Issues Vol. 168 >
Vol. 168 No. 10 - March 11 - March 17, 2017
Two weeks into our Lenten Journey, and the Liturgy calls us to the mountaintop experience of personal encounter with God that offers us the truth of Jesus and a glimpse of His glory erupting through His humanity. It was the identical call that the three apostles received at this sacred moment on Mount Tabor. This call to the mountain of prayer and worship that manifested the Transfiguration of Jesus is the key to our trip to Transformation in the season of Lent.
Peter, James and John, who were privileged to be there, had a startling experience of Jesus' face and clothes changed, and Moses and Elijah in conversation with Him. Then came the voice of the Father, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him." Those words of the Father are at the heart of this moment. This experience will enter the deep memory of the apostles, and will sustain them in difficult times ahead, because these same apostles will be with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.
Here they had an experience of Christ's glory that would bolster them through the Passion and death of Jesus. They were told to listen to the words of Jesus about His own sufferings and passage into glory, because that will be their own journey as well. They will know the suffering in their own life, and this experience of the mountain will give them the assurance of glory.
For all of us, Mount Tabor represents the mountain of worship. At the Eucharist, we rise in the very presence of God. In our life, we need the mountain of worship to help us in the valley of work that we have to do here on earth. All of us need to move back and forth between the mountain and the valley.
There is always the tendency to emphasise one over the other. There is the desire, like Peter, to stay on the mountain. Jesus was there in radiant power, with Moses and Elijah from the past. The Law and the prophets all came together in one place. The problems of the world were left behind. Peter wanted to freeze that moment, and hold it like a snapshot. We all have had such moments, and for some people, their Christian faith is exclusively that—a retreat, an interlude and an escape.
But then there is the valley. The valley is where people live, work and navigate their struggles. Many do not take time for the mountain, but they desperately need its grace, its moral clarity and its spiritual power. Without the mountain of worship, we lack spiritual resources, and can easily be burned out and depleted without a moral compass. Without the valley, we end up with a religion of escape or private religious experience that transforms nothing, redeems no one, and is isolated from the world.
We all need the mountain, and we all need the valley. On the mountain of worship, we inhale the power of Grace and the truth of Christ. In the valley, we exhale the life and spirit of Christ to those with whom we love and work. On the mountain, we draw spiritual life and vitality. In the valley, we breathe out that life to others.
The words of the Father on the mountain: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him" are also directed to us. Do we listen to Him? The Lord speaks to us in Scripture and the Sacraments, but also through the failures of our life. The Lord can speak to us through difficult relationships and conflicts. The Lord can speak to us through illness. The tragedy of the Cross is woven into the triumph of His Resurrection. Are we willing to listen to the Lord when called this Lent to endure suffering and pain as a path to deeper life and glory like His?
It is important to remember that the perfection of our being Christian is not accomplished, if we say, "We have left everything," but if we say to Christ: "We left everything and followed You." The Church teaches us to follow this statement, making us go through Ash Wednesday, Lent and Holy Week every year. In this way, our hearts are purified, and the joy of Easter appears not to people blinded by the encrustations of sin, but to people open to Him, our life, whom we can see because "the pure in heart see God." (Mt 5:8)
The ancient Jews left the slavery of Egypt, and it took them forty years to get to the Promised Land. We move through the Lenten journey every year, so that victory over ourselves may consist in leaving the 'Egypt' of our sin, in order to live only in the love of Christ and for Christ. Aided by fasting, prayer and almsgiving, we have a special experience during Lent of the divine mercy that "cancels, washes and cleanses" (Psalm 50:3-4) us sinners, and transforms us into "a new creature who has transfigured spirit, lips, tongue and heart" (Ps 50:14-19). It is with a pure heart like one of the children that, at Easter, we will understand and live the hint of the introduction of Mercy Sunday: "Be reasonable, and like a newborn child, long for the spiritual milk that makes us grow towards salvation." This first Sunday after Easter, which was called In Albis Sunday, is now called Mercy Sunday. This was decided by St John Paul II, inspired by Saint Faustina Kowalska, who wrote: "Even if our sins were as black as the night, divine mercy is stronger than our misery. Only one thing is needed: that sin opens at least a little bit the door of your heart … God will do the rest … Everything starts in the mercy of God, and in His mercy ends."
