Category Archives: Anthropology

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 meΒ  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 πŸ™‚ ). 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 πŸ˜‰ ) 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,Β 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

AnalogyΒ 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 πŸ™‚

“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

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

    Robert Bly, a famous poet once said that β€œThe 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.

β€œSome took the stand and testified falsely against him...”

~ Mark 14, 57

β€œSome 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.

β€œBut 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?

β€œIf 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.

Β β€œForgive your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

~Matthew 5, 44

Β 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…”Β ~ John 18, 36

Jesus according to Mahatma Gandhi

Β β€œJesus was the most active resister known perhaps to history. This was nonviolence par excellence”

Β β€œA 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.”

Β The same Gandhi later on said the following as well,

Β β€œI like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Β 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

Β 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.

Β β€œThey 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

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 Alleluia,Β according 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 πŸ™‚ I’m sure God still plans better for me (probably a heavier cross πŸ˜› ) 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!” πŸ˜€

All the best!

Eucharist : Communion or Discrimination??

Eucharist has been a controversial topic, specially in a multicultural and multi-religious continent like Asia. I wanted to bring out this topic because of a question raised by my non-catholic cousin and something that I learned from the theologate. This post is basically an anthropological view of the Eucharist.

The word “Eucharist” is derived from Greek, Eucharistia which means Thanksgiving. According to the explanation of the Church it is,

Following are some of the biblical quotations where Jesus refers to His Body and Blood and invites everyone to participate in the mystery of Eucharist to attain eternal salvation.

  • Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, β€œTake and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, β€œDrink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mtt 26, 26 – 28)
  • I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”” (Jn 6, 51)

The FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference) gives a vision of a Renewed Church (FABC Papers No. 106) of 8 movements within the context of Asia, where we can help people encounter Christ. Like I said Asia is coloured with many religions and cultures. Therefore, Is preaching the Gospel and living a good Christian Life (being a self example) alone are enough for Evangelization?? In the Eucharist, we become one with Christ when we receive Him into our inner being. Christ invited everyone to partake of this great banquet. Did He specify that ONLY Catholics/ Christians are allowed??

I go to the Hindu and Buddhist temples in my country. In the Hindu temple they offer the devotees Prasad a food offering made to a god and then shared among the people, to both Hindus and non-Hindus. I’m not saying that the Eucharist is similar to the Prasad!

EucharistThe Eucharist IS the very Body of Christ, it IS Christ Himself! My cousin who’s a Hindu but is more inclined towards Christianity participates in the Sunday Mass. One day, out of the blue he asked me, “Why can’t I receive Communion?” So I told him that he doesn’t know the full mystery behind the Eucharist, it is the Body of Christ and you have to be baptizedΒ  and also should be in a worthy state to receive Christ. And I’m sure that it sounded like some kind of a Criminal offense for him. But realistically speaking, we preach of a Universal Salvation and when it comes to the Eucharist where we symbolize Fellowship, we limit it to the privileged baptized!

I’m not going against the Church’s view of the Sacramentality and preserving the sacredness of the Eucharist from profanity. But there are people of simple faith like my cousin who understand the meaning of the Eucharist and would like to experience the same oneness with Christ that we experience. At the end of the day we’re all human beings, no matter how much we know that God is with us all the time, we prefer to Touch Him, See Him and Taste Him. Imagine what would happen if the Church decided suddenly to stop giving Communion?? Or God rejected you for being dark or differently abled or even highly judgmental about everything??

On a personal anthropological level, I think we can Evangelize better if we understood the real concept of the Eucharist that Christ explained to us. This is something that has to be considered instead of arguing whether we should receive communion directly on hand or tongue. It would be more meaningful if we call everyone for a fellowship, a real communion without discriminating others with the sentence announced during the mass “Non-Christians are not allowed to receive Communion!” And I hope that they will dawn someday πŸ™‚ Till then, Eucharist is only for the Baptized Christians!….