Saturday, December 26, 2020

God is Our True Home and Family

The Feast of The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph - 26 December 2020

Readings:  Eccl. 3:2-6,12-14Psalm 128:1–2, 3, 4–5Col 3:12-21; Lk 2:22-40


I. Early signs determine the future

Simeon, the man of God, who was a righteous and devout man prophesized about the baby Jesus: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel” (Lk 2:34). In the same temple there was also a prophetess, Anna, who was eighty-four years old, also knew who this baby Jesus going to be. It is very essential to note right here that the role of the prophet was not assigned only to men but also to women. I have seen often the neighbours or relatives who come to see the new baby express their feelings towards the lowly child with joy. They say the child looks like its mother or father; it has beautiful eyes, nice cheeks and so on. I have also heard people say about the child and what it may become; just like its father or mother or someone else. In a similar way, both Simeon and Anna incidentally prophesize about this newborn child in a temple in Bethlehem.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas - God's Loving Intervention in the Ordinary

Christmas 2020


I. God intervenes in difficult times
"Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!"

As we sing this beautiful popular Christmas hymn on this day, we must raise our hearts and minds in praising the Lord for this wonderful feast that we celebrate, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. This feast which is so familiar and so dear to us in this special year of suffering should not dampen our hearts and spirits in rejoicing. Because Jesus came into this world when things were not so good to the Israelites. People lived under Roman rule, social and religious problems made the life of ordinary people difficult and dangerous. Those who were haves had too much and those who had too little survived with minimum things. Perhaps we are living in such precarious conditions today as we celebrate this Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Advent - A Sign of Finding God's Favour

Fourth Sunday of Advent - 20 December 2020

Readings 2 Samuel 7:1–5, 8–11, 16; Psalm 89:2–5, 27, 29; Romans 16:25–27; Luke 1:26–38

I. God is full of favours who fills us

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God" (Luke 1:30). Perhaps we would like to hear again and again these beautiful words of angel Gabriel addressed to a young virgin of Nazareth. They are so much comforting, soothing, fulfilling, encouraging and energising. We need these words as we end this calendar year with so much anxiety and uncertainty. For our good fortune, we have tremendously encouraging words on this Fourth Sunday of Advent. As we inch closer to celebrate the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, certainly God has something very concrete to say to us. Our God is full of hope and courage. In Him and through Him we can do anything to find a future of certainty and unambiguity. God in our midst is like a rock; for He is our salvation and strength. “Rejoice, you who enjoy God’s favour! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28) must ring in our ears as we put our trust in Him. Perhaps with the things of this world, we can get caught up in the busyness of our lives, or so overwhelmed by all that is going on around us. As a result sometimes it can be so hard to find joy or recognise God's favour. It is easy to feel like we have been abandoned. We can question where God is in the world today. Therefore, sometimes we need to stop, and take the time to look around, we can spot the little things that remind us that God is with us  and filling our empty selves with so many favours too.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Advent: Being a Joyful Witness of the Gospel

Third Sunday of Advent - 13 December 2020

Readings: Isaiah 61:1–2, 10–11; Luke 1:46–50, 53–54; 1 Thessalonians 5:16–24; John 1:6–8, 19–28

(The Apparition of Christ to the People [1837-57], a photo by Gandalf's Gallery)


I. A time to rejoice in the half-way of Advent

We are in the middle of the Season of Advent. The liturgy of this Sunday invites us to rejoice. Therefore, the third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called the Gaudete Sunday. In Latin, Gaudete means "to rejoice." Just like Lent, Advent is also a time to practice some sort of mortification and penance. Even though this kind of penitential elements might not be practised in Latin Rite Catholic Church but is very much prevalent in Byzantine Rite Churches (in Slavic countries like Russia, Ukraine, etc.) where people abstain from taking meat and other diary products. In the midst of such a dry and penitential atmosphere Gaudete Sunday or the Rejoice Sunday brings a little reprieve, a note of anticipated delight in the mid-way of Advent. Hence, the readings of this Sunday brighten us up especially Prophet Isaiah and St Paul amply describe the theme of joy in a very vibrant way asking people to rejoice because "God has clothed us with garments of salvation" (Is 61:2). We can rejoice because our Messiah did come.  God kept – and continues to keep – promises.  Rejoice!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Saint Francis Xavier - A Frontier Apostle of Christ to Asia

