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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Life or Death but Health is Wealth

Photo by the author

Recently, I stumbled upon in my notebook what I wrote  while I was discerning whether I should go for a major operation or not in 2018. I was extremely uncertain then what the future was going to hold for me. After almost two years I see the relevance in what I jotted down just out of my curiosity. 

Readiness for a life of self-encouragement

"Be ready always for a good death" is a common phrase that you would hear from devout people while growing up. But I never heard how well you should be prepared when long, chronic illness sets in you at your young and prime age. More and more I try to grasp at the mystery of life and death, I’m compelled to think more about our life here on earth. Life is precious and our time on this universe is certainly short. However this shortness should never allow me to live a life unhappiness and burdensome, instead our life should be blossoming, energetic, positive, fascinating and full of passion. Even though chronic illnesses or other health issues creep into our mortal body, but we should never give up our passion for a fruitful and enjoyable life. Whether we like it or not we are living in a digital world in which individualism is going to stay and grow. Each one would be looking for self reliance, self sufficiency and self satisfaction either in good health or in bad. 

Be ready and prepare yourself

Since the chronic disease of ulcerative colitis hit me a few years ago, I have been struggling to make sense of it. A question that keeps on coming to my mind is that how long I should be in this state of drudgery, hopelessness and dryness, however I’m also passionate of living with the condition that my mortal body has to live with. I see that external things are very essential to live our life fully content. Often people prepare for old age, retired life but not for a life of sudden physical suffering caused by chronic illness or accident. I would say that this part is very essential to keep in mind that any moment of our life we could be helpless physically and we need help from others including to move our body. 

My experience in religious life has shown that a good number of priests and nuns suffer from some sort of helplessness and depression having not learnt how to make life interesting in their senior years or when the chronic like illnesses strike them at a younger age. You become what you contemplate! If you think that you are useless, unprofitable after your retirement you would begin to show the signs of old age and that you don't like to do anything. Therefore, we need to prepare for future eventualities with simple things. For example when you are terribly sick or bed ridden either because your limb is broken or chronic illness has hit you, you cannot use your formal clothes but you need something conducive to wear and be comfortable on your bed and in your room. When you are terribly sick you will be spending your time either in your room or in the house/apartment. 

Interestingly, St Ignatius of Loyola was very particular about the kind of domicile that the Jesuits would have. For him, in a residence Jesuit would pray, carry out his mission and as well rest. Here is what the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus speaks about:  "Keeping in mind apostolic poverty and our witness to those among whom we must live, our houses should be made suitable for apostolic work, study, prayer, relaxation of mind, and a friendly spirit, so that our members will feel at home in their own house and so more efficaciously carry on our apostolic mission (No. 327 §1). That means, the British would say, "Englishman's home is his castle". 

Moving an inch closer everyday to our final destiny

Every human being that is born in this world after one's youth years are passed gets embroiled with either one sickness or other ailment. Many build their houses and furnish apartments only for healthy men and women. Every day is a day closer to our graves and here in our context, everyday we are getting closer to our old age. That means you should have your domicile conducive for your living. A clean, neat, well furnished apartment or house with all the facilities at your disposal will serve a lot in making your life hassle free when physical abilities begin to diminish.

When sickness in your body is dancing, reading a book is a terrible nightmare, instead you might like to listen some classical and soothing music. So you might like to have a collection of such soothing music to your ears with all the facilities related to it. Music heals say many. You might like to do some painting in order to kill the time and boredom that is at your disposal at plenty. You might like to get back to your childhood hobbies like reading story books, novels, etc. Get all those things  to read or do some painting in your home. You might also like to play some music; get hold of synthesisers or musical instruments which come handy, easy to learn and play. This might bring some relief in your new situation to kill time and utilise time more creatively and profitably.

We have spent almost six months now either state or person imposed lockdown at the wake of Corona outbreak. Probably we will be spending some more time in this marooned situation until Corona vanishes away from our sight. This home arrest has taught us how important space in our homes and communities is. Our domicile has to be liveable for a happy and comfortable life. That means we need to have things which are very important to make our life possible. We need to be wise enough to understand the necessity of making our domiciles conducive and hospitable for ourselves first. 

