Friday, January 16, 2015

Fishing out the best in people

St. Matthew 4:12-22
12 Now when Jesus[a] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”[b]
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus calls his first disciples with the very famous one liner “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Jesus here dwells on a very important aspect of discipleship using the profession of four of his principal followers. They were casting their nets and he sees the potential in them and calls them to join him. Interestingly they do so.

What does it mean to say that “I will make you fish for people”? There is an emphasis on the people and the fact that the disciples have to concentrate on them. Here is a call to change the philosophy of using people for business to catching or identifying people to save them. The disciples who were fisher folk went about their business so that they could sell their catch to people. Jesus on the other hand calls them to give up their business of fishing and move on to a spiritual catching of people so that the people will eventually benefit. What before was a benefit for the disciples changes into the benefit of the people.

Who thinks about our good? Society need not think about our benefit and good. Friends, colleagues, and acquaintances may not think well about us and wish a better future. On a lighter note the below forward I got shows how people belonging to other professions may not think well and wish well about us.

“The Irony of Life”
The lawyer hopes you get into trouble
The doctor hopes you get sick
The police hopes you become a criminal
The teacher hopes you are born stupid
The landlord hopes you don’t buy a house
The dentist hopes your tooth decays
The mechanic hopes your car breaks down
The coffin maker wants you dead
…Only a thief wishes you “Prosperity in life” and also wishes you have a sound sleep.

The thief obviously has his own reasons for hoping like this. The essence of the forward is that not many people wish us well because they are in the process of wishing themselves well. On the other hand the church tries to wish us well. Whenever the church doesn't, it moves away from the original message of Christianity. This message is the message that Jesus gives Peter, Andrew, James and John. “I will make you fish for people.” This can be translated as “I will make you (teach you) fish for the good in people” and make you identify and hope for the good in them instead of hoping their downfall and in the process making your life out of it.

Jesus is calling each one of us in our own capacities to fish for the good in people and multiply that as a business instead of wishing for bad about people. One cannot completely be businesslike and instead should be Jesus like. May God help us to be fishers of people and be part of God’s valuing of people instead of living out of the downfall of others. Amen.

(Excerpts from a sermon preached in St. Ignatius Church, K.R. Puram, Bangalore on January 11, 2014.The forward used in the sermon was sent to me by Mr. Joe Jacob.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015: Happy light year

Genesis 1:3-5
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Light forms an important aspect of spirituality in the bible and Christian traditions. Light and its comparison with darkness is indeed very old and has been used relentlessly. Can we wish people a blessed new year 2015 by wishing them the light of God and are we in the process undermining dark and black and making them bad symbols and super imposing bright and white as good symbols? Or does light and its characteristics offer us enough food for thought as we enter into the new year 2015.

2015 has been decided as the International Year of Light (IYL) by the United Nations to make people understand the importance of light and fiber optic and light energy. “The UN’s 68th general assembly proclaimed 2015 an official “International Year of Light” that will focus on the science and applications of light, and seek to raise global awareness of how optics and photonics can have a positive impact in fields as diverse as energy, education, agriculture and health.” The emphasis is to make people understand the value and importance of light and how it has made a very deep impact on the lives of all kinds of people.

Some of the characteristics of light are that it is a form of energy produced by luminous objects, it can travel through vacuum, it can penetrate through transparent materials but cannot pass through opaque objects, light travels in a straight line in an optically homogeneous medium, it bounces back when made to fall on polished surfaces such as mirrors or metal surfaces, light takes the path of least time in passing from one point to the other and it appears to have a dual nature. So what does this offer us for the year 2015?

1. The duality in the singleness of God and the duality in the singleness of light- even though we are two, we are one. There is no white light but light which is a blend of various colours. It was only in the 17th century that Sir Isaac Newton showed that white light is made of different colours of light. At the beginning of the 20th century, Max Planck and later Albert Einstein proposed that light was a wave as well as a particle, which was a very controversial theory at the time. How can light be two completely different things at the same time? Experimentation later confirmed this duality in the nature of light. In the new year we must realise that one should not jump into clichés of branding people and communities as good or bad and instead understand that there is a strand which links all of us together. Together we become bearers of the light of God. Any difference is brought together for the light to shine and become useful for many. This single approach even in the face of differences brings about a calling which asks for giving credit to many people for the single achievements that come out in our lives.

2. Spirituotonics and photonics- identifying the essence of God and the essence of light and how it can be used for the good of humanity is indeed a great work we can do in 2015. Photonics is the science of light. It is the technology of generating, controlling, and detecting light waves and photons, which are particles of light. The characteristics of the waves and photons can be used to explore the universe, cure diseases, and even to solve crimes. Scientists have been studying light for hundreds of years. The colours of the rainbow are only a small part of the entire light wave range, called the electromagnetic spectrum. Photonics explores a wider variety of wavelengths, from gamma rays to radio, including X-rays, UV and infrared light. Photonics generates, controls and detects light waves and photons. Similarily spirituotonics should bring about an urge in us to identify the complex yet assuring power of spirituality and what it can offer to people.

Even if we cannot see the entire electromagnetic spectrum, visible and invisible light waves are a part of our everyday life. Photonics is everywhere; in consumer electronics (barcode scanners, DVD players, remote TV control), telecommunications (internet), health (eye surgery, medical instruments), manufacturing industry (laser cutting and machining), defense and security (infrared camera, remote sensing), entertainment (holography, laser shows), etc. Spirituotonics is also everywhere. It resonates in different spheres and offers various kinds of solace to people even though they are sometimes unaware of it. Understanding spirituotonics is like understanding photonics. It is to understand that we are intrinsically linked to God in some way or the other in everything that we do.

3. Churchsynthesis and photosynthesis- Photosynthesis is converting the energy from the sun into chemical energy which becomes plant protein. We should be able to identify and convert the energy from God into the energy for the people. The process that converts energy in sunlight to chemical energy used by green plants and other organisms is called photosynthesis. Although it is performed differently by different species, the process always begins when energy from light is absorbed by proteins called reaction centers that contain green chlorophyll pigments. A seemingly simple process, photosynthesis is actually quite complex and is the basis by which we grow all of our food and produce important resources such as fossil fuels.

Churchsynthesis should allow people to feed on the vast energy of God available in the church through Christ, Mother Mary and the numerous saints. This should be an equitable, sustainable and just process which is made available for all.
Let’s make 2015 a special year. This can only be done through a concerted and sustained effort by the church and people through the ever shining presence of God. Let us work together, identify God’s presence in our lives and synthesise the energy freely available from God to energy that will feed the poor, heal the sick and sustain the earth. Amen.

(Excerpts from a sermon preached in St. Ignatius Church, K.R. Puram, Bangalore on 1-1-2015)

Picture courtesy