(The Vision of St. Francis Xavier, by Giovanni Battista Gaulli)

On the 03rd of December every year, the Catholic Church commemorates the memory of Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552), one of the most illustrious missionaries of the second millennium. No sea was dangerous for him, no nationalities were foreign to him, no language was a barrier for him, in fact, Jesus Christ was his compass, boats were his vehicles which carried him from Rome to Lisbon to Goa - India, to Moluccas - Indonesia, to Yamaguchi -Japan and finally to Sancian - China. All this Xavier did in the 16th century, that too, in just 11 years from 1541 to1552.  In his 10 years of life in Asia as the first Jesuit provincial of Goa he did the unimaginable work by planting the seeds of Christianity in so many parts.  Here is a short description on his life and work.  

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Advent - Waiting with Renewed Vigour for the Lord to Come

First Sunday of Advent - 29 November 2020

Readings: Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

 (Image courtesy: Jean Marc Arkelian)

Our Creator Shepherds us

It is Advent. We sing ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel.’ Today, the first Sunday of Advent, marks the beginning of the Church’s annual cycle of prayer. With this we start the countdown to Christmas. On this day we undertake our liturgical journey towards Bethlehem where Christ was born 2000 years ago. It's the time to prepare to celebrate Christ's birth. When we prepare something for the future, we await with hope and expectation and here, it is for the Christ who is to come. God visits us in the person of Jesus Christ. “Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down,” the prophet Isaiah (64:1) exults in today’s First Reading. God is looking down upon the humanity from the heavens because He has heard the anguished voice of Israel. Therefore God is coming down to us, to our level to save and shepherd His people. 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Christ the King - the King of Our Hearts

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (22 November 2020)

Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalm 23:1-2, 2-3, 5, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46


Icon of Christ the King - Pantokrator- in Eastern Churches means Christ the Almighty 

My Audio Homily

Jesus: A king with a difference

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. The kingship of Christ. Today's feast is a unique one. The Church titles it "Christ the King." Was Jesus really a King? Can we title Jesus as king of the universe?  Even though we may have reservations regarding the use of the tittle "King" in our ordinary langauge because we have done away with the kings in our countries, we must understand Christ the King from a different perspective. However, Christ as king is not embroiled with the connotations of power, force, violence, dominion, domination, despotism, pomp, throne, and so on. King is not a title Jesus liked very much; todays's Gospel suggests strongly that he would rather dispense with it.  When Pilate asks Jesus, "are you the king of Jews?" the answer perplexed Pilate and expected an answer "no". But Jesus did claim absolute authority before sending his disciples on a mission: "All authority [absolute power] in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Mt 28:18). And Paul told the Christians of Corinth that at the end of time Christ will "deliver the kingdom to God the Father...For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet... For God has put all things in subjection under his feet" (1 Cor 15: 24-27). 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Never Tired to be Attentive and Vigilant to Carry God with Us

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - 08 November 2020

Readings - Wisdom 6:12–16; Psalm 63:2–8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17; Matthew 25:1–13 


 (Image courtesy: Jean Marc Arkelian)
Hear my reflections - Audio



I
From nothingness to worth of life

Even though, we started this month of November by remembering all the Saints in heaven our focus has been, however, praying for those who died in our families, communities and our friends' circle. We not only prayed for them but also recommended our God to show mercy upon them through Mass intentions, prayers and devotions which the Church encourages. This has made us to pause for a moment and think about the mystery of our life. More than the mystery of life, death seems to be affecting us very deeply. Death never leaves anyone. In our earthly pilgrimage called life, we carry death on our back. The very word "death" brings shiver down our spine. Often it is very difficult to get over this notion of death from our minds. You may study so well, possess all the possible knowledge of this world, might have read thousands of books and articles, built so many buildings, earned tons of money but when death strikes you what remains here is just a lifeless body, that too just for a short period. In this context, the readings of this Sunday put us in a better perspective and look at life with its worth than its nothingness.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Called to be Holy and Blessed

