“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” so that we can “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

Published in “Messenger” 21st December, 2014

Birth of ChristAdvent, derived from the Latin term Adventus – “Coming”, according to the rubrics it is a preparation for Christmas. The prime focus is on preparing ourselves as worthy mangers where Christ could be born and also anticipating His Second Coming during the end times. According to the social and economical standards imposed on a man living down to earth, it’s the season to crack the codes on how to manage his salary and bonus along with the expense of gifts and clothes. Each liturgical year we dance the same drill, welcome Christ during Christmas, Crucify Him during Lent and rejoice that there’s Easter so that we have some sort of hope to cling onto till next Christmas.

Christians, one thing the world knows us for is the extravaganza of our celebrations. Be it Christmas, Easter, Weddings, Church Feasts, etc; we teach people how to celebrate large, every thread of our clothes oozes with pride and glory. Clergy, Religious or Laity we are honoured to call ourselves Christians, because we have created an impact in various fields of the world like Science, Astronomy, Law, Economy, Sociology and many more. We are trend setters, we create history. And by the way in doing all these we are suppose to follow Christ.

The important guest of Christmas who is suppose to be deep-seated in our lives throughout the year is Christ. True that we welcome Him with all honour and glory during this period of time, but what happens in between this Christmas to next Christmas in our lives? Has He been successful in making a difference in our lives? Or has He just become a passive guest whom we have invited and He talks whatever He wants but His opinions doesn’t matter to us and we choose to remain the masters of our own will, so called self imposed persons. Is any teaching of Christ included in our New Year resolutions? The perennial teachings of Christ need not be imprisoned within the boundaries of Faith or Religion. It is a Way of Life, a standard of living and indeed Christ Himself is our trend setter. Unfortunately we are clouded by our celebrations and forget the Spirit of the Teachings of Christ.
The Lord’s Prayer is one quintessential teaching of Christ. In itself it is the Gospel in a nutshell, the lifestyle of a person who wishes to follow Christ. I thought of taking this prayer to analyze the meaning of Christmas, because this prayer was taught by the person whom we are ready to welcome. In other words this prayer The Lord's Prayeractually tells us what we need to do to welcome Him. It is also the first prayer a Christian learns and continues to recite/ merely mumble the words in countless rosaries and endless masses. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that the prayer has seven petitions, which is also reflected in the pleading gesture we assume when we recite the prayer. It is a universal prayer which could be prayed by anyone irrespective of their faith.

Thankfully Sts. Luke and Matthew decided to incorporate this treasure into their Gospels. This model of prayer provided by Jesus Christ is enriched with the themes of Equality and Dignity, Social Concern and Responsibility of each human person, Peace and Justice and most importantly the establishment of the New Jerusalem on Earth which is only possible through you and I. This prayer not only teaches one how to pray but also teaches one how to live their prayer. For this article, I take the first three petitions of the prayer.

Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. – At the beginning of the prayer, Jesus shakes conventional traditions. Pompous of “Chosen Ones”, “Privileged People” are eliminated. Everyone is brought to ground zero. Rich or poor, Master or Slave, anyone reciting this prayer pleads to a common Father. He’s not only my or your but “Our” Father. It shows that each one of us is equal and dignified persons and we have the right to plead to our Father. The prayer continues with words like “us” and “we”. These are reminders for us to shed off our self-centeredness. One cannot pray for oneself without praying for the others. We are not individuals in front of God, but a community. What I pray should not only benefit myself but also my brother. The name of a person is not a mere noun, it is the identity of the person. It is something sacred to that person. Our wish and action should be to glorify God’s name and not to disgrace our Father’s name with our conduct. We plead that God’s name be hallowed but this responsibility is on our shoulders. People should not identify you as a Christian by the Cross you wear around your neck or by your clothes, but by the way you live, the way you react to people and situations in your life. This in turn will glorify the name of God. Failing to do so will lead to the defaming of God’s sacred name.

“Thy Kingdom come.”We plead that God’s Kingdom should come. A kingdom where no one has any problems, no one knows what suffering is, a complete fairy land? Jesus never promised a Disney Land for anyone. There’ll be suffering, you’ll continue to have problems but the beauty of this kingdom you’ll be living in is that even though you are suffering you know that you will find a solution; you know that your suffering is temporary. Because your brother is there to comfort you, your brother is there to give you a hand to come out of the hell-hole you are in. Though we are created individually, we are created for each other. I am my brother’s keeper. When will this kingdom come? Again, though we continue to plead for it, it is our responsibility to establish this kingdom now. We find for opportunities where we could earn more, get more recognition, feel important in the eyes of the world, and trample/use another to fulfill our ambitions. This world that you please now, will not be your advocate at the Second Coming. How many opportunities have we missed where we could have helped another or made a difference by voicing our opinions? The first thought that crosses anyone’s mind in these situations is how will I survive after speaking the truth? What will happen to me if I stand against wrong? We are the ones responsible for the delay of the coming of this kingdom and we love to play Adam by pointing fingers at God or other obvious people who do wrong.

“Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” – God’s will is not only that man avoids evil but also performs what is good. This calls the followers of Christ to be Active Christians. Who themselves will fulfill God’s will by ‘Doing’ His Will. How many times have I chose not to do what is right because my pride and ego is more important to me? “Only because I need to put you in your place I will not help you? You deserve to suffer!” We are self appointed judges in today’s context. We’ve mastered the skill of judging so well that we are competition to God who is the Ultimate Judge. Today, the biggest fear of a person is confronting himself, confronting his weaknesses. “I like to hear good about me, if you find anything bad in me, it’s not my problem. You have to accept me the way I am. I do what is right according to me. I know better.” In our world of ideas each of us are self acclaimed scholars, we know better than others. It is not we who have to change but others. One should be bold enough to face the reality of themselves. Yes, I am selfish! Yes, I am jealous! I am hot tempered! To do the will of the father, one should realize how one’s weaknesses become obstacles in fulfilling the Will of God. Make straight your ways before leading others in the straightway. If a person preaches or writes about morals and how the society should establish God’s kingdom but not put his words into practice, he becomes a mere clanking gong. You should walk your talk to be an example to others.

CrucifixionEvery Christmas we welcome Christ and each second of our lives, in our homes and work places we don’t miss an opportunity to Crucify the same Christ by not following His teachings. Ironically, each day at least once, we recite the “Our Father” and don’t realize our own hypocrisy. So this Christmas are you really ready to welcome Christ? Are you willing to take the risk of welcoming this revolutionary teacher?

“All my life I have known the truth and I have known right from wrong. Most of us do. To know the truth is one thing. To live it … to create the kingdom of heaven on on earth is another. How many times in a man’s life does he do things that are repulsive to his morality in order to exist? How I have admired those few men in this world who could stand up for their convictions in the face of shame, torture, and even death. What a wonderful feeling of inner peace they must have. Something that we ordinary mortals can never know.” – Leon Uris, Exodus

Contextual Theology – Encounter with God, Right Here and Right Now!

Amidst a crunched, crazy schedule, I thought I should take some time to write this post on Contextual Theology. This is a vast area of theology which was covered in approximately 4 hrs. at the Theologate under the Module – Emerging Trends in Theology. Today I sat for the examination of this module and I thought of sharing some of the preparations I made with regard to a certain aspect of this branch of Theology.

Okay, so you’ve read the title. If you surf across the web, you’ll find tons of theological definitions on what Contextual Theology is. For me  hard meat boiled, Contextual Theology is an Encounter with God, happening Right Here and Right Now. And no, I’m not talking about Prayer (for once🙂 ). Instead of mystically rising to heaven and trying to understand God, you bring Him where you are, to the current context you are in. And Contextual Theology is by no means Inculturation.

In order to Contextualize Theology, our lecturer presented us with Stephen Bevans’ Models for Contextual Theology. At the last minute when I was preparing for the paper I went through my notes on the different models. Geezzz that left me with a headache and nothing else at all. I couldn’t wrap my head around all these models. I didn’t have the book, so it was like searching for something in the dark. So as usual, I sought my friend who helps me out with crisis like this. Mr. Google, of course!

Following is a summary (almost a summary😉 ) of the six models, with information gathered from the web. For a detailed explanation, I have included some references below only because I hate spoon feeding every little thing…

I love analogies. And if you find your head twisted with these models, turn to the analogies presented by Bevans, it’ll definitely make your life lot easier.

1. Translation Model

Analogy Bringing seeds to plant in a native ground.Translation Model

You take the seeds you have go to another country or city to plant them. In this model, you reveal the core message of the Gospel in a completely new setting. That is, you proclaim the Gospel to those who have never heard of it nor knows that it exists, a completely new cultural, linguistic or historical context.

When you’re taking the Gospel message to a foreign community who speak a foreign language, obviously you have to face the problem of Linguistic Translation. You can solve this problem with two approaches,

  1. Accuracy / Consistency – Translate the original message to the new language, where each word of the original is an absolute match to the new language word that is parallel to the original word.
  2. Comprehensibility and Relevance – Strain out the gist of the original message and give it to the people in your words.

