itself. It draws us into unity with one another and with God, overthrowing divisions between nations, saints and sinners, the living and the dead. As we allow ourselves to be drawn into the life, the love of the Triune God, we discover the mystery that is ourselves, and, indeed, the mystery of one another!

The Immeasurable Presence of God

posted May 18, 2018, 12:27 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 18, 2018, 12:27 AM ]

Fr Anthony Charanghat

With the coming of His Spirit, the Easter season comes a full circle, embracing us in the mystery of salvation wrought for us by the risen Christ. Luke, in his description of the Pentecostal experience, fires our hearts with images of the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives and in our Church–impelling us to make this good news a daily reality in our own and others' lives.

In Jesus' breathing upon His disciples the new life of the Spirit, the community of the Resurrection – the Church – is called to launch out into the deep. The narrative of the working of the Spirit: in terms of tongues of fire, ignites us to do the work of the Gospel of the Risen One; the Spirit, as a gale, transforms us to align our will to God's will, and the Spirit of God, as life in us, animates us, so that we might bring His life and love to our broken world. The effects of the Spirit sets in motion our mission of preaching, prophecy, healing and worldwide outreach.

The miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2) is the Spirit's overcoming the barriers of language and perception to open not only the minds of the Apostles' hearers, but their hearts as well, to understanding and embracing the Word of God. The Spirit of God enables the Eleven – and us – to do things they could not do on their own: to understand the 'truth' of God's great love for His people that is embodied in the Risen Christ, and then to boldly and fearlessly proclaim the Gospel of Christ. The Spirit empowers us with the grace to do the difficult work of Gospel justice, forgiveness and compassion.

The Advocate comes to testify and to prompt the testimony of the disciples. It is Jesus' testimony to the truth, of course, that got Him in trouble, and the Holy Spirit comes to prompt the disciples to make the same disturbing, disruptive and world-changing testimony that calls into question the values of the world.

It is the Spirit that enables us to love as selflessly and as totally as God loved us—to become one of us, to die for us and to rise for us. Pentecost is a continuing event that dares us to become a community of fire that will keep alive the flame of passion for God and for the world which God loves, burning brightly even through the darkest days and nights of hostility and persecution.

The Day of Pentecost announces God's mighty and transformative presence in the emerging Christian movement and in our lives. God's Spirit can move quietly; it can also be bold and awesome. However God's Spirit comes, it breaks down barriers, welcomes outsiders, reconciles the separated, and energises our own spirits.

There is a mystic within each of us. God addresses all of us in sighs too deep for words. God's Spirit is always beckoning us towards more than we can ask or imagine. The omnipresence of God ensures a God-ward movement in all of our lives, even when we are unaware of it. Psalm 104: 'Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth' should be the cry of our heart.

God offers inspiration and salvation to all. His message is always understandable and relevant to our own lives and the concrete realities of peoples of different backgrounds. The Spirit is global and universal; it is equally intimate and personal. The Spirit motivates us to action. Pentecost is not only what we often refer to as 'the birth of the Church'; it is the celebration of 'being the Church'. We must continue to live what we are born to in the waters of baptism—the new life of the Risen Christ.

Ascension - A new Presence

posted May 10, 2018, 11:39 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 10, 2018, 11:39 PM ]

An authentic scripture-based understanding of Ascension warrants that we should never speak of Easter as Jesus coming back from the dead. This is not because we do not believe in the Resurrection, but because the word 'back' would convey that Jesus returned once again to His earthly life, and not to the reality of His going forward to a new glorious life – a new Creation. 

This is not just a trivial play with words, but fundamental to our understanding of the Resurrection, and therefore of our own salvation in Christ. The first point to remember is that Jesus' risen life is not the same as the pre-Resurrection life, what Saint Paul calls the life we now live in the flesh. The appearances of the risen Christ to His disciples indicate that there is something different about Jesus. Unrecognisable and then recognisable. 'None of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord' (John 21:12). 

He still had on His body the marks of His Passion – the holes in His hands, His feet, His side. That is the second point to remember: Jesus' Resurrection does not undo His crucifixion; it completes it. This is part of why we shouldn't say He came back to life, as if the Resurrection wiped away the crucifixion. This is especially important for us, because we have to realise that resurrection lies on the other side of crucifixion for us also: only when we nail to the cross our vanities, our follies and our wickedness will we enter into the life of the risen Christ. Only when we can say, "I have died with Christ, buried my sins in the tomb, and now it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me" will we have gone forward into the new Creation that Christ has inaugurated for us and for the whole cosmos. 

