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01 Connection to Communion

posted May 23, 2019, 11:23 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 23, 2019, 11:23 PM ]

In our present times, where the Internet has become the 'beating heart' of everyday interaction, social, economic and political life, we must guard against unbridled individualism, spirals of hatred, and defining ourselves by what divides us rather than with what unites us, warns Pope Francis. In his message for the 53rd World Communications Day, which is celebrated each year on the feast of the Ascension of our Lord, the Holy Father urges us to rediscover the positive potential of the internet, by invoking images of the net, community and the body made up of different members working together.

Creating online communities and groups helps bring people together on the basis of common interests and concerns, speeds up the transmission of news and knowledge, and evokes a greater expression of cohesion and solidarity. The downside of such 'virtual communities' is that we can isolate ourselves from those who are different from us, and end up living in ideological bubbles, dismissing diversity and interacting only with like-minded individuals. Groups and identities on the web are quite often based on common opposition to another ideological group or thought, which gives rise to suspicion, distrust and every kind of prejudice.

Young people, he says, are particularly susceptible to an illusion that the social web can completely satisfy them on a relational level. Young people become 'social hermits', alienating themselves from physical encounters and activities, creating online personas which belie their real nature and identity, and believing that what they see online is how things really are. The online world becomes a showcase for exhibiting personal narcissism, says Pope Francis. This has disastrous consequences on the relational fabric of society.

Social network communities should not therefore be automatically mistaken to be real human communities. By invoking the Pauline metaphor of the body and its members, Pope Francis says that authentic online interaction requires us to remember that "in order to be myself, I need others. I am truly human, truly personal, only if I relate to others." True communion protects truth and dispels divisions. Christian communion is based on the communion of love among the Holy Trinity. God is communion, and therefore communication, because love always communicates. Since we are fashioned in the image of God, we carry in our hearts a deep desire to communicate ourselves to others and live in community.

In the Church community as well, use of the social web must lead to an encounter in the flesh. The goal of parish media activity must be to invite and attract people to be physically present at the Eucharistic Table, where faith comes alive through the meeting of bodies, eyes, hearts, and touch. The online community must translate into the offline 'Body of Christ'. This Christian eucharistic network is based not on 'likes', but on the truth, on the "Amen", by which one clings to the Body of Christ. The internet therefore becomes a resource, when it is used to facilitate an encounter, to pray together, and to share stories of beauty and suffering, to seek out the good in the other, but becomes a malice when it is used to foment division, spread disinformation and distort relationships.

As governments rush to tackle the challenge of protecting the original vision of a free, open and secure network, and to prevent its misuse in the social, ethical, economic and political realms, the Church has the opportunity and responsibility to promote its positive use and harness its powerful potential for the enhancement of life, love, human dignity and a communion based on truth and justice.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

02 Bulgaria—Bridge between East and West

posted May 16, 2019, 11:32 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 23, 2019, 11:23 PM ]

Pope Francis, who arrived in Bulgaria's capital city of Sofia on May 5, 2019, described Bulgaria as "a bridge between East and West, capable of favouring encounter between the different cultures, ethnic groups, civilisations and religions that for centuries have lived here in peace." The Pope praised them for being a people of diversity, combined with respect for distinctive identities - a model of enrichment, not a source of conflict."

Recalling the visit of Saint John Paul II to Bulgaria in May 2002, the Holy Father spoke of how the future Saint John XXIII served as Apostolic Delegate in Sofia for ten years. He also remembered Cyril and Methodius—the two Saints "who evangelised the Slavic peoples", and were co-patrons of Europe. The Holy Father called them "an inspiration for fruitful dialogue, harmony and fraternal encounter between Churches, States and peoples."

The Pope remarked that during his time in North Macedonia, he felt the spiritual presence of St Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was from this country. He said that this "small, yet strong, woman was an image of the Church in that land: a small community that becomes a welcoming home where many can find rest."

Pope Francis went on to describe 'this particular moment of history' in Bulgaria, focusing on the thirty years after the end of the totalitarian regime that had imprisoned the country's 'liberty and initiatives'. He spoke of the effects of emigration in recent decades that have seen over two million Bulgarians leave their country in search of employment. This, combined with what the Pope called the "demographic winter" of falling birth rates, "has led to the depopulation and abandonment of many villages and cities."

Pope Francis encouraged Bulgaria's leaders to continue creating conditions that will allow young people "to invest their youthful energies and plan their future", knowing they can lead "a dignified life" in their own homeland. The Pope also respectfully invited all Bulgarians, "who are familiar with the drama of emigration," not to close their eyes, hearts or hands "to those who knock at your door".