Then again, you can’t mess around with God’s Word. Though Bevans prefers the second option, he says that you cannot compromise with the first option when it comes to the Gospel. True that! What if someone interpreted it wrong?

2. Anthropology Model

AnalogyWatering the seeds already in the ground so that they will sprout. Anthropology Model

You’re land that is in another country already has some seeds sowed in it, so you only have to water them so that they can grow. In this model, there is a vague understanding about the Gospel in the context. So it’s not completely new! In this the primary focus is on the our common friend, the Human Being. This model upholds and reveres culture and the members of that particular culture.

3. Praxis Model

AnalogyConstantly weeding the garden and learning to be a better Gardener. Praxis Model

Okay so the seeds are sown, plants have come up, now you have to tend the garden and make it a better place. In this model, it assumes that Christianity has a stand or say in a particular context, so it’s not completely new or alien to the culture. Since Christianity is already established, you judge your cultural values in the light of the Gospel tradition. This model focuses on Action.It presents a cycle.

Action - Reflection - Action

4. Counter – Cultural Model

Analogy Weeding and Fertilizing the soil so the seeds can be planted. Counter-Cultural Model

At the first look of the analogy, I personally thought “Errr isn’t that the same as the earlier model??!” Well yes and no! The term Counter – Cultural means being different from and above culture. Yes, you engage with the culture but your fidelity lies to the Gospel. It calls for a radical change in the culture. It is similar to the Praxis Model but this model takes a prophetic stance. This model’s focus is on the Gospel. It emphasizes the difference between the Gospel and Culture.

5. Synthetic Model

Synthetic Model AnalogyCross-Pollination

This is my favourite part of gardening. A hybrid of two plants. This model presents a process of Dialogue. It is a dialogue with a pool of people having different viewpoints. This model is closest to the Gospel, where in the Gospel also we see how different views are brought together through dialogue and forms a true synthesis.

6. Transcendental Model

AnalogyI cultivate my own garden in the hope that another will be inspired to cultivate their own garden.

Don’t get carried away with the name of the model. In this I become a role model to another. It’s pretty much the same approach I follow with my posts. You share your own religious experiences based on the cultural, historical and religious settings that you come from. In this model, one has to be cautious on how to identify authentic theologies of individuals. In order to be authentic theology, it should be inline with the teaching of the Church.

Transcendental Model

So there you go, the six models of Bevans’ almost in a nutshell🙂

A meek Brown Man From Goa – Cry, Bathe and Smile

Cry

Cry

Few months before the release of the book, there was a buzz around regarding the investigation of a non-Catholic, about Blessed Joseph Vaz. For me personally, it sounded like another trumpet blowing, “We’re trying to make Bl. Joseph Vaz a Saint!“. That’s a phrase I’ve heard since the beginning of the last year. For some weird reason, unlike other Sri Lankan Catholics, who were bragging about his work, I was simply not interested. Everyone is a Saint, so if he has done something good, he’ll be rewarded in Heaven, why run behind a “Saint” prefix for his name? To add to my disinterested spirit, last year we had a module at the Theologate regarding Bl. Joseph Vaz and his contribution to the Faith and country. Nope, neither did that get my spirits high about the guy.

I got this book last week and first thing I usually do when I get a book is to read the Cover. The back of the book mentioned about the author Kusum Waidyaratne and his research areas, Para Human Archaeology, Ethnoarchaeology, Rheology, Architectonic, DNA. Those words sounded music to my ears, because I fancy all the high tech science and geeky stuff (NOT fiction, but Realizing fiction with Reality).

Bathe

BatheRead the first page, turned to the next… kept on doing it for minutes, hours and before I even knew I had read the first 10 chapters of the book and wanted to keep on going. It was addictive, the more I read, the more I wanted to dig in and dig deeper. I also did some research on my own with regard to the scientific areas touched in the book to see if, what I was reading was reality or the author was trying to fool me into something.

I don’t want to spoil the fun, but I’ll give a sneak peak into the book. It’s primarily about Bl. Joseph Vaz. And if you don’t know who that is, let me help you out. Ask a priest, catechism teacher or the final resort Mr. Google. If you’re a Sri Lankan and you don’t know him, high time you relearned history. And if you’re Sri Lankan plus a Catholic and don’t know about him, then shame on you!