Such a relisation helps us to understand the significance of the Ascension. It is a celebration of Jesus' presence with us, not His disappearance. Of course, this is precisely what the Gospel tells us: "I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He is with us in our minds, with us in our hearts. He is with us in spirit, indeed. But in the Spirit, and that means not 'rather than in the body.' Far from being less real, less bodily than when He was with His disciples in Galilee and in Jerusalem, His presence with us now is more real and more bodily. 

There is something mysterious about the risen body – it seems to be eminently tangible, and yet can pass through locked doors. How He is present is for the time being, a mystery and we only have some clues. One of these, is the Eucharist, for here Christ is truly, bodily, really present at every Mass, in every tabernacle. Another is what Saint Paul tells us, explaining His other form of presence, which is the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ – "the fullness of Him who fills all in all." 

This means that wherever the Church is present, preaching the Gospel as He commanded, bringing the love and mercy of God shown to us on the Cross, into the darkness of people's lives, there indeed Christ is to be found. We are members of that body, that authentic, powerful presence of Christ, when we leave behind our sins and move forward into new life. In the gift of the Eucharist, we have a foretaste of the fullness of the Resurrection life, when we turn from our sins and back to God, and allow the life of Christ to make itself felt in and through our loving presence in the world. 

Fr Richard Ounsworth a scripture scholar at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Recreation is Restoration

posted May 4, 2018, 12:26 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 4, 2018, 12:26 AM ]

Fr Anthony Charanghat

This summer vacation, the hustle and bustle of travel and tourism will peak once again, resulting more in dissipation, rather than recreation and restoration. This occurs because modern holiday packages persuade us that vacation is a vacant time to escape from work, indulge in sleazy entertainment and go on extravagant trips to exotic destinations, leaving us in debt, burnt out and too jaded to be productive of the purpose and direction of the Christian vision of rest and leisure. 

Vacations, or 'holidays', are not mentioned in the Bible, but specific times of rest are discussed, as is stewardship of time and money, the importance of work and relationship with God. The importance of rest to be viewed as a spiritual practice finds its origin in our Creation story. That rest has a meaningful goal is rooted in the biblical ideas of stewardship and rest. 

Scripture portrays work as dignified, a part of God's good Creation before the fall, and no one should avoid it. God Himself is portrayed as a worker (Genesis 1) — planning, deciding, ordering, doing, and evaluating repeatedly in creating the world, and He calls us to share in this mission. 

Scripture also depicts vacation as a time of rest, and God set the example of rest in Genesis 2:2-3 when He ceased from creating. In Exodus 20:8-11, God tells His people that they are to rest from their labour on the seventh day. 

We rest every day through sleep. We have rhythms of work and rest. It is not that rest is our goal, but finding a balance of work and rest gives us a harmony with God's intentions (Psalm 90:12) and re-energises us to be at the service of efficient work to participate in God's ongoing creation. 

The Sabbath was intended to be a time to worship, rest, and find restoration. We show trust in God's providence, when we work as well as rest. We rely upon Him to re-energise our bodies, minds and spirits; we worship Him, and we receive His refreshment. Vacation can be a means of experiencing this presence and restoring grace. 

We are also exhorted to be wise stewards of our finances and time. It is not godly to pay for a vacation by going into debt (Romans 13:8), and we should strive to create affordable, restorative vacations for ourselves and our family. Vacations help us to build on important relationships, be restored and rested, and experience new venues to God and our fellow beings. 

The Church encourages us to take a vacation, not because it is directly commanded in Scripture, but because it is a means by which we are prepared to do what God calls us to. Whether laying a cable or optical fibre in the ocean, our fingers flying vigorously over the key board, teaching in a classroom, making a sale, or building a house, work is something good for which God has made us. 

The real reason that work is experienced as drudgery is because we do not see how it relates to our calling, and how, through it, we can glorify and enjoy God. Our work, our job, is not simply to make money or pay bills; it enables us to fulfil what God wants as our unique vocation in the world. 

God calls us to rest, so that our bodies and minds can be refreshed, enabling us to get back to more efficient work. Rest is not the end. Rest is not the goal. Rest is an interval, to stop so that we can get back on track, to do what God has called us to do with our lives. We must rest to be at the service of individual and communal work.

