Servant Leadership: Power to empower others

A 19th century legend is told of thus and Jean-Leon Gerome has beautifully painted about it. The Truth and the Lie met one day. The Lie said to the Truth: “It’s a marvellous day today”! The Truth looked up to the skies and sighed, for the day was really beautiful. They spent a lot of time together, ultimately arriving beside a well. The Lie said to the Truth: “The water is very nice, let’s take a bath together!” The Truth, once again suspicious, tested the water and discovered that it indeed was very nice. They undressed and started bathing. Suddenly, the Lie came out of the water, put on the clothes of the Truth and ran away. The furious Truth came out of the well and ran everywhere to find the Lie and to get her clothes back. The World, seeing the Truth naked, turned its gaze away, with contempt and rage.
The poor Truth returned to the well and disappeared forever, hiding therein, its shame. Since then, the Lie travels around the world, dressed as the Truth, satisfying the needs of society, because, the World, in any case, harbours no wish at all to meet the naked Truth.

In India for the past few weeks or months as the General Election 2019 is approaching, we have been witnessing a run-chase of the Truth and the Lie mostly in election campaign and speeches. Some one claims, “Main hun Chowkidar” and the other slams, “Chowkidar hi chor hi”. Now, you have to judge who is right and who is wrong. And, your judgement will depend on what you prefer to see – A well dressed Lie or a naked truth!

It is in this context perhaps we can reflect on the Gospel today. It cautions us about the vulnerable human tendency, viz., lust for prestige, position and power! The mother of the two sons of Zebedee – James and John – is asking such very favours from Jesus. In our secular world, our leaders are wielding power, control and manipulation – Swapping the Truth and the Lie.

However, Jesus’ worldview is completely different. His worldview is “to be great is to put one’s talents totally at the service of others and powers to empower others.” If you dare to be at the side of Truth to go that well where naked truth is hiding out of shame and you will understand – Power corrupts man; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Today let us learn from Jesus how to exercise and wield power for the service of others and not for selfish gains! May our leaders and all of us understand the Servant Leadership model of Jesus and follow that. Amen.

Joseph: faithful and trustworthy husband of Blessed Virgin Mary

Solemnity of St Joseph

There is little that we know for sure about Joseph, apart from his name and a couple of events during the childhood of Jesus. The Gospel does not record a single one of his words; we could say that his language is peaceful and compliant silence. He listened to the quiet voice which spoke to him in his sleep and generously obeyed in what was asked of him. He earned the family’s living by manual labour, so that Jesus was later known as the son of the carpenter. On the solemnity of St Joseph, we must reflect, learn and imbibe three lessons:

Hidden Life: Joseph lived a hidden life, the life of a simple artisan, far from all celebrity. But that humble man was so near to Jesus and Mary, intimately connected with their life and providing them with security.

Just Man: The Gospel calls Joseph a just man. He was a poor, honest, hard-working, and deep interior life, giving him the freedom to put himself at the disposal of God’s plan for the childhood of Jesus. Joseph accepted the responsibility and the burden of family life, while renouncing the consolation of natural conjugal love because of his extraordinary vocation.

Commitment: As pope Paul VI said (back in 1969), that Saint Joseph offered the whole of his existence in a total sacrifice to the demands raised by the extraordinary coming of the Messiah, whom he acknowledged as the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and as his own son only in a juridical and domestic way. Joseph was a fully committed man. His commitment must inspire us! A total commitment to Blessed Virgin Mary, and total commitment to Jesus, who was his offspring only by legal descent, not by the flesh. His were the burdens, risks and responsibilities of caring for the Holy Family. Falling in line with God’s design, he collaborated in the work of human salvation.

Let us follow his example in surrendering to God’s designs amidst the obscurities and uncertainties of life. Amen.

Lent: A time to mend ruptured relationship

Second Sunday of Lent (Gen 15:5-18; Phil 3:17 – 4:1: Luke 9:28 -36)

Yesterday in the evening, tired, hungry and thirsty I was in the terrace laying on a mat facing up gazing the sky. It was a lovely scenic view – the crescent moon was there smiling at me right on top of me and the galaxies of stars twinkling at me. “Wow!” I said. “What a lovely night view- gazing at the moon and the starts in the night sky!” For a moment I forgot my hunger. Immediately I was reminded of Yahweh – God of Abraham, to whom God spoke when he was gazing at the night sky.

“Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you can!” God told Abram. “So shall your descendants be.” He believed. May be doubt also! But the Lord continued. ” I am the Lord who brought your from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” Remember, when the Lord called Abram this is what He had promised him. “Go from your country and your kindred and your fathers’ house to the Land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing …. and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” From then on, seventy year old Abram along with his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot is journeying in the land of Canaan. This time when God repeated his promise, Abram doubted. Like we all say, “Test before your trust!”. He raised questions. “Lord, How am to know that I shall possess it?” Then the Lord asked him to bring a heifer, a female goat, a ram – all three year old and a turtle dove and young pigeon. Abram sacrificed all this. And we are told how a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that Day the Lord God made a covenant with Abram and reiterated his triple blessings.

Doubt ruptures our relationship. But it is so very common. In our relationship we start doubting! Where does this doubt come from? Husbands doubt wives and wives doubt husbands. Even best friends often start doubting. Abram had doubts too. Despite God’s repeated promises he gets frustrated, “O Lord God, what will you give me! I continue to be childless.” When will you give, how will you give, so on and so forth. The Lord had to clear his doubts and convince him by ratifying a covenant.

Today’s Gospel give us the transfiguration scene. Jesus is transfigured before the three disciples – Peter, John and James. They saw two men – Moses, who led the Israelite out of Egypt through the Red Sea and gave them the Law at Mount Sinai and Elijah, the great prophet taken up to heaven and whose return was announced by Prophet Malachi before the coming of the Lord. Again, the transfiguration scene is heavenly that Peter, John and James are lost to themselves. Peter even tells Jesus of making three tents – one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. And then the confirming voice from the clouds comes “This is my Son, my beloved, listen to him.”

The event of Transfiguration of Jesus is in deed a covenant that Jesus established with the three disciples to make them strong in their wavering faith. This event confirms for the three disciples and for us all – that the law and the prophets find their fulfillment, their perfection, in the person of Jesus Christ. Presence of Moses, and the Prophet Elijah and the talk about Jesus’ death on the cross tell us that it is on the Cross, in his death and Resurrection, that Christ would perfectly reveal the plan for our salvation. That it is in Jesus Christ – the triple blessings promised to Abraham – the nations, the land and the universal blessings to all the people of the earth gets fulfillment.

Do you still doubt? Do you still waver? Doubts is the seed sown by Satan to rupture our relationship. It all starts with that, we no longer keep trusting. Finally relationship – or covenant – is broken! Mind you, this seed of doubt is sowed by the evil one – Satan. Remember, Adam and Eve! Today by reflecting on the two covenants – Covenant of God with Abraham and the covenant of Jesus with his transfiguration – we must understand that God is continually for us and with us. That he continually scans the virus of doubts sown by the evil one and confirms his love for us. Can we, in our turn, stop doubting and keep trusting Him?

Lent is the time to mend our ruptured relationship with God, oneself, with others and with the nature. One way to mend that ruptured relationship is to believe, to trust and stop doubting. Doubts come when we are dissatisfied with life, with what we have and what we are. May this lent be a time to experience that God has filled us with his manifold blessings and graces. May we preserve them and be content and give no place to Satan to sow his seeds of dissatisfaction and doubts. Amen.

Sacrifices brings abundant fruits!

Sirach 35: 1-12 | Mark 10:28-31

My devout Christian parents have taught me early in my childhood days the lesson on sacrifices. “No gain without pain, daily little sacrifice that you make brings you grace and blessings. Give and you will be given! and the like”. Indeed, it is very important to make little sacrifices to lead happy and contented life.

Today’s readings give us that same message. “Look, we have left everything and followed you. [What are we going to get?]”, Peter asked Jesus a very genuine question. Jesus answered, “…You will not only receive hundredfold now in this age but eternal life in the age to come!”. Our sacrifices for our faith will be far overshadowed by the blessings we will receive from God our heavenly Father.

The Sirach 35:1-12 reminds us that living a deeply moral, happy and contended life is in itself a form of sacrifice, an offering/sacrifice highly acceptable to God. And, in order to live a moral, happy and contented life, we have to necessarily make sacrifices in our daily life. Yes, making sacrifices is quite painful! It is quite strange to observe that our human tendency is to grab more, have more, to get more and not to give, not to offer up, not to surrender! But, mind you, having more and more of more things does give us satisfaction in life. It is only when we become more, then we get true joy and happiness. So, when our being more is greater than having more then only we achieve abundance of blessings, i.e. happy and contented life. God is a generous giver and we also become Godlike – Generous and magnanimous! When we model our life after that of Jesus Christ, we are sure to get abundant life! Just give a try!