Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Failures have a Future

(Photo courtesy: Jean-Mark Arkalian)
Although none of us like to encounter failures, unfortunately they are part and parcel of our lives. The more we run away from them, more they haunt us. Failures are facts of life. None of us can escape from failures either big or small, seldom or continuous.

A matured leaf has to ripen, dry and fall on the ground. Only then a new leaf would make its place and the branch would grow. Every failure is a pillar of success. Failures come and go and but we remain there.

As I read through the book of Samuel, especially the story of the rise and fall of Saul, the first king of the Jews in the 11th century BCE (1 Sam 9) the facts on failures become very vivid.  With his kingship, the Jews made a definite move from tribal society to a statehood. Things fail, human person fails, even God fails. This could be seen in the life of King Saul. In spite of the resistance of prophet Samuel, Yahweh wants to fulfil the desire of Israelites. Samuel tries to persuade the Jews not to look for a king by giving them various reasons and how the king would exploit and enslave its citizens. However, Yahweh has different plans. God asks Samuel to listen to the people. Vox populi est vox Dei, the voice of people is the voice of God. Finally, Samuel anoints the best person among Jewish male: "There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else" (1 Sam 9:2). 

Unfortunately, the story of king Saul does not end here with success but in utter failure personally and collectively. Saul follows his own ways instead of the book of the covenant, thus leading to an admonition from the prophet Samuel who had anointed him as the king (1 Sam 15).  Saul is rejected as a king and David was anointed in his place. The question that troubles us is this: How is that God who had chosen such a formidable man lost favour in the sight of God so quickly? Didn't God think well about Saul before making such an important milestone in the history of Israel by providing them first Jewish king? Why didn't God give enough wisdom to Saul to do the right and appropriate things?

God failed in the person of Saul. But the story has a colourful continuation. God raises another man more handsome and more courageous and talented in David. For God nothing is impossible. Perhaps we make things impossible when God wants us to be successful. He prepares us to beat the failures. There are always alternative routes to make our failures into success. Moreover, we should take different approaches. With our little failures we think that is the end of the story. In fact, it is the beginning of a new story with more scintillating and courageous one. Because every failure will be redeemed in order to be more successful. God is the future. Hence, failures have a bright and shiny future.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

28th January 2020

Sunday, January 5, 2020

God Reveals And Works Amidst Us

The Feast of Epiphany -Readings: Isaiah 60:1–6; Ephesians 3:2–3, 5–6; Matthew 2:1–12
(Adoration of the Magi, Jan Boeckhorst, 1652)

The feast of Epiphany, in other words, the manifestation of our Lord, is an important event in the liturgical calendar. This feast brings us to the end of season that we started with First Sunday of Advent. While reading the narrative of those three wise men in search of baby Jesus sets us to think three important factors, in light of revelation of God and His work amidst us.

1. Confusion and clarity
2. Protection and proclamation
3. Mystery has a indilutable meaning.
Firstly, confusion and clarity: The Gospel of Matthew says, "When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him" (Mt 2:3). God works through confusion. There was a reason for King Herod and his palace to get disturbed and confused. Our God is a God of light and not of darkness. When God's light enters into the reign of darkness then there is confusion, commotion and terrific disturbance. This is happens for a good reason. The clarity does not come out just like that, without a whisk or leaving its deep traces. Clarity has its costs. 

God empowers those who are ready to hear and listen to him. The three wise men belong to this group of people who believed when one door closes another opens. God opens the door to these non-Jews and non-Romans. In fact, God had bigger, brighter and better plans. God brings clarity about His sovereignty to those who do not know him yet. The kingdom of God belongs to everyone even to those who are not within the purview of those "first called". Sometimes God can bring out good out of those evil people like Herod, at least, in pointing out the right direction even though they may not follow. Which evil man or woman wants to follow the right path even when the way to heaven is clear? The men in the Herod's palace were able to guide the magi in their search for the source eternal life, Jesus Christ. However, once the magi's task is accomplished God gives them different direction, a right sight to see in everything indomitable clarity and follow that path. Therefore, they need no more the star that they saw earlier. Thus they follow the vision or the path shown by God to reach their destiny. 

Secondly, protection and proclamation: God's work continues uninterrupted. Even when there is opposition or insecurity, still God knows how to protect His good work. The rescue and the evacuation of baby Jesus, and the parents, Joseph and Mary happens in a unique but in a bold way. God wants his work to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Therefore He chooses a person of his own. When there is threat at the very initial stages of its operation, God counters it very boldly with magnificent attitude of self-worth. The very protection of baby Jesus becomes a sign of proclamation. God makes known His presence and His work to His people through signs and wonders. This is what the feast of Epiphany is all about. God's work cannot be destroyed. God cannot be challenged. Instead, God can only be encountered. Am I ready for this task?

Thirdly, mystery has a definite meaning. Often, we find difficult to find meaning in the mystery of Incarnation of God in the world.  St Paul writing to the Ephesians emphasises that God through His grace has revealed to us the mystery of God's coming into this world. So, the new era of salvation belongs to all. God continues to shape us and fashion us in that mystery. No one has seen God but through Jesus we know God. God empowers us to know the mystery of God's life. God does not hide from us but opens himself to us provided we are ready to listen to him and work accordingly. God sends his people to proclaim Him. The wise men from the East are those who did this first job of proclaiming the mystery of Incarnation to the world. 

Through the gifts the magi bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh, God reveals himself that those who are baptised in Christ are just like him embodied with kingship, priesthood and prophetic role. In other words, we become partakers in His mission; moreover, "become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1: 4).

Olvin Veigas, SJ

The Feast of Epiphany (05.01.2020)