Solemnity of All Saints: Readings - Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

                  Court of Heaven by Fra Angelico
                 
 
                       Just my audio homily here

                  Click for Mass and Homily - Video

Sharers of His Divine Inheritance

We are beginning the month of November by honouring all the saints of the Church. It's a day to recall that the Church is blessed with holy men and women, children and adults. In other words, these holy people are part of God who have lived a life in this world; a world full of messiness and complexities. They have struggled to live their life in truth, justice and peace. Finally they have found true peace and joy in the Lord.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Being Kind to Your Neighbour and to the Least

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Readings - Exodus 22:20–26; Psalm 18:2–4, 47, 51; 1 Thessalonians 1:5–10; Matthew 22:34–40

(Image courtesy: Creative Commons)

Our works of mercy and kindness must be the rule book

"Love ought to show itself in deeds rather than in words." These words of St Ignatius of Loyola in the book Spiritual Exercises No. 230 summarize this Sunday's readings. The word "Love" has a phenomenal meaning and connotations. In fact it finds its fullest expression only when we demonstrate in our deeds. Both Yahweh in the book of Exodus and Jesus in Mathew's gospel compel us how to practice that love. Our book of life must be summarised by our actions of love, in other words, my very existence must be expressed in works of mercy, charity, compassion and emptying myself to the other. Each one of us do these works of kindness, however, the readings encourage us to do more and put ourselves wholeheartedly in doing such things. Even though the 613 commands that are found in the first five books of the Old Testament (Torah) which help us to live our lives according to God's design still we need something more to make them complete, that is "love of God and love of our neighbour". Our love for our neighbour must express itself in concrete actions, such as those set out in today’s First Reading - Exodus 22:20–26. It means that our lives also should focus on the needs of the others.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Bearer of God's Image versus Caesar's Image

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Readings - Isaiah 45:1,4–6; Psalm 96:1,3–5, 7–10; 1 Thessalonians 1:1–5; Matthew 22:15–21

(Image courtesy: Jean Marc Arkelian)

Courage of Holy Martyrs must strengthen us

The 29th Sunday of the year which falls on the 18th October gives us a very challenging message with the feasts of martyr saints falling before and after as a symbol for a different interpretation. Because on the 17th October, the Church celebrates the feast of  St Ignatius of Antioch ((-107), one of the earliest Holy Martyrs of the Church. He is remembered greatly for his astonishing but bold words that he spoke at his martyrdom which took place in the Circus Maximus in Rome by the lions: "I am the wheat of the Lord; may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ."  On the 19th of October the Church commemorates the memory of  the martyrdom of saints John de Brebeuf, Issac Jogues and companions.  The boldness of these saints to give life for Christ at such gruesome, cruel death is truly staggering. For example, St Issac Jogues (1607-1646), a French Jesuit, even though on a earlier occasion he was peeled of skin of his body and mutilated his fingers, once again returned to the mission territory of Huron and Iroquois tribes to work and for the second time he was peeled of his skin and killed. Looking at his courage, his killers (Mohawks) seems to have eaten up his heart because it resembled such an amazing courage. Jogues words speak about his impeccable endurance to follow the Crucified Christ: "My heart tells me that if I have the happiness of being employed in this mission, Ibo et non redibo [I shall go never to return]; but I shall be happy if our Lord will complete the sacrifice where he has begun it, and make the little blood I have shed in that land the pledge of what I would give from every vein of my body and my heart."  One of the most fascinating hagiographical (holy life) accounts that I have ever read and captivated my imagination of boldness of a missionary priest is that of a martyr saint that is of St Issac Jogues. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

God of Faith and God of Science

(Image courtesy: Jean Marc Arkelian)
Discoveries and inventions are very little in front of the immensity of knowing God