As you go on reading, it will unravel the reality of this great personality, Bl. Joseph Vaz and his immense contribution to a foreign soil. Done only with one intention in his mind, that is to do his Father’s will. Every word of the book is a prayer, a step towards a strengthening journey of Faith. You can take my word on this, because though I’m a Theology student, I’m not a hard core prayer person. The word “Prayer” gives me jitters. But today, I’ve come to realize that Prayers are a constant chitter chatter with God. Speaking to Him, Crying with Him, Laughing with Him and even fighting and insulting Him and asking for forgiveness. Giving the truth of your Heart, that is the only Mantra.

The best example of such an intimate relationship is the one that Bl. Joseph Vaz had with God the Father. This book made me realize that we all are Bl. Joseph Vazs inside. The difference is, some have discovered themselves and people like you and I keep orbiting our day to day painstaking lives, looking for help outside. Our help is right here, within our grip, but we don’t see it. We ignore it and go venturing into other modes to find solutions. And if we do know it’s there and reach it, there’s always that thorn of doubt pricking constantly.

The story of the book flows on two rivers and they meet at a confluence. One stream carries the tales of BJV (Bl. Joseph Vaz) and the other speaks about a married gentleman named Wishwa, who is a father of two and is struggling with his own life’s journey. The two stories run parallel. Whatever happened to BJV few centuries ago, happens to Wishwa today. Similarly you can also see a comparison of human effort vs God’s guidance.

Few Examples from the Book:

  • Persecution by the Dutch soldiers // Imprisonment or Wishwa being attacked by some goons.
  • BJV praises God during crisis // Wishwa cursing the divine

The book also uses the Word Of God, Sacred Scripture quotations to form the foundation of Faith. It comes handy as a literary technique to give light to the readers, a glimpse of hope towards a better fulfillment of the story.

…if you believe you will see the glory of God

~John 11, 40

The initial chapters, speak of the Journey of BJV and only in Chapter 20 you get to know about the beginning years of BJV. The essence of these chapters is, the author portrays a heart of a mother. A 3D view is given with 3 mothers playing the roles. BJV’s mother, Wishwa’s mother and the crest, Mother Mary – The Mother of everyone.

The book also touches areas which provide clear cut evidence that Catholicism existed in our land before the arrival of the European invaders. It also shows that the era where Buddhism was in a declining phase, it was not because of the Catholics.

The book portrays the miracles of BJV, his intercessions, crucial journeys, prayerful life and most importantly, how loud his silence was and is.

I found three interesting themes run across the story.

  • Cry

Starting with a sob it progresses towards a loud cry. It is revealing one’s true self, confession, helplessness.

  • Bathe

With the act of taking a bath, where the characters felt refreshed, cleansed. In Christianity, this is a sign of purification or sanctification.

  • Smile

A sign of hospitality, love, care.

The book also reveals details about BJV’s tomb and what is disappointing is that, intense details about him are not found in Kandy. One would get to know the real reason behind this. But if there were records, I’m sure it would speak volumes about BJV.

Smile

smileIf the Bible is a book that contains mystery, comedy, romance, thriller, action, tragedy, history, science, etc; Then ගෝවෙන් අමුත්තෙක් ඇවිත් – A meek Brown Man From Goa will similarly fit into most of the literary genres. Unlike fiction it wouldn’t provide you with a temporary mental satisfaction. These pages would help you face your biggest fear, LIFE! It is a live manifestation of Divine Providence. For sure it will show you at least a ray of Hope.

Instead of learning about saints who are foreign to our land, it is important that we as Sri Lankan Christians, give credit to the valuable service and sacrifices of BJV. If it was not for him I would’ve not been able to address my God in my mother tongue. If it was not for him I would’ve not been a Catholic, the Church would’ve died decades ago. As Sri Lankan Christians it is our duty to recognize this great servant of God and cherish his work.

I tried this interpersonal formula that I learned from my new friend BJV. It was yesterday, when Asia was hit with an 8.9 magnitude earthquake. The moment I got the news, only thing that ran across my mind was, “What would Blessed Joseph Vaz do?” Without delay, I went to my room and started “Praying“. I think this was after many months or years, that I prayed so intensely. I called Mother Mary and BJV to come for our mediation. Within few hours, the news said that the earthquake was horizontal, hence it was less likely that a Tsunami will occur. I believe that this happened because of the intercession of Mother Mary and BJV. I’m sure millions of us prayed for a miracle and we got it.

“Love Your ENEMIES!” ~ The Veil Unveiled

Joy and Brightness of Sad and Dark Gethsemane

Take this cup AWAY from me, but not what I will but what you will.