Pope Francis suggested we should "profit from the hospitality of the Bulgarian people" so that every religion can contribute to the growth of a culture of "respect for the human person", and "rejecting every form of violence and coercion". In this way, said the Pope, those who seek "to manipulate and exploit religion will be defeated."

Pope Francis had a meeting with young people from various religions. As he arrived, two young people offered him bread and salt—a traditional way to welcome an important guest. The Pontiff heard the testimony of a couple - a young Muslim woman and a young Catholic from the Byzantine rite. A group paid tribute to him with a traditional dance.

Pope Francis responded to a young Muslim woman who wanted to know if dreaming of a world with religious unity was dreaming too much. "I would like to say to you: dreaming is never too much. Even if you make mistakes, you can always get up and start over, for no one has the right to rob you of hope." He encouraged people to communicate with others in a personal face-to-face encounter, and not through impersonal mobile screens. We have entered into the digital age, but actually we know very little about communication. We are all 'connected,' but not really 'involved' with one another."

He urged the young to spend time with the elderly, listen to their stories, which may sometimes seem a bit unreal, but in fact are full of rich experiences, symbols of solutions that can be an antidote against all those who want to lock themselves up in the suffocating present, that drowns them with demands for alleged happiness. Not to dedicate time to the elderly is to be like a tree without roots.

Collated from Vatican News & Rome Reports

03 Rhythm of Rest and Recreation - Fr Anthony Charanghat

posted May 9, 2019, 11:29 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 23, 2019, 11:24 PM ]

Like the unchanging rise and ebb of night and day in time, the periodical rhythm of rest and recreation to the routine of work and study is integral to holistic human development. Come summer and it is no surprise that fun-filled holidays and vacations are on the minds of children and adults. But alas with not much thought about the significance and intrinsic value to the individual, society and its adverse impact on ecology. Many, because of a flawed approach to the mad rush for exorbitant stereotyped packaged travel and tourism deals, are left more jaded and with burn out.

For others, such a break from work happens rarely. Many do not have the opportunity to rest because of penury or the patterns of their lives. Some find all their time consumed by the need to earn a pay check, care for children or aging parents, and fulfil others’ needs and expectations of them. With the dizzying advance of technology, people can work anywhere and anytime. The use of smartphones today connect them to the office round the clock. Over-worked, they find it increasingly difficult to experience the kind of life-restoring, humanising rest that they need.

The cascading consequences of a rest deficiency are borne out by research. First, lack of rest can compromise health and the quality of work. Heavy workloads and long hours are a significant source of stress in the work place. According to a Psychological Association survey, more than a third of workers experience chronic work stress, which can lead to anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, increased blood pressure, as well as a weakened immune system. This kind of stress can also increase chances of heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

When people lack rest they suffer physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Physical and mental exhaustion can often lead to emotional volatility, as a poorly rested individual becomes easily irritated and/or anxious. This lack of rest can escalate into larger issues. Relationships become strained. Over time a person’s spiritual life—a connection to God and the deepest meaning and joy in life—becomes diminished too.

Both those who are over-worked and those who are under-worked may find it hard to connect with God in a rhythm of work and rest. Yet by God’s grace it is still possible to integrate rest and work into the pattern of life that God intends. We do not have to indulge in destructive splurge and reckless time-consuming travel and five-star ecologically damaging luxury tourism to find fulfilment, we could find it anywhere at any time in the leisure of God’s wonderful creation and in His gift of human relationships.

Human beings need a rhythm of work and rest in order to live up to their God-given potential. Just as God gives people important work to do, God also asks people to rest periodically from their labour. Work gives each individual the opportunity to partner with God in his goals for creation, while rest lets that person enter into communion with God in enjoyment of creation. Ideally, all people would work and rest in comfortable alternation, leaving humanity physically healthy, mentally stimulated, socially bonded and spiritually fulfilled.

Many people have ceased to attempt to balance work with rest which is the underlying spirituality demanded by the sanctity of the Sabbath rest. It is important to note that the spirituality of rest in no way undervalues the importance or dignity of work. Rather, the opening chapters of Genesis establish a pattern of work and rest; to do one without the other is a deviation from God’s created order. In fact, the fourth commandment combines both a command to work and to rest: “Six days you shall labour and do all your work and rest on the day of the Sabbath.” God affirms the sacredness of rest and work, with the two beautifully woven together.