What Christian Scriptures want to say to us is that God is present everywhere and powerfully present in the working of this immense universe. I suppose we are conditioned by God's omnipresence and omnipotence in the affairs of this world. When this Corona is threatening us at our door steps, we are made aware that all our learnings and scientific discoveries in the medical field are so small, so little and so tiny. It's like a drop in the ocean. That means in order to draw strength, we should begin to think about the immensity and knowledge that is in God and kneel down and just begin to contemplate this unutterable mystery that we call God. All our discoveries and inventions have no effect or meaning at all at the face of our littleness and shallowness. The more we know our fragility, smallness, emptiness, vagueness, in fact about our life itself, we see the immensity, greatness and vastness of God. In other words, we are putting constraints around ourselves in knowing our God.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Courageously Joyful in Chasing the Dreams of Jesus

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Readings - Isaiah 25:6–10; Psalm 23:1–6; Philippians 4:12–14, 19–20; Matthew 22:1–14

Image courtesy: Creative Commons

I

Every call is holy, just and considered

"For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). These words of Jesus must wake us up. Am I one of those who are called? Am I the chosen out of "many"? We often see this dichotomy of many and few. Why is that God does not choose all of them who are called? Many wrongly understand these words of our Saviour.  Often people believe that only a few are called to be priests or nuns or consecrated people. By our Baptism God has called and chosen everyone and left no one. Perhaps only a few make a real commitment to the call Jesus mentions about. Every call is holy, just and considered whether it is to form a family, remain single or be consecrated. Our call is to do the will of God. 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

God's Omnipotence and Motherly Protection Versus Corona's Omnipresence

(Image courtesy: Jean Marc Arkelian)

I

Fear of Covid and Faith in God

The intense fear of Covid and deep faith in God seem to be keeping our life going in these days of so much uncertainty. The unexpected arrival of the Corona virus into our country, state, and place of our inhabitation has made the omnipresence of this nasty infectious virus more than tolerable. A good number of seniors and those who could not tolerate the onslaught of Covid 19 have left this world to eternity. 

Corona virus has left no one untouched, from a pious lay person to a ferocious politician, from a simple beggar to a holy priest corona has played its game and won it. Those who are still around might be thinking when will this corona affect and take them as a victim. Others might be thinking what this nonsense of corona lockdown is, and in number of countries this laxity in people's behaviour has led to increase a sudden surge of corona infections. Many have downplayed the enormous health hazards this virus brings and succumbed to this killer bug as if a punishment to their pride and arrogance. Moreover, during this time, we must have lost count of the days, weeks and months. We are already in the eighth month since the Corona virus started to make news in India. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Taking Care of God's Vineyard and My Responsibility

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Readings - Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43

I

Listening to the Master

In short, the Sunday readings bring home a very important idea that is taking care of God's vineyard. This Old Testament symbol "vineyard" tells about Israel (Isaiah 5:1-7), the Church and the Kingdom of God. Ultimately, God is the planter or the owner of this vineyard and we are just tenants or workers in the vineyard. Vineyard gives job to people, grapes to eat, beauty to eyes and wine to drink. In other words, vineyard gives security and solace to the one who does his or her job well. Unless and until we get back to the plan that God has for us, we would be remaining idle in the vineyard. Someone said, "an idle mind is a devil's workshop". Therefore, our job is just doing the job the owner has called us to do and not undoing what God intended for us. Jesus wants us to listen to him, listen to the owner of the vineyard who may appear in different persons. 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Christian Media and Solidarity: Where are we now?

Recently, I have turned my attention to reading a number of Catholic journals published in India. We do get a good number of journals in our Jesuit Provincialate. I read through recently published - Vidyajyothi Journal of Theological Reflection, Jeevadhara, The New Leader, Jivan, Indian Currents, In Christo, Salaam, Word & Worship, Kristu Jyoti, Asian Horizons, Prabodhana, Journal of Indian Theology, Magnet, Ignis, etc. I was pleasantly surprised by their content. All these journals do deal with Covid 19 and  its repercussions. Certainly the editors of these journals should be appreciated for their courage and resilience to think about the present day reality and respond to it in their own way. Here are some of the titles of the articles that appeared in the journals. (Due to space constrain, I have restricted only to a few)

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Live Streaming even while Taking over the Provincialship!