Workers’ Apostolate – the Need of the Hour

posted Apr 27, 2018, 2:25 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 27, 2018, 2:25 AM ]

May Day is celebrated across the world to honour the dignity of labour. It stems from the efforts of the Labour Union Movement to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. Pope Francis, in a letter at the conclusion of a conference on Labour in 2017, added "Work is about more than just doing something for money, but about cooperating with Christ's work of redemption in how we care for others and the earth." 

"According to Christian tradition, (work) is more than mere doing; it is, above all, a mission," the Pope said last November."We collaborate with the creative work of God when, through our work, we cultivate and preserve Creation; we participate, in the Spirit of Jesus, in His redemptive mission, when by our activity, we give sustenance to our families and respond to the needs of our neighbour." 

We are dedicating this issue of The Examiner to the Workers who form a major group in our society. We are called to recognise the dignity of the worker. There is dignity in work. Through work, human beings participate in Creation, and help realise God's plan on earth. Work honours the gifts and talents that God has given to each one of us. Work is 'for the worker, and not the worker for work.' (Laborem Exercens - 'On Human Work', Pope John Paul II, 1981, #6) 

The Church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions. This is a specific application of the more general right to associate, and all workers must be paid a wage sufficient to support themselves and their families. 

The Church teaches [Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher), Pope John XXII, 1961, #71; Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 2433-2435] that workers have certain rights, including: 

Just wages which provide them the means to live a human life and care for their family; The right to gainful employment; Freedom from unjust discrimination; Freedom to join unions and to strike when it is necessary. 

Other factors too enter into the assessment of a just wage: namely, the effective contribution which each individual makes to the economic effort, the financial state of the company for which he works, the requirements of the general good of the particular country, and finally the requirements of the common good of the universal family of nations. 

We consider it our duty to reaffirm that the remuneration of work is not something that can be left to the laws of the marketplace; nor should it be a decision left to the will of the more powerful. It must be determined in accordance with justice and equity; which means that workers must be paid a wage which allows them to live a truly human life and to fulfil their family obligations in a worthy manner. (Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II, 1981, #15) 

So what does this mean for us today? 

The teaching of the Catholic Church regarding the dignity of the worker has many implications for us in the present. Below are some examples: 

Paying employees a just wage; Providing employees with a safe working environment; Working to end unjust discrimination; Working to end forced labour; Changing our buying habits to support companies that treat workers fairly. 

We can each do our part to respect the dignity of work and the worker, through our hiring and employment practices, through advocacy for better working conditions, just wages and for an end to unjust discrimination, and through our daily purchase decisions. 

We must consequently continue to study the situation of the worker. There is a need for solidarity movements among, and with, the workers. The Church must firmly be committed to this cause, in fidelity to Christ, and to be truly the "Church of the poor". 

Bishop Allwyn D'Silva is an Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay, in charge of the Social Apostolate.

Plastic Pollution

posted Apr 20, 2018, 12:04 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 20, 2018, 12:04 AM ]

Every year, about 300 billion pounds of plastic is produced in the world, and not even five per cent of it is recycled. So where does the remaining 95 per cent go? Well, most of it finds a safe haven in landfills, and the remaining is thrown in the oceans. It's a known fact that plastic takes almost 100 years to decompose, but when it's thrown in the water, the action of the sun, water and temperature breaks it into small pieces, which helps the spreading of plastic even more.

This is very strange but true; in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a circular pattern of water currents have accumulated enormous amounts of floating garbage. This huge amount is often referred as the 'Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch'. It was discovered by Captain Charles Moore in the early 1990s, and it is still growing.

Some of the environmental problems caused by plastic are due to the fact that they are extensively used, because they are easy and cheap to make, and they can last a long time. Unfortunately, these same useful qualities can make plastic a huge pollution problem. Because plastic is cheap, it gets discarded easily and can do great harm to the environment. When plastic is burnt, the harmful fumes enter into the atmosphere, and have direct effects on any one who breathes it. And we cannot eliminate plastic by burning it.

Most of the solid waste, like paper, plastic containers, bottles, cans, and even used cars and electronic goods are not bio-degradable, which means they do not get broken down through inorganic or organic processes. Thus, when they integrate in the soil, the soil loses its fertility. Urbanisation has added to plastic pollution, especially in cities. Plastic thrown on land can enter drainage lines and choke them, resulting in floods, especially in cities, as experienced in Mumbai many times in the past.