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

23 September 2020

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Abounding God's Compassion vs Littleness of Human Thinking

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Readings: Isaiah 55:6–9Psalm 145:2–3, 8–9, 17–18Philippians 1:20–24, 27Matthew 20:1–16

Photo by the author

The scriptural readings for this Sunday invite us to look at God with fresh eyes. Undoubtedly, the readings are challenging. They encourage us to put ourselves in the shoes of God. In other words, the readings urge us to think differently than what we usually do, so that, we may submit ourselves totally to the call of God. Thus, we might be able to transcend the human boundaries which often derail us to come closer to God and encounter Him in Word and deed.   

Wanting to do more for Christ

Let's begin with St Paul's letter to the Philippians where he speaks about life and death, spirit and flesh, joy and happiness. St Paul writes this beautiful epistle which is called "Paul's joy letter" from a prison in Rome. Naturally, the topic seems to be very dear to the Apostle of the Gentiles that is "life in Christ". In a life dedicated totally to serving Christ, Paul had faced everything from good to worst. The burning flame to serve Christ our Lord does not diminish even a minute of life. His words are astounding, "I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body" (Phil 1: 23-24). Paul still wants to strengthen his people in faith, wants to get back to the Philippians. He feels that there is still more he can do for his dear people of Philippi, a Macedonian city. For Paul, being alive in physical body is very important in preaching the Good News of our Lord. The Apostle does not feel that he is old, imprisoned, chastised, and without hope. However, he trusted Christ to work it out for his deliverance. There is an incredible, inextinguishable  hope in him that he would be back to his dear people. The close affinity that he has does not allow him to say goodbye to his people in spite of being certain that his death is imminent and which is going to be bloody in Rome. 

Clarity on the purpose of living

Paul is a symbol of hope for all the missionaries and who face hurdles in life even to the point where they cannot be with their dear one's. When you do God's work let even the worst may arrive, you are certain that God is with you in the form of hope and love. To those who don't believe in God, life on earth is all there is and so it is natural for them to strive for this world's values - money, popularity, power, pleasure and prestige. However, for Paul to live is, to live for Christ, to strive for eternal values. In other words, for Paul, the whole purpose of life is to proclaim Christ boldly  and to become more like him. Paul had a purpose for living when he served the Philippians and others. We also need a purpose for living that goes beyond providing for our own physical needs. What is your purpose of living?

A call to submit ourselves to God

It's astonishingly difficult to understand God with our human framework of mind. Prophet Isaiah is telling us to "call upon the Lord while he is near" (Is 55:6, Ps 145: 18). God is always near to us but often we find He is far away. God does not loose track of us instead we loose track of Him. Moreover, God does not move away from us, but we often move afar from Him or erect a barrier between ourselves and Him. Prophet is admonishing us not to be drifted away from God because once that happens it would be difficult to come back to Him. In our life this is what repeatedly happens. Very often, we loose sight of God and then we say God has abandoned us, forsaken us.  We question ourselves “why am I suffering so much when others have it easier”? Where is our God in this tragedy, in this sickness, in this terrible medical report,  in this merciless job loss, in this death of our loved one, in this unending pandemic? Our list goes on. But we can trust in his beautiful yet bold words of the Prophet: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord" (Is 55:8). God is there for us but let's not forget to call him and keep in touch with him daily and regularly. Should we not then put these words of the Psalmist into our mind and in our heart? "The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made" (Psalm 145: 9). We should rejoice that God has compassion on all whom He has created. This should console us, too, especially if we have loved ones who remain far from the Lord.