Two events are celebrated this week—the Transfiguration of Jesus on March 12, and the 4th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election on March 13.
During this second week of Lent, we will be commemorating two events—the Transfiguration of Jesus on Sunday, March 12, and the 4th anniversary of Pope Francis' election on March 13. They will fill us with joy, the type that ought to be typical of the season of Lent, during which we deepen our understanding of both God and ourselves. We will be taken out of ourselves, transformed and elevated, because, in trying to figure out the importance of those two events, we experience in ourselves the self-emptying of Christ, which is also his super-exaltation. In other words, we get the insight that in our normal and usual lives, every moment is a glorious boundless possibility.
It may be difficult to get back to what really happened in Jesus' life, for all that we get in the Gospel texts is "transfigured memory" about Him. What was experienced by some believers after His death on the Cross is read back into every episode, from His birth in Bethlehem until His end at Calvary. This happens in any biography of a famous person, when the qualities that he is recognised for, towards the end of his life, are seen as being operative even from the beginning of it. George Washington, as a child, was gifted with a hatchet; with it, he cut down a cherry tree, but when confronted, he owned the fact to his father—all this, whether true or not, is recounted to demonstrate that Washington had the heroic character that made him illustrious in his later life.
Celebrating International Women's Day on March 8 is exalting women's gift of life. It is marked as a special day for women to remember in a special way the dignity and identity of a woman. It is a time to reflect on the progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their families, neighbourhood, communities, society and country at large. We have many exemplary women who have performed an ordinary role in an extraordinary way, like St Josephine Bakhita, Jessica Cox, Medha Patkar, Kalpana Chawla, Maura Ward, Mary Kom, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, Saint Teresa of Kolkata, and above all, our own mothers who have created history and captivated the world with honour and praise.
Today, the world is in progress and changing its face with significant implications for women. Women's empowerment has become the buzzword today, with women working alongside men in all spheres. They profess an independent outlook, whether they are living inside their homes, or working outside. They are increasingly gaining control over their lives and taking their own decisions with regard to their education, career, profession and lifestyle. On one hand, we have globalisation, technological evolution, digital revolution and the opportunities they bring. On the other hand, the growing discrimination of gender inequality, domestic violence, unstable livelihoods and incomes, new fiscal and trade policies and environmental impacts—all of which need to be addressed in the context of women's economic, social, cultural and political empowerment.
As women play a great role in the economic, political and social activities, International Women's Day is commemorated to remember and appreciate their achievements. It is a global day to celebrate women's unity, advocacy and reflection on their small steps or actions for change.
In you, LORD, I take refuge,
How can you say to me,
Bird, fly back to your mountain." (Psalm 11:1)
The psalmist knows the hill country
to be a place of refuge for the Lord's faithful.
However, a careful reading of the Scriptures indicates
in the experiences of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and very poignantly
those of Peter, James and John,
that the ascent to the mountain is a call
to confront one's inner pain.
On a mountain in the land of Moriah,
Abraham must come face to face
with the pain of losing the very son
through whom the Promise is to be fulfilled.
Moses, on Mount Sinai, must undergo the pain
of seeing the Lord's people lapse into unfaithfulness.
Elijah, fleeing from Jezebel, is pained to the point of death.
Peter, James and John, however, are naïve as they ascend Mount Tabor.
Unfamiliar with the pain they are being called to experience,
they think they have grasped the ultimate refuge
as they behold the LORD in His glory.
No wonder they stand exposed, as they are enveloped
by a sense of hurt, feeling let down by the Lord
as he talks of His impending Suffering and Death
when they come down from the mountain.