~Mark 14, 36

Honest opinion, I find this statement coming from someone who’s a coward. But then again, it’s coming from Jesus, right? As usual, the real meaning ought to be encrypted in it. Jesus was a non-violent person throughout. He was also 100% human and 100% Divine. He foresaw the storm of violence that was heading His way and He wanted to avoid it by all means. But then God acts in mysterious ways, He had a different plan. He was gonna bring a Great Victory through the Non-Violence reaction of His Son. At Gethsemane Jesus, prays, this can also be incorporated into our lives. He also learnt to surrender to the will of His Father from His mother, where she first gave her consent to God, when she was told that she was going to give birth to Jesus and obediently accepted God’s will.

PRAY before you ACT, to know the will of your Father. And I’m not talking about reading a book with flowery prayers printed on it. A real time conversation with your Father. Tell Him how you feel, if your angry, sad, happy or jealous. Yes He knows it… but He prefers to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Then most definitely you’ll have a better view and find the correct solution.

Another instance was when the Disciples could not stay awake with Jesus and pray. Similarly, we also shut our eyes to the unjust things happening around us. Or ignore the slightest wastage that occur, thinking how can I being one person change the world?

According to Dear, if you take the situation at Gethsemane, there are two acts of Violence present in it.

  1. The Betrayal Mark 14, 45

    He came and immediately went over to him and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him.

    Robert Bly, a famous poet once said that “The only way to become wise is through betrayal”. Likewise, in this situation, Jesus knew about His betrayal and beyond that He even knew the betrayer. But still He did not withdraw Himself or react violently towards His betrayer.

  2. A bystander striking the High Priest Matthew 26, 52

    Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

    Jesus had His own gang, so for sure, He could’ve called in for a war. A battle of the divine vs mortals. But He did not do it. Instead, He make everyone realize that weapons only bring destruction and they cannot bring back life from the dead.

Sanhedrin Trial and Mockery

In the following instances we see how Jesus was being ridiculed. He was bulleyed, but yet He didn’t retaliate.

Some took the stand and testified falsely against him...

~ Mark 14, 57

Some began to spit on him. They blindfolded him and struck him…

~ Mark 14, 65

Despite all the humiliation faced, he only did one thing which is a non-violent reaction to the violence He faced. SILENCE is Golden.

But he was silent and answered nothing.

~Mark 14, 61

But how long can Silence be the solution? Shouldn’t one speak up for the injustice He is facing or witnessing another going through? In Sinhala and Tamil there’s a proverb which says, the one who keeps bowing his head while he’s being struck is also a fool and the one who keeps striking while the other bows down is also a fool. Then how did Jesus react?

If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong;

but if I have spoken rightly,

why do you strike me?

~John 18, 23

He questioned why He was being treated like this. Likewise, if you take a look at your own lives, how many times do we fear to react and speak when injustice is happening every second around us? We are afraid of what others will think about us, fear of life, position, reputation.

The Violent Crucifixion

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

~Luke 23, 34

After suffering an unbearable amount of agony and pain, Jesus asks for forgiveness on behalf of those who persecuted Him. This reminds His saying on forgiving 77 times, which is an innumerable amount. Therefore have no boundary set for your patience and love.

 “Forgive your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

~Matthew 5, 44

 I have shown below a comparison on what Jesus could have said and done opposed to what He really said and did. (Cited from Dear’s articles and personal insertions)

What Jesus Could have said and done? What Jesus Actually said and did?
“Break their bodies for me!” “This is my body, broken for you.”
“Shed their blood for me!” “This is my blood, shed for you.”
“If my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews,” ~ John 18, 36 “My kingdom does not belong to this world…” ~ John 18, 36

Jesus according to Mahatma Gandhi

 “Jesus was the most active resister known perhaps to history. This was nonviolence par excellence

 “A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.

 The same Gandhi later on said the following as well,

 “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

 What made Gandhi say this? Is it the same Christ that we encounter in the Gospels, whom we are following. Or like those who during the Exodus idolized God as a Golden Calf, are we idolizing different images of Christ, which are moulded into a framework that suits us?

The Victorious End – The Resurrection

 If it was not for the Resurrection, none of us would’ve been Christians. This is the ultimate victory of God where He proved that Active Non-Violence is the only solution against Violence.

