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India needs Christian Witness

posted Jun 27, 2018, 7:52 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 27, 2018, 7:54 AM ]
As we celebrate Laity Sunday, we once again take up the Call to Sainthood that Pope Francis gave us in his little treatise, 'Rejoice and be Glad'. Pope Francis says that the Lord wants us all to be saints, and not "settle for a bland mediocre existence." 'The only great tragedy in life is not to become a saint.'

While the Beatitudes, he says, are our "Christian Identity card", he offers certain qualities that he considers of particular importance in the light of dangers and limitations present in today's culture." I place before you three of them as your 'Christian Doctorate' - an acronym, P.H.D:

Today, we may hear youth saying, "I'll take a drop (from college studies)", a parent saying, "I am always taken for granted" or we notice our own fading effort to stand for what we believe to be truth. Perseverance, the pontiff says, "is only possible if we are solidly grounded in the God who loves and sustains us. This source of inner strength enables us to persevere amid life's ups and downs, but also to endure hostility, betrayal and failings on the part of others. "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Rom 8:31): this is the source of the peace found in the saints."

An SCC animator once mentioned to me how a particular parishioner, for over a year, wouldn't even open the door when she visited her, but later, through her caring perseverance, the parishioner and she became good friends. Her perseverance paid off.

Scripture scholars tell us that the Romans chose crucifixion for criminals, as it was not only the most painful way to put a person to death, but also the most shameful. The criminal had to walk through the streets carrying the cross, and when he was finally hung on it, he hung naked. That's the humiliation Jesus went through.

"Humility can only take root in the heart through humiliations. Humiliation ... is an unavoidable aspect of the imitation of Christ," says our Pope.

But it's not the stark situations of martyrdom, he reminds us, but daily humiliations we are called to face:

• when you choose the less welcome tasks to be done, and no one even notices it;
• when you prefer to praise others, rather than boast about yourself.

You will face humiliation when you smile at a difficult neighbour who deliberately looks the other side. What will you do at the next meeting?

"Complacency is seductive; it tells us that there is no point in trying to change things... because this is the way things have always been. By force of habit, we no longer stand up to evil. How often are we tempted to keep close to the shore! Yet, the Lord calls us to put out into the deep and let down our nets."

"God, who is eternal newness, constantly impels us to pass beyond what is familiar, to the fringes and beyond... where humanity is most wounded. Unafraid of the fringes, he himself became a fringe. (cf. Phil 2:6-8) So if we dare to go to the fringes, we will find him there."

I heard of the Daring Boldness of a parishioner who once witnessed an argument between a motorist and a rickshaw driver. A crowd gathered. As things started heating up, the rickshaw driver pulled out an iron rod from his vehicle to clobber the motorist. It was then that this parishioner, without thinking of his own safety, held back the rickshaw driver and brought the situation under control.

In situations like this, the Lord today once again speaks to us, "Do not be afraid." (Mk 6:50)

Mahatma Gandhi said, "If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, all of India would be Christian today." Today, more than ever, Indian needs Christian Witness, so that - taking a line from Mother Teresa - a Hindu may become a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim and a Christian a better Christian.

Fr Gerard Rodricks, sj has been involved with a number of programmes with and for laity.