It has come to light through statistics available that it has been one of the growing causes that have endangered the life of children. Thin plastic bags, especially dry cleaning bags, have the potential for causing suffocation. About 25 children in the United States suffocate each year due to plastic bags, most under the age of one. This has led to voluntary warning labels on some bags which may pose a hazard to small children.

Many of the major chemicals used in large volumes to produce plastics are highly toxic. Some chemicals are known to cause cancer in humans; many tend to be gases and liquid hydrocarbons, which readily vaporise and pollute the air. Many are flammable and explosive. Even the plastic resins themselves are flammable and have contributed to numerous chemical accidents. The production of plastic emits substantial amounts of toxic chemicals in air and water; this is pernicious both to public health and colossal damage to our ecosystems.

Even livestock is endangered by the growing menace of plastic garbage. It was claimed in one of the programmes on a TV channel that eating plastic bags results in the death of 100 cattle per day in Uttar Pradesh in India. In the stomach of one dead cow, as much as 35 kg of plastic was found, because plastic does not decompose/digest, and requires high energy ultra-violet light to break down.

The amount of plastic waste in our oceans is steadily increasing. More than 90% of the articles found on the beaches are made up of plastic. The plastic rubbish found on beaches near urban areas tend to originate from packaging materials. About 100,000 animals such as dolphins, turtles, whales, penguins are killed every year due to plastic bags.

Many animals ingest plastic bags, mistaking them for food, and therefore die. And worse, the ingested plastic bag remains intact, even after the death and decomposition of the animal. Thus, it lies around where another victim may ingest it, resulting in plastic pollution causing environmental devastation both on sea and landscapes.

Compiled by Fr Felix Rebello from online sources

Call to Holiness in today’s world

posted Apr 12, 2018, 6:46 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 14, 2018, 6:37 AM ]

Gaudete et Exsultate" ("Rejoice and Be Glad"), is the third apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, published on April 9, 2018 on 'the call to holiness in today's world.' Pope Francis insists primarily on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us personally, something God asks of each Christian, and which requires a personal response, given one's state in life, talents and circumstances.

"We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love, and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves." He contemplates the holiness present in the patience of God's people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile."

The path to holiness, he wrote, is almost always gradual, and made up of small steps in prayer, in sacrifice and in service to others. Being part of a parish community and receiving the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, are essential supports for living a holy life.

"The holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures," he said, before citing the example of a woman who refuses to gossip with a neighbour, returns home and listens patiently to her child, even though she is tired, prays the Rosary, and later meets a poor person and offers him a kind word.

Pope Francis said, "In the Beatitudes, Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy": living simply, putting God first, trusting Him and not earthly wealth or power, being humble, mourning with and consoling others, being merciful and forgiving, working for justice and seeking peace with all, as seen in the exemplary life of many saints.

Pope Francis also included a list of cautions. For example, he said, holiness involves finding balance in prayer time, time spent enjoying others' company and time dedicated to serving others in ways large or small. And, "needless to say, anything done out of anxiety, pride or the need to impress others will not lead to holiness."

The exhortation included many of Pope Francis' familiar refrains about attitudes that destroy the Christian community, like gossip, or that proclaim themselves to be Christian, but are really forms of pride, like knowing all the rules and being quick to judge others for not following them.

Holiness "is not about swooning in mystic rapture," he wrote, but it is about recognising and serving the Lord in the hungry, the stranger, the naked, the poor and the sick. "Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred," the Pope wrote.

"Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia...." And, he said, one cannot claim that defending the life of a migrant is a "secondary issue" when compared to abortion or other bio-ethical questions.

Pope Francis' exhortation also included warnings about a clear lack of holiness demonstrated by some Catholics on Twitter or other social media, especially when commenting anonymously. "It is striking at times," he said, that "in claiming to uphold the other Commandments, they completely ignore the eighth, which forbids bearing false witness or lying."

The exhortation ends with a section on "discernment," which is a gift to be requested of the Holy Spirit and developed through prayer, reflection, reading Scripture and seeking counsel from a trusted spiritual guide. "A sincere daily 'examination of conscience'" will help, he said, because holiness involves striving each day for "all that is great, better and more beautiful, while at the same time being concerned for the little things, for each day's responsibilities and commitments."

Compiled from Catholic News Service

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