No one is excluded from God's generousity

God's justice is different. His generosity is immense. God's mercy is surmountable. The parable of the workers paid equally of Jesus clearly demonstrates that anyone who responds to God's call are equal in every way (Matt 20:1-16). Jesus clarifies the membership rules of the kingdom of heaven is open to all and entrance is by God's grace alone. Everyone is included in God's justice even those late comers, those who did not belong to the originally called, or those who are possessed a heritage or favoured position. A critical message of this parable is that we are all equal recipients of God's gifts. If God gives grace to others or relief from pain and challenge, it is kindness to them, and no injustice to us at all. We cannot simply reduce this parable of the landowner's generousity to reward but about salvation. We should be kind to those who turn to God in the last moments of life. It is God who justifies and not we. Each one of us is profoundly, perfectly, loved by God, and variously gifted by God. The variety of the gifts is not a measure of the love we receive, but indicative of the diverse parts we are to play in the building up of God’s kingdom. Do you question or resent God's gracious acceptance of the despised, the outcast, and the sinners who have turned to him for forgiveness? Are you ever jealous of what God has given to another person? Instead, focus on God's gracious benefits to you and be thankful for what you have. In God's thinking there is no littleness instead total overwhelming graciousness, goodness and generousity. It's only we who show our littleness in our thinking by our stubbornness and hardheadedness leading us to despair. God's grace, mercy, and forgiveness are God's to give away as He sees fit. Let's allow God to work in us. 

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

19 September 2020

Friday, September 18, 2020

Listening to Your Body - A Way of Mindfulness

Photo by the author
Listening is an art. Have you ever tried to listen to yourself? Have you listened to your body? Perhaps we do a number of times. That is why we feel the need for rest, medicine and food. Very often we don't listen to our bodies. Our physical body is not that which is out of us. I am also what my physical body is. Our body and soul are one part of a whole. They are very much part of our lives.

Our creator has blessed us with a human body which makes us to exist and have our being. Through our body we do our work, earn our living, showcase the beauty and pray with it. Our mind cannot say to the body I do not want you, get away from me. You are not beautiful, I hate it, etc. What we have as a body we must live with it. 

Prayer exercise of thanking for the body parts
There is a beautiful exercise which helps to pray to God. You sit for prayer and meditatively begin to recall each part of the body beginning from the toe to the head. You name each part of the day including internal organs which you don't see and thank God for giving that particular part of your body. Recall the things that body part can do for you. What it would have been if you did not have that body part. While thanking God feel blessed now because you are able to do such and such a thing. This prayer exercise makes us to thank God for the preciousness and irreplaceability of each part of the body.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Fr Vijay Kumar Prabhu - A Jesuit with a Large Heart and Deep Human Spirit

Fr Vijay Prabhu, SJ in a recent photo at FRH
There are many people who come into your life but very few leave behind indelible mark. This is because they have been exceptionally kind, gentle and generous towards you. You do not want such people to go away from this life so early. Because they are simply good. This is the case with Fr Vijay Prabhu (1940-2020) who left us today for eternity on this day of the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (15th September).
I
A gentle and generous leader
Fr Vijay was blessed with a tremendous capacity to be gentle and generous leader. He was exceptionally gifted with a unique capacity to be gentle with the Jesuits and others under his care. He touched many people with warmth and affection. Wit, humour, and wisdom would flow naturally in his conversations. Perhaps that must be the reason why everybody wanted him to be the superior or rector of their communities. Since his return to the province after serving as professor of philosophy and principal of our Jesuit Philosophate Satyanilayam in Chennai he took up responsibilities of greater importance of governance in the Society of Jesus. He never looked for positions in the Society instead they came in search of him. He was the Superior of Vidyaniketan, Dharwad, rector of Mount Saint Joseph, Bangalore, St Aloysius College, Mangalore, St Joseph's College Bangalore, Karnataka Jesuit Province Coordinator of Formation (PCF), Provincial of Jesuits of Karnataka and so forth. This shows the amiability and warm-heartedness of Fr Vijay. I believe that no Jesuit either young or senior felt inhibition or unease to speak to him when Fr Vijay held the position of governance in the institution. As a young Jesuit in 1990's I had a great hesitation either to visit or stay in some of our major houses with attached institutions as it contained persons who should be called pezzo grosso (big shots) who gave an impression that these houses are meant only for professed Fathers. Once Fr Vijay became the PCF and rector of Mount St Joseph things began to change rapidly. All the young Jesuits in formation found an abode in Mount St Joseph because of Fr Vijay's hospitality and kind welcome. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