Taking over ceremony as Provincial Fr Stany and Fr Dion (L to R)

Corona is making our life really difficult especially in India with its number of infection rates scaling high reaching almost to number one of the global tally.  However, with the technology at our fingertips we can use this challenge as an opportunity. This is what happened on the 26th September 2020 in Bangalore (KAR), India when the change of Provincial took place. P. Stanislaus D'Souza who is now appointed as the Provincial of South Asia (POSA) handed over the charge of Provincial of Karnataka Jesuits to P. Dionysius Vaz. 

As a number of Jesuits of Karnataka were infected with corona and majority of them being members of younger generation, handing over the Provincialship which usually brought together a  seizable number of Jesuits at one place this time was restricted only to a few. However, we thought of uniting the whole Province and our collaborators through a live streaming of the Eucharist and the felicitation program. KAR province has 307 Jesuits with 227 of them below the age of 49. And the median age of the province members is 35 years. Jesuits watched the live streaming either on a big screen at the community level or individually who felt that best suited for them. Many expressed a great satisfaction at the program saying, "we felt as if we were at Loyola Mandir witnessing the event of handing over." Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIz2w6ihR7o&t=170s

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

29th September 2020

Update: 07th October 2020.

The above news is published in four languages, namely, French, Spanish, Italian and English on the website of the global Society of Jesus in Rome - https://www.jesuits.global/ on 07th October 2020 with a title, CREATING UNITY IN KARNATAKA IN TIMES OF COVID. Below are the snap shots.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Follow Your Heart and See with Your Eyes

 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Readings - Ezekiel 18:25–28; Psalm 25:4–9; Philippians 2:1–11; Matthew 21:28–32

Andrey Mironov, 'Parable of the Two Sons'  (https://creativecommons.org)

I

Righteousness flowers when the heart is in the right place

These days, we have been reading from the book of Ecclesiastes. There is a very powerful line which should attract our attention straight away: "Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes" (Ecclesiastes 11:9). These words are ringing very true to us as we hear the readings of this Sunday. All the three writers, Prophet Ezekiel, St Paul and St Matthew bring home the above message very clear. All that matters in this world is to walk in the path of righteousness that God has set before us. In order to do that God has written the laws in our hearts says the Prophet. "And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh" (Ez 11:19). Further the prophet repeats again, "I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).  Another prophet Jeremiah utters these words again to his people, "for this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jeremiah 31:33 & Hebrews 8:10). And St Paul puts it beautifully once again in his letter to the Romans, "so they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts either accusing or defending them" (Romans 2:15).  Perhaps only through this Christ would be successful in His mission and would deliver the humanity from the slavery of sin and satan.  

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. 

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. 

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.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Health Remedies - Kashaya in Times of Corona

Green leaves tea with whole lime pieces and boiling water - Kashaya
We learn from mistakes. We also learn through experiences. The experience of chronic illness enabled me to experiment with a number of things. I read a number of scientific articles published in research journals to see what the doctors were doing with me. In order to heal my Ulcerative Colitis, I tried medicines from Allopathy to Ayurveda, Homeopathy to Siddha. There is nothing wrong in experimenting. My argument is that by consuming various kinds of medicines there might be some chance for healing. In other words, a particular component of medication might be able to fix the imbalance that was set in the body.

Every illness is the result of some sort of imbalance in our body. Medical practitioners may call such imbalances as lack of immunity, or lack of nutrition or proteins or vitamins, etc., in the body. The Ayurveda pandits would name this imbalance due to three Doshas in one's being, that is, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. We say the individual constitution of a person are in balance that is when Vata-Pitta-Kapha are inherently at ease and in harmony. Unfortunately, that is not possible. Whether we like it or not imbalance is part and parcel of our growing, maturing, ageing and dying process. Otherwise we would live just like Adam, the first human being on the earth according to the Bible, who lived for 930 years! (Genesis 5:5).

Saturday, August 8, 2020

God: He Comes, Ever Comes, Wherever We are!

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Readings:1 Kings 19:9, 11–13: Psalm 85:9–14; Romans 9:1–5; Matthew 14:22–33
Photo courtesy - Jean Marc Arkelian 
God comes to us in unexpected moments
Today's reading from the first book of Kings describes a unique experience of prophet Elijah. God meets him under unexpected circumstances. There is contrast between the silence of the cave and the noise of the mountain, solitude and disturbance. God meets him in unexpected moments of life. The prophet is the best example for us to think and expect differently about God whom we know from our scriptures, traditions and personal prayer.  

