Monday, June 15, 2015

Blood is thicker than water

John 6:35-46
Jesus declares “I am the bread of life. Those who come to me will never hunger and those who believe in me will never thirst.” The intrinsic nature of Holy Communion should lead us to figure out that communion will not and cannot stop after the church service but is followed by creative action and engagement outside the church, in our own respective spheres of work and involvement. Poverty is a big problem in India and despite the effort to showcase India as a super power not much is being done to alleviate poverty in the Indian context. What can Christians offer in such a scenario?

Firstly, consider others as your own family. We do not help others because we simply do not feel anything for others. We do not feel anything for others because we are not in relationship with them. In a retreat two weeks ago a Catholic priest recollected his journey with Mother Teresa in Bangalore. She asked him to stop the car they were travelling in and gives her sandwich which she got from the plane, to the person asking for food and money on the street. Perhaps Mother Teresa saw what any of us usually do not see and that is to consider the other as family. This is easier said than done. But how do we consider others as family?

Last week the owner of a major South Indian conglomerate called for a press conference and declared that he had severed all ties with his adopted son. He was no more his son declared the father. The reason was that his son had fallen out of favour with him because he had taken over the empire built by his father and starting relieving his father’s helpers. His father then felt that his bond with his staff was more than the bond developed with his adopted son. He also went on to say that blood is thicker than anything else.

This then brings us to the next point of exploration. How can we help others when we simply can’t see them as family? Jesus’ declaration that he is the bread of life and that if we partake of him we will never hunger and thirst brings us close to the truth that if we can come into communion with each other, the blood will bind us together. Family is not just natural family but family built by this communion of trust and respect. When Jesus asks us to be in communion with him it is also to be in communion with each other. Holy Communion should lead to the alleviation of poverty because we should be encouraged to take steps to help our own extended family members, our own flesh and blood.

The beginning of this should be in one’s own church. Showing love and caring for others can take place only if we can trust one another. It can take place only if we bring the trust to the level of participating in each other’s lives. Many people come to church to experience the love of God and the strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit through the life and acts of Jesus. Showing love and caring for all people who come to church from whichever background is a way of being in communion with them through the strengthening and life giving communion we have received in church.

How far can we take this and how thick is the blood of our relationship? There was a street dog which used to live in our part of the city two years ago. The dog was familiar to me because I used to feed him bones every once in a while. He disappeared all of a sudden and I didn’t see him anymore. Last week I was in another part of the city buying some food. While I was waiting and talking to a friend, I realized that a dog was coming close to me. He started wagging his tail and then let out a howl in greeting. I realized that this was the dog who I thought I would never see again. One has to realize that relationships are forged in different ways and with different species of God’s creation. Feed each other, be in communion and bring about a bond which is thicker than blood and this will never go away.

This then becomes the deeper meaning of the Eucharist. It is a sharing that teaches us to share whatever we have with whoever we come across. It simply does not end and this becomes a part of our lives. It is indeed right when Jesus says, whoever will come to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst. Amen.

(Excerpts of two sermons preached in the St. Ignatius JSO Church, K.R. Puram, Bangalore and the St. John's English Chapel, Lingarajapuram, Bangalore.)

Picture courtesy

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Christianity- The panacea to the ills of the modern world.

Respected fathers, judges, elders, parents and dear friends,
The topic Christianity- The Panacea to the ills of the modern world is apt for our lives. Every government in the world today is on the lookout for vaccines and medicines against various kinds of viruses and diseases. Things are getting out of control. This is when we need to go back to our scripture and traditions which offer the remedy for all the ills that plague the world today.

There are three things which human beings are afraid about. They are the death of God’s creation, the death of the human body and the death of the human character. Natural calamities have destroyed the world as we know it and have wiped out entire places from the face of the earth. People are dying of diseases which were unheard of and human beings are becoming morally weak. In the book of Genesis 9:11 God promises Noah and his sons “I promise every living creature that the earth and those living on it will never again be destroyed by a flood.” God demands faithfulness from Noah and his sons and in return promises God’s faithfulness to all of God’s creation. St. Augustine calls this God’s way of telling God’s people that God will take care of them if they listen to God’s commandments.

Humans all over the world are afraid of death and of the separation that it brings. We are trying our best to overcome death by making better vaccines and medicines. But viruses like the Ebola virus has shown us that one virus can wipe out an entire population. But Christianity does not stop with the body of a person but reminds every one of the soul and the importance of the soul. Jesus tells Martha in St.John 11:25 "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” The beauty of Jesus’ promise goes beyond the limitation of death and offers an everlasting solution to all who believe in him. Jesus assures us in St. Matthew 6:25-27 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Jesus further says in St. Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” St. Ephraim says “Blessed is he who has in the Lord become completely free of all earthly things in this troublesome life, and who has loved the good and merciful God.”

Christianity believes strongly in the morality and strong character of a person. The world that we live in has seen an increase in crimes against women and children. One reason for this is the lack of a moral code of ethic which teaches people that taking life and practicing violence is against our religion and conscience. Jesus Christ reminds us in St. Matthew 5:27-28 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery” but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” This strong moral ethic that Jesus preaches prevents a Christian from doing wrong against another human being. If one is a strong Christian, one will be a good human being. Jesus’ code of ethics is a model for us to follow to become good people.

To conclude let me say that Christianity is a strong belief in God and a strong code of ethic which when followed to the letter and spirit of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ will offer us the ultimate panacea to the ills of the modern world. May we as youngsters and elders with the strong intercession of St. Mary and all the blessed saints apply prayer as medicine to our souls and offer ourselves as servants of God to dispel darkness and do away with the ills of the modern world. Amen.

(Can be used for speech/elocution competition in church.)