In Forgiveness there is no Maths

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Readings: Sirach 27:30–28:7; Psalm 103:1–4, 9–12; Romans 14:7–9; Matthew 18:21–35
Enmity bothers us. Hatred destroys us. Forgiveness liberates us. As many of us would be spending this Sunday in our homes and communities, our liberator Jesus invites us to be free, free from hatred, enmity, anger, hostility, animosity, revenge, resentment, jealousy, repugnance, arrogance, scorn and so forth and become persons of forgiveness, meekness and kindness.  As we get stuck in our houses and communities continuously without having much recourse to other activities with the outside world due to this never ending pandemic, many of us must be feeling of boredom, resentment and frustration. During this time we would be feeling psychologically the tension building within us. The inability to go for confessions, spiritual direction, Holy Mass or just have friendly chat with a person whom we know and love must be giving way to mental strain thus increasing within us rueful tension. We may not be noticing such elements but certainly others must be watching over you.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Health Remedies: Aloe Vera and Gastrointestinal Problems

Aloe vera plants
The book of Sirach of the Old Testament writes, "God makes the earth yield healing herbs which the prudent man should not neglect" (Sirach 38:4).  God created everything for our good. Even though His Divine Majesty made us "little less than God" and yet He has "crowned man and woman with glory and honor" says very beautifully Psalm №. 8. Therefore, God has provided us life tools to stay healthy, vibrant and realise our full human potential. You become what you eat! When food is consumed according to our personal physiological needs acts like a medicine balancing our metabolism and promoting vitality. Unfortunately, our bodies grow weaker and vulnerable as years are added to our age or age is added to our years! Our human machine gets old without much to our notice. Therefore time to time we need to do the servicing. In this context, I would like to share something I have been experimenting with myself.

In my previous post, I wrote on Kashaya in Times of Corona. One idea leads the other. Readiness to the new horizon opens up to fresh possibilities and brings us vital knowledge. Many suggested to me that the juice of Aloe vera is beneficial to fix the gastro-intestinal problems and helps in treating cancer. Many thought that I am suffering from cancer even though I was not. Often people don't ask the patient what s/he is suffering from. The genuine concern and interest of people should be appreciated but not always. People visit the patient with presumptions and advice a number of medicines or names of doctors and hospitals without ever having taken those medicines or seen that doctor or hospital. I have a blogpost that I wrote quite a while ago on A Few Titbits While Dealing With a UC or Cancer Patient.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Take the Initiative and You will Win

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20
As I sit down to write these few thoughts, I am very much aware of the significance of this day i.e., 05th of September. Firstly, today, India marks the Teacher's Day - a day to recognise and appreciate the work our teachers do. Before we could become teachers to others we have been schooled or groomed under teachers. The trade of teaching is learnt from others. Secondly, the Catholic Church remembers in its liturgy today Mother Theresa of Kolkotta, now a Saint. Mother Theresa an energetic and active Albanian lady made India her home and travelled length and breath of India and the world in teaching us what it means to love the last, lost and the least; and what it means to spread the fragrance of Good News that Jesus taught 2000 years ago.

Pursuit of Truth will push you to the Corner
On this opportune day, the readings that we have for the Sunday liturgy are apt and appropriate for our meditation and reflections. Prophet Ezekiel, Apostle Paul and Jesus the Son of God invite us to listen to what they are saying. We live in the endless games of ridicule, exclusion and mockery, because of our views or opinions. In our pursuit of truth we can be people of outside, as a consequence of our opinions on matters of faith, morals, values, etc, because they differ from others.  In this context, we might like to read the Prophet Ezekiel, or Paul or Jesus.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Identity is for the Greater Glory of God

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - Readings: Isaiah 22:15, 19–23; Psalm 138:1–3, 6, 8; Romans 11:33–36;  Matthew 16:13–20
Christ Handing the keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino
Know thyself 
As I write these few lines taking the readings of this Sunday, I am in the midst of teaching a course on theology. I am dealing with the development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I imagine how the whole world is enveloped by the grace of this Spirit. The Spirit speaks and in fact speaks boldly. This is what made Simon Peter to say with such courage and determination, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” when Jesus asked his disciples “But who do you say that I am?”  (Matthew 16:15-16).

Why did Jesus ask this particular question to his disciples? What did he expect from them? Identity is very crucial in our world. Who are you in this world, in your congregation, in your company, in your institution, in your neighbourhood, in your village, town, city, state, country, etc., determines your place not just in this secular world, but even in the religious world? Your identity matters. Identity gives life and a purpose to live. A good identity is must and a norm.