Need to clarify the concepts about God
The fourth century Church Father St Gregory of Nazianzus in his Oration 31:8 writes about God so delicately. "The revelation of what was previously hidden should suffice for us. 'What competence have we here? We cannot understand what lies under our feet, cannot count the sand in the sea, 'drops of rain or the days of this world, much less enter into the 'depths of God' and render a verbal account of a nature so mysterious, so much beyond words."

Thursday, July 30, 2020

St Ignatius of Loyola: Unfatigued Soldier of Christ

Painting by Anthony Arul, SJ
I often ask this question whenever we have to think in the line of St Ignatius of Loyola: What would Inigo do if he is living today? The charisma of this great Saint of the 16th century that we cherish and carry forward through our lives is still relevant and imperative. If there was a Church man who thought out of the box during the time of reformation, then it was St Ignatius of Loyola. The legacy that he left behind us is enduring and timeless. The 15,000 Jesuits all over the world working in more than 100 countries and 6 continents, still continue to live a religious life with a particular spirit and charism of the founder both in theory and in practice through prayer and the works of the Order.

Many enemies of the Society of Jesus often felt and still feel that Jesuits are a privileged group in the Church. In fact their main contention is that Church hierarchy has made too many concessions on the Order founded by St Ignatius of Loyola. Actually it is not true. But it is true that the Society of Jesus is different from many other Religious Orders and Congregations. However, this is for effective and strong apostolic endeavours. Jesuits do not have a choir (liturgy of the hours in community) like other religious Orders, their Superior General is for life, Jesuits do not have particular set of religious habit (dress) to identify with, (local clergy's habit suits them very well), they have a special fourth vow of obedience to the Pope and so on. All these were granted already during the time of St Ignatius of Loyola. As we celebrate the feast of the Pilgrim Saint, who still continues to inspire not only the Jesuits but also many Religious Congregations and lay people who do Spiritual Exercises individually, we could highlight a few qualities of Ignatius that impress me very much today.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

St Anna, Grand Mother of Jesus - A Woman of Faith

Icon of Saint Anna with child Mary - in Byzantine iconography
When I saw for the first time the parish dedicated to Saint Anne in Bijapur, one of the mission stations of the Jesuits in Karnataka in 1994, it intrigued me very much as a novice then. I had hardly heard anything much about St Anna except that she was the grandmother of Jesus. Since my return from Russia recently, I got involved in retreat ministry in our retreat house in Bangalore and have been meeting a number of Sisters belonging to different religious congregations who have either their congregations named after St Anna or have her as their patroness. Quite recently, I have been addressing religious congregations for various reasons and occasions. Therefore, I thought I should address this Saint Anna in an elaborate way.

St Joachim and St Anna in History and Tradition
On July 26th the Catholic Church remembers Saint Joachim and Saint Anna, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Despite the importance of their role as the maternal grandparents of Jesus, we do not know much about them. The Churches in the East and Orthodox Churches have a special devotion to St Anna. The beautiful iconography on St Anna adorns their Churches. Slavs (People coming from Slavic countries, e.g. Russia, Slovenia, Poland, etc ) name their girl child "Anna" quite frequently.  The Orthodox  Church celebrates the feast of St Joachim and St Anna, the very next day of the feast of the Nativity of Mary.  They are also called as "parents of God" «Богоотцы» because they are considered as the immediate ancestors of our Lord Jesus Christ. This might be because kinship relationships and unbridled  connectivity have determining factors in tracing the roots of family ties. According to Christian apocrypha they also came from the royal line of King David. Some versions say that they lived in Jerusalem while others in Nazareth. The Byzantine liturgy has special prayers dedicated for Anna and Joachim. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Ecclesial Learnings: New Horizons at a Time of Pandemic

A screen shot of the live streaming of the Holy Eucharist from IHMC Jesuit Parish Kalena Agrahara, Bengaluru
Often we act as though we are people with a horse headgear. We don't like to see other narratives or perspectives. Sometime ago, a young priest suffered from cataract in both of his eyes due to the side effects of corticosteroids. As a matter fact, the priest began to use his iPad for his liturgical services as this device gave him a better visibility. But many raised eyebrows including a discussion in his community on how best to forbid him using such a device in public. 