Well, when you think of it, it is a perfect time to make a resolution! Lent is a chance at change, an opportunity to be different, to become new life. And resolutions that give life, save life, promote life and sustain life are ALL good.
These are ten suggestions for resolutions that are Earth-friendly. They are in addition to Carbon Fast suggestions, and are simple and easy to follow once you take them. Which one you take is upto you; you could choose one, more than one, or all. Just be happy taking it, so that it becomes you, and you become Earth-loving.
None of these is compulsory, and you can choose to ignore them altogether. But you could also choose to look at them, and see how, in a small way, you can resolve to restore Earth and its beauty and harmony by simple acts of respect and love.
LR1. #Adopt A Stray
If you are planning to keep a pet, do NOT buy an expensive breed. Mumbai’s streets (and those of any Indian city) have the most adorable puppies and kittens, and they just WANT you to give them a loving home. They are sweet, loyal, and can eat so simply, that your budget will be way lower than for a pedigreed pooch. You could also choose to look after a few animals in your locality with the help of friends.
LR2. #Dare To Wear Less
How many sets of clothes do we really need? Try doing with a minimum of two sets (two tops and two bottoms; a full dress counts as one top and one bottom) and a maximum of ten sets (which works out to more, if you mix and match). Of course, you will manage. Very easily, believe me... Much of what we really have in our cupboards is unused! Live with less, and experience the freedom.
LR3. #Hands Up For Earth
Take a stand. It is quite easy. When you are served a beverage in a disposable paper/plastic cup, or are given snacks in a disposable plastic/paper plate, or are offered a paper tissue, raise your hand – it’s a polite way of saying no. When asked why, give the reason politely: such products diminish Nature’s beauty and pollute it for generations later. You can do without that beverage or snack... and Earth can do without that waste.
We can make the season of Lent a time for true repentance.
The Bhagwad Gita tells of a beautiful fable about a little boy brought up single-handedly by his mother. As he grew into adolescence, he befriended some vagabonds. These friends teased him about his mother taking extra care of him, and not allowing him to enjoy life the errant way. Frustrated with this situation, he decided to do away with his mother, in accordance with his companions. The day arrived, and after doing away with his mother, he carried her soul to the river bank for immersion. While running hurriedly, and excited with his achievement, he tripped on a stone and hurt himself. All at once, he heard his mother's voice asking him, "Son, did you hurt yourself? because I felt the pain." Can a mother forget her baby or a woman the child within her womb? The boy broke down, and sitting under the banyan tree, wept bitterly! Alas! it was far too late. His mother had to sacrifice her life for him to repent! What a price to REPENT! Perhaps, he would never have repented in his entire life and lived like a fallen, brown, withered leaf, aged before time. Yes, we are born to a luxuriant blooming tree—our dear parents— pure and sinless, but as the tree grows, sin (like a garden pest) weakens the tree, and the result is premature withering leaves.
Yet, better late than never, says the Holy Book, giving us humans a chance. Better to repent than brush repentance under the carpet, and carry on guiltless. Lent cries out to us to forgive and be forgiven, reminds us we are mere dust, and to dust off the tunic of pomp, pride and prejudice. Time to harden not our hearts, but glorify the teachings of the Church, and exult in the readings of the Bible. Time to listen like the innocent young Eli, who, on hearing the Lord calling him, said, "Speak Lord, your servant heareth,"; time to obey like the Chieftain's little son in Felicia Heman's poem 'Casabianca'. The poem tells of a lost war and a burning ship. The little lad was commanded by his Commander father to stand on the deck. He stood and stood, even though the war was lost, "and all but he had fled." The fiery flames were engulfing him, yet he called out to his father, "Say Father, if my task is done", and when he got no reply, again he asked, "Say, father, if I may yet be gone." He was not aware that the Chieftain lay fallen cold and dead on the lower deck.
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