 “They conquered Him by the blood of the Lamb

~Revelation 12, 11

The best teaching that can be followed in order to react to violence with Non-Violence is, the Prayer of Peace bySt. Francis of Asisi. This prayer is the definition of real peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

“Love Your ENEMIES” ~ The Veil

Aquinas University College has been conducting a short course on the topic Death of the Messiah for the Laity and the Religious to deepen their knowledge on the Passion and Death of Christ according to the Gospel of Mark. Yesterday was the last class and three of the final year Theology students had to do three presentations on the Pastoral/ Spiritual Implications of the Passion and Death of Christ to the lives of the Laity and the Religious.

I was second in command, so I had to gel with the flow of the first presenter and fit in the third presenter’s idea as well. Ms. Romany Rasquinho, the first presenter spoke on the different characters found in the Passion of Christ. Like Judas, Peter, Mary, Women of Jerusalem, Simon of Cyrene, etc; and which role would be a best fit for us. She mainly focused on Joseph of Aramathea at the end. Mrs. Rosanne Fernando, the third in line spoke on Burial and Resurrection and included a new reflection on the Resurrection of the Living.

Drawing the spotlight back to me, what was I left to talk about? Pretty much nothing. Approximately for 2 nights I was breaking my head on what to talk at the session and was left clueless. It was a similar thinking crisis I went through with deciding on my Final Year Project for the Computing degree. Well better late than never, out of the blue when I was at one of the classes, a topic struck me. Active Non-Violence. Well this is what my thesis is on, so why not do a speech on this. I wanted to do something unique and novel, but this was a bit of a risk. Connecting Active Non-Violence and the Passion of Christ had to be a gamble, because no sane person would find a connection between the two.

Being the risk taker, I grabbed this opportunity and did a bit of research. I came a cross some of the writings of John Dear SJ who is a pioneer of something called Theology of Non-Violence (Heard that the first time when I was doing the research). He basically speaks how Jesus reacted non-violently to the violent Passion he faced. Going down his line of thought, I based my presentation on the Non Violent Reaction of Jesus to His Violent Passion and Death. I catered to the Human Being Within You!

Before stepping into the Passion and Death, remember the days that Jesus walked among men and performed miracles? Well He uttered a particular phrase which is not mentioned during His Passion. But I think that the Passion is the enactment of that phrase. Preaching put into Practice.

Love Your Enemies

and

Pray for those who Persecute You

~Matthew 5, 44

Since the Old Testament is the basic foundation for the New Testament, the prophecy of a non-violent Messiah can be found in Zechariah 9, 9-10. Where he speaks of a Just Saviour who will Proclaim Peace to the Nations. Peace is not the mere absence of war. Taking the current context of our country, Sri Lanka, just because the war is over does that mean we have peace in our land? Certainly not! There is sorrow and pain within the mother who lost her child illicitly during the war and is still finding answers as to why her child was brutally killed. There is tension between the two neighbours, where one is a Sinhala and the other is a Tamil, each of them hate the other because of their race.

Dear presents a five fold aspect of Jesus as the Non-Violent Messiah according to the Gospels.

Pentagon
I organized my presentation according to a particular schema. Since it’s the Markan year, I organized the presentation according to the topics covered in the short course.

  1. Gethsemane – Prayer and Agony
  2. Sanhedrin Trial and Mockery
  3. Crucifixion
  4. The Ultimate Victory – The Resurrection

SACRISTAN – The Jack of All Trades

Having a typical human being attitude, you don’t get to realize the value of a person until you have an abrupt role reversal and get to play that person. Similarly yesterday, the Faculty of Theology had to organize the mass celebrated for the Annunciation. Myself known to be the Universal Monitor of three batches and sometimes nicknamed as the Pope, took the liberty of appointing the lectors, cantor and selecting the hymns for the mass. I assumed that this is all that I had to do, in order to organize a mass. For my surprise, when I entered into the chapel, little did I know that the job of the Sacristan was awaiting me.

The heart attack for the day started off with the shooting pain, when I saw that nothing was arranged in the chapel. No Lectionary (The book which has the daily mass readings), Missal (The book which has the prayers and responses of the priest and the congregation), wine and the host, water, microphones, lamps, hymnals and everything that you can think of which is needed for the mass. Gathering myself together, calm and composed as possible and only having 20 minutes to prepare, I prioritized the tasks. The first question I asked myself was, what is the most important thing that will be needed and without which the mass cannot be celebrated. DUH!! The Readings for the day!