Lockdown and Technology
The Covid lockdown has seen an unprecedented use of technology in our Catholic liturgical services. We have been using all sorts of media devices and platforms to livestream the divine mysteries of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even those who were against the use of such devices are gladly embracing the new normal with scepticism, dilemma and doubt.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Discernment of Spirits: Challenge of Choosing between Good and Evil

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Readings - Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43
Photo by the author
I
We have passed already half a year of the 2020. We are in the midst of a pandemic which is taking a lot of energy and strength to live with it. Until other day, both central (Indian-Union) and state (Karnataka) governments were patting their back saying, "we know how to deal with Covid crises. We are better than others." As I write these few reflections in a country of over a billion people already one million are covid infected. This is just an official figure. 

Our country's policy makers have ignored the warnings from the global community and learnt little from their experiences. Pride goes before the fall. Having praised ourselves to the skies now we might perish quite fast as well. In this context, we are reading the Word of God from our scriptures. These days' Mass readings have been speaking a lot about righteousness, justice and reign of God.  Naturally, we may ask questions: Why does God permit the evil to grow alongside the good? Why does He permit some to reject the Word of His kingdom?

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Human Spirit: Helpless but not Hopeless, Isolated but not alone

Photo by the author
The adversary is all around us, but unfortunately neither we can catch it nor can we tame it. And that adversary is none other than Corona. As we reached 100 days since the  first Corona lockdown and all the ills that brought to us, the humanity is suffering silently. Many of our dear and near one's not only lost their lives but also left their families in such a void and emptiness. There are also families who are unable to meet their ends: Either because they have no labour or whatever they produce in their farms cannot be marketed. Life has come to a standstill for many but for others life is as usual. Because either there is corona or no corona, they neither toil nor attempt but their barns are always full.

In this context, we are moving ahead with our life: A life full of uncertainties and chaos. Our civilisation has put in our mind  is that we see our  worth when we to do something. When we don't do what we usually do then we feel worthless, useless and meaningless. We cannot make sense of our life. It is like going to work without having our usual morning coffee. Always something is missing, something is empty. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

St Paul - A Man of Reason and Knowledge

Statue of St Paul in Piazza San Pietro, Vatican
On the 29th of June every year the Catholic Church commemorates the solemnities of two formidable pillars of the nascent early Church Sts Peter and Paul. In our earlier post, I dealt with St Peter, and in this blogpost, I would like to describe St Paul briefly and compare both the Saints whose memories we celebrate together.

Unlike St Peter, St Paul was a man of his own making. We know by his own accounts in the New Testament especially from his accounts of his conversion in Acts (9:1-18; 22:3-16; 26: 4-23). These make 4 observations about his life. First, it is the God who takes the initiative. It was Jesus who knocked Paul from his horse: “I am Jesus” (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15). As Augustine insisted, if we but turn to God, that itself is a gift of God. We do not choose Him; He chooses us.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saint Peter: Pillar of Faith and Action

Statue of St Peter at the Piazza San Pietro, Vatican
The Month of June is liturgically rich one. On the 29th of June, the Catholic Church celebrates the solemnities of two important saints of the Church - St Peter and St Paul. According to St John Henry Newman their shared feast reflects the importance of organic development. Both the saints founded the churches and built the emerging communities of disciples incorporating the creative tension between tradition and creativity, dogma and praxis. In this blog post, I would like to concentrate on St Peter and in the next one on St Paul and do a bit of comparison. As Luke's Acts of the Apostles suggests both Peter and Paul are the central figures in the expansion of the church from Jerusalem into the Mediterranean world in spite of their flawed characters.

