Category Archives: Evangelization

“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

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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 🙂

“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.

Reserved for Clergy!

Few personal experiences that I had during my traveling, prompted me to write this post. The title of this post is a common slogan found approximately in all the buses in Sri Lanka. Two seats are reserved for the clergy of all religious denominations, considering it to be a right of the Clergy. Okay, now you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about the transport systems in a blog that should be talking about theology. True enough, but what disturbed me was not the fact that people were not willing to give the seat for the Non-Buddhist clergy, but the failure of our own Christian people to understand the difference/similarity of the Catholic Clergy and Religious.

To give a clearer picture, let me explain what I witnessed. Some of my colleagues, who are Religious traveled in the bus after classes. During the evening hours, the buses are crowded, so getting a seat is almost like finding for water in the desert. But you would think that it’s a piece of cake for the Religious right? Well sadly, NO! I was quite disappointed of the attitude of the people towards the Nuns after my first experience of this scenario. The bus conductor either had to ask someone to offer a seat or if the conductor was a Christian, he prefers not to speak up and instead does a better favour by not taking the ticket money from the Religious.

Before proceeding further, for those who are not aware of the different meanings of the terms Clergy and Religious, the simplest definition I can provide is, the former refers to the Priests and the latter refers to the Nuns, Brothers, Monks, etc; In the Sri Lankan context, it is easier for a Priest to get a seat compared to a Nun. But why so? And no, the answer is not because the society is still patriarchal. When it comes to Buddhism, there’s no differentiation! Patriarchal or Matriarchal, female Buddhist monks are considered to have the same rights as the male Buddhist monks. I personally think, this is the problem of our perception. For years, we have been considering the priests to be of a higher pedestal compared to the nuns. Hence our first priority is always towards the clergy. But what is the difference between the two? Why is one considered to be of a higher rank than the other?

I used to be one among the many who thought that, clergy ought to receive a higher priority than religious, till I followed the module Consecrated Life and Theology of the Laity. In reality, there’s no difference between the vocations of the clergy and religious. Both are called by the same, One God and they lead a Consecrated Life. And if there were to be any differentiation, then I think the Nuns would beat the Priests to it. This is because only Nuns get an opportunity to be “Sponsa Christi – Bride of Christ. They get a chance to sign their consent, at the altar. Both Clergy and Religious fall into the category of Consecrated Life. Together, they bring out different colours and flavours of the Church and offer their services accordingly. The different forms and charisms of this way of life is well explained in Pope John Paul II‘s Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata (The Consecrated Life).

So next time, if you travel by bus and happen to see a Nun who is standing, make sure that they get their right of sitting where they should sit. Because they will not fight for their rights due to their vows and humility, but as Laity, it is our duty to stand up for them and show the world that Priests and Nuns are equal. They differ only by their ministerial functions.

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, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink 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 baptized  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 🙂 Till then, Eucharist is only for the Baptized Christians!….