Liturgy of the WordSo I found the Lectionary, grabbed the Ordo (The book that provides a guideline about the significance of the day and the readings for the day) and started to dive and find the reading for the day. Since it was a solemnity (a feast), it couldn’t have been in the lenten section, kept on finding and I called up a friend who knew how to find it and finally, Yureka! Likewise found the correct page in the Missal for the Priest and placed it on the altar.

Liturgy of the EucharistThe second priority during the mass is, of course the Host, Wine and the Water. These were placed in the sacristy, so put them into the relevant vessels and kept them on the altar. Then I went on to do the arrangements of the altar along with the vestment of the Priest. Since it was lent and the lenten colour is purple, that was a bit of a cake walk. But then how many lamps do you light during a mass? Well I learned this for the subject called Liturgy, but didn’t want to clutter my brain with too much information at that time. Why would I wanna remember that right? I’m not the sacristan! Well now I am and that was important to know. Anyways, lit a lamp and kept it. With not much of time left in hand, I was hunting for the microphones, which seem to have been missing, but tracked it down on time. The next problem was, how to get them working? Because I’m no expert in that area. Did a little bit of twisting and turning of the buttons and tested the microphones and Bingo! there you go, it works!

Having only 5 minutes in hand, the heart attack was when I realized that none of the appointed lectors and cantor were there. So managed to utilize the available human resources and reorganize the choices. Selecting the appropriate hymns was the next milestone. It was weird how we easily found the offertory and final hymns but the entrance hymn was a bit of a hard nut and missed it, because the Priest was already there to celebrate the mass.

Whew… One heck of a rat race I must say. Come to think of it, if you analyze my thought process, as to how I prioritize the tasks, it’s exactly the same way how the mass generally flows. For Liturgy, we learned that if the mass was put in a form of a graph, the 2 peak points would be,

  • Liturgy of the Word (The Gospel) Liturgy Graph
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Likewise, my first 2 priorities were these. If you take a look at the Liturgy preparation, each minute detail makes a big difference and it is because it has a meaning. The celebration is a ritual. The Catholic Church breathes along with 2 lungs, Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Details like the colour of the vestments, number of lamps to be lit at different types of Eucharistic Celebrations are handed down from thousands of years young tradition. And the amusing thing is, we might find it too much to digest, so much of details and information right? But all these details are available in one repository, approximately found in all churches of the world. The Sacristan! Just like Joseph’s coat of many colours, the Sacristan is a man of many shades.

In the context of Sri Lanka, we hardly recognize the role of this man. But if anything goes wrong on the altar during the mass, he’ll for sure be the first scapegoat. And we take his job for granted. But what I realized yesterday was that, he’s a technician, an interior designer, a florist, a Taylor, a master of the Lectionary and also who knows the work of a Nun and a Priest on the altar. Hence the Sacristan is The Jack of All Trades when it comes to the mass. Hats off!

Stand Firm! Dig In and Dig Deeper!

I haven’t written any posts that coordinates to the liturgical seasons. But today being the Fourth Sunday of Lent and what I learned from the Gospel message unraveled by the Priest in the sermon, prompted me to write something about lent and what it has taught me this time.

Fourth Sunday of Lent is also known as Laetare Sunday. I don’t think many of the Sri Lankans are aware of this Sunday, because I sure wasn’t. Laetare Sunday is basically a point of the Lenten Season, where the people express/ anticipate the Joy and Hope of Easter. Basically, you take a break from the rigorous life style adopted during lent and be a bit light hearted. This is shown in the rose coloured vestments of the Priest.

Today my day began with the morning mass, where the Priest entered, we sang the entrance hymn, then he greeted the congregation and gave a little introduction about today’s Gospel, asked forgiveness for the sins (penitential act), Kyrie Eleison and then… the Shock of Lent! He recited the Gloria! Ignorant congregation, along with the Priest recited it, while some of us were awestricken. It is a known fact that Gloria and Alleluiaaccording to tradition and as a norm are NOT SUNG during Lent. Because Lent is a period of repentance and sacrifice, so the the joyful elements are omitted. But breaking this norm, Gloria was recited today and I considered it to be a major liturgical blunder, being the liturgical terrorist that I am. Suppressing my temper, I participated in the mass.