Jesus chose Simon Peter specifically to lead his Church, and at first glance this would seem an odd choice. Even though he may not appear to be our first choice but for Jesus he was his beloved, worthy and right choice. Jesus works out a strategy through Peter to continue the mission right up to our times through his successors. Being ever impulsive, ever withdrawing from his initial commitment, Peter could be compared to a candle in the wind. However, inflaming with the Spirit, Jesus, before and after his resurrection, makes Peter fisher of men. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Saint John the Baptist: A Prophet and more than a Prophet

Even though our Church celebrates in the month of June the feasts of St Justin the martyr, St Boniface, St Barnabas, St Anthony of Padua, St Aloysius Gonzaga, Sts Thomas More, John Fisher and other English saints, St Cyril of Alexandria, Sts Peter and Paul, among them St John the Baptist stands out as a man of great boldness and veracity. He is a prophet with difference.  He is one of the major figures of our Church whose feast we celebrate with solemnity not once but twice. First being his birthday on the 24th June another being his beheading on the 29th of August.

However, there are a number of lessons that we can draw from him.

The Virgin and Child with St John the
Baptist by Sandro Botticelli probably
about 1482-98
John the Baptist – the John the Baptizer. John was a figure of transition, precursor of the Lord “the caesura between the Period of Israel and the Period of Jesus.” He belongs to both: to the Period of Israel by circumcision and incorporation into the Israel of God; to the Period of Jesus because he inaugurates the age when salvation was to be accomplished.  John’s whole life, John’s short life, was spent going before Jesus to prepare his ways. 

Gabriel had told Zechariah to give his promised son the name John (Lk 1:13). An appropriate name, for in Hebrew it means “Yahweh is gracious.” This child would “filled with the Holy Sprit, even from his mother’s womb,” would become an ascetic of Israel, would walk “in the power and spirit of Elijah,” would turn many Israelites to their Lord. (1: 15-17)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Sacred Heart of Jesus: Make Our Hearts unto Yours

                     Original painting on Sacred Heart of Jesus with Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga, circa 1770, José de Páez, Mexico, 1727-1790
I
Devotion from our Christian Tradition
Heart is the seat of emotions. The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which was encouraged by the mediaeval mystics and promoted by St Gertrude, St Margaret Mary Alacoque, St John Eudes, St Claude de la Colombiere and others, represents a devotion to Jesus in his human nature. In recent times,  Jesuit theologian Father Karl Rahner and the Servant of God Father Pedro Arrupe had keen devotions to the Heart of Jesus. Moreover, they promoted the devotion to the Heart of Jesus post World War II  and post Vatican II through their roles as theologian and Superior General of the Jesuits.  All these people call out for us to reconcile our life with that of the Lord’s promises.  It is a symbol of God's perfect love for all humanity, which is part of the mystical tradition of the spiritual theology in our Christian Tradition. Even though the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus suffered cardiac arrest in recent decades still it is relevant and important to pump fresh life into our spiritual and mystical life. 

The Sacred Heart was a powerful devotion that combated against the French Revolution, Communism and threats to family life. Pope Pius IX made it a feast of the universal church in 1856, and Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart in 1899. The devotion reached its peak in Pius XII’s 1956 encyclical Haurietis Aquas (You Shall Draw Waters), which placed God’s passionate love for humanity at its center.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Corpus Christi: Cosmic Christ is All in All - Living and Sharing

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi: Readings - Deuteronomy 8:2–3, 14–16; Psalm 147:12–15, 19–20; 1 Corinthians 10:16–17; John 6:51–58
The Disputation of the Blessed Sacrament, by Raphael (1583-1620)
I
Human body as vulnerable, communicable and sacramental
The feast of the Corpus Christi enshrines our devotion to the Holy Eucharist. The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ manifests our personal experience of that God-Man who gave himself to us wholly and totally. Moreover, it is the same Lord who gave us a reason to remember and celebrate that holy mystery of his life, passion, death and resurrection. Without the Eucharist, we have no Jesus; without the body and blood of Christ there is no Holy Eucharist. Therefore the feast of the Corpus Christi brings us one with him as a global Catholic Community. Our human bodies struggle with life and death. Nonetheless, God embraced the human body to bring salvation, thus became flesh and lived among us. Interestingly, God chose human vulnerability of the body as way of communing with us, communicating with us and finally that same body He gave us sacramentally that we integrate with him completely. By consuming Jesus who spoke words of Spirit and life, the words of eternal life, we too might inhale them. (John 6:63, 67).