04 Month of a Marian Memorial - Fr Anthony Charanghat

posted May 2, 2019, 10:38 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 23, 2019, 11:24 PM ]

For centuries, Catholics throughout the world have honoured the Blessed Virgin Mary with special devotion of the Rosary during the month of May and crowning her as a Queen of Peace, making it truly the month of a Marian Memorial. Besides, the month of May largely corresponds with the Church’s liturgical season of Easter, the 50 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday. The popular Marian piety encouraged by the Church is not at odds with the season of Easter.

In the Easter season and during this month of May, we celebrate with Mary, the Resurrection of the Lord. Truly, Mary’s heart was filled ‘with joy beyond all telling’ at the Resurrection of her Son. We share in her joy and we ask for her intercession and protection, that we may obtain peace in these turbulent times of terror and political conflict. We plead that she help us secure the elusive joy of everlasting life won by her Risen Son. The Church highlights this joy in the Easter prayer that is called the ‘Regina Coeli’. We sing or say: “Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia. For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia. Has risen as He said, alleluia.”

Mary had stood at the foot of the cross as the sorrowful Mother, joined with the suffering of her Son. She stood by Jesus in His agony on the cross and witnessed the suffering and death of her beloved Son. It was during this agony that Our Lord gave us Mary as our Mother. In His great love for us, through St. John, Jesus entrusted His mother to us and entrusted us to His mother. She is with us and teaches us to join in solidarity with all our brothers and sisters who are tragic victims of the recent gruesome attacks of terror and not to fear in political, economic or social troubled times.

It is also good in the Easter season to reflect on Mary’s presence in the community of the first disciples waiting for Pentecost. As we approach the feast of Pentecost, we can reflect on that first community of disciples praying together in the upper room after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. Mary was with them in prayer, awaiting the descent of the Holy Spirit. Mary had already been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation, when she conceived the Son of God and became the Mother of Christ. At Pentecost, she would again be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, filled with His grace to fulfil her new role as Mother of Christ’s Body, the Church.

In light of our Blessed Mother’s joy at her Son’s Resurrection and of her loving and prayerful presence with the disciples in the upper room at Pentecost, we can celebrate this Marian month of May with deeper meaning. In the beautiful prayer of the rosary, we meditate on the mysteries of Jesus, the key moments of His life. As we pray the rosary, Mary helps us to put Jesus at the centre of our attention, our thoughts, and our actions. The Holy Father invites us to pray the rosary together in the family or with friends or in the parish. Praying the rosary together strengthens family life, friendships, parish life and can direct us to the gift of Easter Peace - the path of Peace to the world.

We believe that Mary reigns in glory with her Son, interceding for us and all God’s children. This Easter season is a reminder that Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord who was on earth, now shares in the glory of her Son’s resurrection and has been exalted by God as the Queen of all creation. May Mary, our Mother and our Queen, help us to follow her Son and one day receive the crown of glory in heaven.

05 Divine Mercy Decimates Darkness

posted Apr 25, 2019, 5:54 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 23, 2019, 11:24 PM ]

The Feast of the Divine Mercy, which we celebrate each year on the Sunday following Easter, reinforces the message of the Resurrection and the depth of God's boundless mercy and love that are made accessible to us through the events of Holy Week culminating in Christ's powerful breakthrough into Life and Light. In the words of St Pope John Paul II: "Divine Mercy is the Easter gift that the Church receives through the Risen Christ and offers to humanity" (Homily, April 22, 2001).

The Gospel proclaimed on this Sunday is always the story of doubting Thomas, but more importantly, of the disciples who have locked themselves up in the Upper Room out of fear. The tomb is open, but the doors to the hearts of the disciples remain closed. Easter may come and go, but the infinite outpouring of God's mercy may fail to move us. Our existential concerns may have trapped us in narrow spaces, from which we struggle to liberate ourselves. We fail to find the courage to face those painful and life-long wounds that we try to keep buried deep within us. Perhaps, like the disciples, we are afraid of disappointment, afraid of being judged, afraid of failing.

But closed doors and trapped hearts cannot keep Jesus away! The Risen Christ passes through closed doors, and unlocks them from within. He invites us to once again 'go out' and thus unchain those millstones we have attached to ourselves. Our understanding of the mercy of Christ is key to our relationship with Him, and the key to becoming 'disciples'. It is only when we fathom the profound implications of God's mercy for our salvation, will we desire to become 'missionaries of mercy' ourselves, showcasing the merciful face of God to others. Mercy is the greatest form of evangelisation.