During the time of the Sermon, the Priest, Rev. Fr. Nilendra Goonasekara SSS, mentioned about today’s specialty. Had it been said at the introduction, then he would’ve been able to hit it to my hard head and I also would’ve joined in with Joy. What I’m still not sure is, whether he made a genuine mistake by reciting it or he did it because the day was significant. Personally, coming off from the traditional framework of portraying lent as a period of mourning and weeping, I think that this is more of a Joyful period. More joyful than Christmas. Because of the pomp and purple carried out during Advent, the lenten season seems to be on a lower tone, whereas for Christians Lent should be the season of Celebration. It is during this period that the Promised Messiah fulfilled the Promise of God, Salvation for all men. Yes, I’m emphasizing the fact that we celebrate the Death over Birth. For Christians, what is inspiring and what makes us stand out is, we celebrate suffering. Be it the Passion and Death of Jesus or suffering in our own lives. We take pride in sacrificing our lives for Christ, hence we uphold the martyrs of the Church. This is not because we are some cannibalistic, blood thirsty beings but because we speak of a life beyond the present. A life that we’ll be rewarded based on our present, where the creatures will meet their Creator, face to face. So lent should give us all the more reasons to be happy. If God did not take the form of flesh and come down for me, had He not suffered on the Cross for my sins, if He didn’t rise from the Dead to save me, would I have Faith in Him? Will I believe, that no matter what, He will guide me and take care of me? So lent for me is Celebration of My Faith. I’m not telling that we should break off from the traditions of Fasting, Penance and Sacrifice but do these with joy in your heart instead of considering them to be a pain to yourself.

Today’s Gospel, John 3, 14-21 was about gaining eternal life through the Cross. Though nothing inspired me when it was read, I was shown the mirror when Fr. Goonesekara broke the word at the sermon. He explained, what I solidly knew in my head but failed to put into practice. We all have crosses in our lives, not literally but in forms of family problems, addictions, work issues, financial problems, health complications, etc; Like it or not, we are not God or Christ to bear them up, when the river banks break we give up because at the end of the day we are all human beings! If you make your own choice of giving up without consulting the Almighty One, then later on, you might realize your mistake, like I did today.

During my internship period, the company that recruited me, initially promised me many things. But later on I realized that none of them were gonna be fulfilled, I asked for what I was promised and murmured just like in the wilderness. Though some changes were implemented, they were like giving candy for a kid to just make him stop crying for a while. So I rebelled again and kept on doing so. Once the contract ended, I finally got what I wanted to do. Then again, they made the wrong decisions made on wrong assumptions and stationed me in no man’s land. Still for all grinding my teeth, I continued by following the advices gained from others. And all this I did with the Faith I had, considering it as a glorification of Christ. After 15 months the limits I set for myself, broke! I ran out of oxygen, so chose to “Resign”, sugar coated version of quitting, running away. The decision was a battle between the head and the heart. Former kept on saying, “Leave!” while latter, “Just a little more, you can do it! Try hard! It’ll get better”. Me being the master of my own will, chose the former.

Fr. Goonesekara, mentioned in today’s reflection in his very own words,

True Discipleship is NOT to run away!

You have to stand firm!

Dig in and dig deeper!

Pugnaciously, Tuck your chin in and Drive Forward!

Coming back to me, what did I do? Clearly I chickened out and ran away! And trust me, no theology can stop a person from making some huge blunders in their lives. Looking back at the time I spent, were the 15 months worth it? Did I learn anything? Would I wanna erase it from my memories? Yes it was worth it. What I learned during this period, I’m sure I’ve not learn in my past 21 years. Work wise, I’ve learned about different technologies, tools, etc; from the perspective of life, I think I acquired my doctorate. I’ve seen people coming from different walks of life. The arrogant, proud, humble, EverReady assistants, hilarious, addicts, perverts and many more. I’ve seen mountains wash off and new mountains rise up, those who were not aware that though people think they’re stupid, they are actually innocent at heart, the undeserving receiving praises and the deserving pushed back. With regard to my decision of quitting, I certainly made a mistake. If I had the patience to go through 15 months, why not a little more? Once a friend gave me a valuable piece of advice, though I didn’t get it then, today I understood it, “Don’t hate your job! Don’t fall in love with the company you work!“. As usual, I followed the opposite.

As for me, things would’ve been different if I had held a little longer. I could’ve paved the way for new opportunities for myself. But nevertheless, being the spoilt brat I am🙂 I’m sure God still plans better for me (probably a heavier cross😛 ) and I have to learn from my mistakes. So the moral of the lesson is, no matter what, hold on tight to that Cross! Do NOT give up! God sees things differently, actually He even sees the brighter side of Black. When He says in Jeremiah 29, 11 that He has planned something good for us, believe it as you believe that you are alive! So if you ever think of giving up, just remember,

Stand Firm! Dig In and Dig Deeper!”😀

All the best!

All about being a "Catholic Christian"

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