As we ponder the mercy of God, we may feel contradicted by the twin tragedies that struck the world last week. The iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris suffered extensive damage in a devastating fire on April 15. And then last Sunday, in what is being referred to as the Easter Bombings, eight blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, leaving more than 200 dead, and countless more maimed and scarred. Sadly, this has become an ugly and predictable dynamic, where violence is unleashed on worshippers gathered to celebrate the central mysteries of their faith. In 2016, 75 people died, and at least 300 were injured, when bombs exploded in a park in the heavily Christian neighbourhood of Lahore in Pakistan, as people were celebrating after Easter services. In 2017, bombings at two Coptic Christian Churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday left 45 people dead.

Death unleashed on a day of New Life can leave us bewildered about the meaning of Resurrection in our lives. However, the Resurrection is itself the greatest sign and sacrament, which reveals to us how God's life and mercy can blossom in the midst of death and suffering. The killing of Graham Staines, Sr Rani Maria and many present day martyrs has led to a conversion of hearts and a blossoming of the faith. The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.

After fire-fighters had put out the fire at Notre Dame, the main doors of the cathedral were opened, to reveal the Cross high above the main altar, gleaming over the smouldering embers of the interior, illuminated by a ray of light pouring in from one of the iconic stained-glass windows. This was a powerful image of God's mercy in the midst of destruction and a tragic sense of loss. Like the two rays St Faustina saw emanating from the Heart of Christ, the Cross in the cathedral is a reminder to us that God's mercy withstands all evil, fear, tragedy and hopelessness.

Where was God when the Notre Dame was up in flames? "He was everywhere and in everyone", said Fr James Martin SJ, "God was in the Fire chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who rushed into the burning cathedral to save the most precious relic that it held, what is considered to be the 'crown of thorns' that was placed on Jesus' head." God rushes into the arms of death to save what is most precious to Him – you and me! That is the most potent image of the Divine Mercy.

As we become painfully aware of the continuous attacks on our Christian brothers and sisters at home and abroad, we offer their sacrifice and souls into the hands of our Merciful God, and pray that the blood of martyrdom may bring peace to our troubled world.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on the Editorial Board of The Examiner.

06 Resplendent Reality of the Resurrection - Fr Anthony Charanghat

posted Apr 17, 2019, 10:07 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 23, 2019, 11:25 PM ]

The Easter liturgy this year provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the significance of the resplendent reality of the Resurrection of Christ and make it pivotal to the practise of our faith-life. An interesting aspect of early Christian history is that the resurrection, not the cross, was the central theme of Christian preaching. What does it mean that Jesus has been raised? What does it mean for Jesus himself, and what does the Risen Christ say not just to us as individuals but to human history and to the world around us? 

Many contemporary Christians assume the cross has always been the focal point of Christian faith. Certainly, the cross is vital to our faith, for it was the means through which Jesus atoned for our sins. But listen to St Paul's words: "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith . . . if Christ has not been raised then you are still in your sins. But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor. 15:14, 20) 

Paul is clearly saying that the historical new reality of the Risen Presence of Jesus Christ is the crowning truth of our faith. This truth is believed and lived as central to our faith-life as Christians. In his Resurrection, Jesus did not just return to his previous earthly state, before his death. The resurrected life of Jesus is not the mortal life as we know it. If that was the case, then he will die again. In his resurrection, Christ entered into God's very Life and whose presence permeates the whole of creation. 

Possessing God’s Life, Jesus is no longer confined to and determined by time and space. He can enter closed doors. He can penetrate fearful and shut hearts. He can walk with us, even if we do not recognize him. The Risen Jesus in no way belongs to the realm of death. Jesus has conquered the finality of death. Jesus’ resurrection is not only a real event in concrete history but an event that changes history. This is the ‘Truth’ of the Resurrection, the foundation of Truth itself, that acts as a rampart against the culture of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative truths’ taking root in society today. 

When we as Christians celebrate Easter, we celebrate the fact that Christ is risen from the dead and that he lives in our hearts and illumines our minds through the light, power and presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord and the Giver of Life. In celebrating Easter, we are celebrating life itself, and life to the full. From the darkness of his death, the light of eternal life shone out in all its brightness when Jesus, the Light of the world, was raised to new life. 

We will know that resplendent reality of His Resurrection, when we allow Christ who lives in us, to make our own lives sources of light, love and life for others; when our words heal and encourage truth to prevail; when our hearts come alive with love to restore broken relations; when we stand firm in defence of the respect, dignity and value of life itself in all its aspects. 

Easter becomes a reality in our own lives when people are healed, consoled and strengthened by the life-giving love we show to each other, and especially to those in need. Easter is real when we become living signs and symbols of the presence of the risen Christ in our world, and of the values which he taught during his life on earth. Christian behaviour springs from communion with the risen Jesus, just as Christian celebration is a life led in conformity with the person of Jesus Christ.

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