|SEPTEMBER 2005||DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE||
What is repentance? Repentance is more than just the feel of guilt or attrition of doing anything contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God. True repentance is the state of turning unto Lord and opening our heart fully to Lord and surrendering to Him. Repentance is a great experinece in our life which regenerate and transfigure the life of the sinner with the involvement of Lord with our broken heart. Like a sunflower blossom when the sun rises, our mind should open in front of Lord who is the Sun of righteousness. The tranfiguration of mind affect our entire life because it is the interaction of God. It is an act that the creator renews His creation. Like the cocoon emerge out when the larva is fully mature, our life should be opened and brought out giving freedom from subtle sins of our heart.
Through true repentence, life is elevated to an elate state by the touch and blessings from God. The repentance and transfiguration of our life changes our state from a deplorable status to a blessed status, through a reorientation and eventually effecting a total communion with God. When St. Paul passed through such an experienece, he exemplified same, 'Old things are passed away and all things are become new.'
This regeneration and reorientation of a person influence all walks of life of that person. However, it is not limited to that particular person alone. Due to the involvement of the Holy Spirit of God, the effect is extended to entire society to which he is attached and in turn, it becomes an epoch making event for that age and for the history and eventualy turns out as a great participation in building the Kingdom of God. In his spiritual pursuits, Fr. Damien sought for the intention of his life, in the presence of God. With his true findings for his voluntary sojourn among the lepers of Molokai, not only he could dedicate his life for ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of the lepers, but also he could create a new trend and inspiration in his society and for entire mankind that the Lepers can be uplifted and be given a new life. His profound example of devotion had set up an evolutionary episode in the history and imprinted him as one of the great-hearted humanitarians of all time.
When Jesus had first revealed Himself for His public mission, His foremost message was that the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel. The referred scripture portion is an example of the indulgance of Lord Jesus with His contemperory society. The scinario was at the most celebrated feast of passover of the Jews in Jerusalem where a huge crowd assembled to participate in the festival. The place where this cure was wrought was at the pool of Bethesda, which had a miraculous healing virtue in it. Jesus travelled to Jerusalem to take part in the festival. When Jesus reached Jerusalem, he did not visit first the Temple area where a great festive mood was prevailing, instead he went straight to the the pond side in Bedsidea to give a human touch to the atmosphere which revealed His compassion and indication of the great design of His coming to this world to seek and save the wounded and afflicted.
At this place lay a great multitude of diseased people, blind, halt, crippled and paralytic. Those were the people who were rejected and thrown out from the society. Here Jesus saw a man who was inflicted with disease for 38 long years. He was a man alienated fron his society due to his disease. A natural social life was impossible and inpractical for this man. Being in midst of a huge crowd does not mean that man is leading a social life. He get alienated due to the attitude of the crowd towards that man. The social life is created through the social relations. We can see many people around us who are neglected by the society. The people who live on the roadside, children born as orphans, people who are thrown to the street are all neglected by the society.
The man was waiting there with an intention of getting healed. He was well aware and it was well known to him about the condition on which the healing is attained that is the first man who step into the water after the angel of God trouble the water, get healed. It was a place of charity of men concurred with the mercy of God for the relief of the distressed. Being least able to help themselves into the water, they lay longest waiting in the porches with their pain and suffering. The man whom Jesus had chosen was waiting for his chance for last 38 years as he was rejected always by the helpers. The lesson what Jesus teach to the world is that it is not the festivals, it is not the temple, it is not the priests, it is not the pond, it not the angel who helas us, it is primarly Lord who heals us.
Psunami had taken away 30 lakhs people from the face of earth all on a sudden. In the midst of these hardships many people raise a question, Where is God in this scinario? Many who lost all their dear ones and all material properties ask this question 'Where is God? Why God put all these innocent people into big trouble? We can get only one answer to these questions. Where ever the God was at the time, the Son of Man had lamented from cross, "Lord, Lord why you had forsaken me?'; God was at the same place when the Psunami happened.
The reality of our spiritual experience is that when God looks to be silent or when we feel that God is not answering our questions, we feel the presence of God, provided we impatiently wait to see the desire of God. Psalmist very confidently say about it; " I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth."
Secondly, Jesus had not only healed the man on the pondside, but also He gave company to that man who was totally rejected and downtrodden in the society. Jesus is Immanuel which means "Lord is with us". He is not the one who reject or discard anybody. Our repentance and healing gives us the presence and companionship of Jesus. Our Lord had promised us that "I will never desert you, nor will ever forsake you".
The leper on the pond side was in an utter helpless situation as he had been diseased long thirty-eight years waiting for the mercy from anyone to take him to the pond when the pond is disturbed by the angel of God. Thinking Jesus as a man who could help him to take to the water, very hopefully he complains Jesus for want of friends to help him in; "Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool." Also he bewails his infelicity, that very often when he came, another stepped in before him. We see many people around us who are helpless and looking for a beacon for help. The contingency, helplessness or depravity of these men is not by any of their self laxity or delusion, but it is the product of regress, decline, and decay of our living society. All their trouble and hardships in their life, having taken on foreboding ominous connotations of the destiny or fate is also a kind of rejection and escapism due to the dearth of courage to face the life. It was a token of Godís good will to that people, and an indication that When Christ came up to Jerusalem he visited not the palaces, festival ground or the temple, but the place of sick and downtrodden, which is an instance of his humility, and condescension, and tender compassion, and an indication of his great design in coming into the world, which was to seek and save the sick and wounded. He had fastened his eye to the one who was in a most deplorable condition than any of the rest. Christ knows men better than their neighbors know them. Christ knows men better than they know themselves.
When the President of India, His Excellency Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, addressed a crowd of young ones of around 6000 students, they asked him a question, 'What is your mission as the President of India?' The President had told them that his mission as President of India is to bring a smile on all the people of the nation. The smile comes on the lips of the people when we can give hopes to those lost their hopes, enlighten them with literacy and replenish them with resources to live.
The healed man was a God fearing man who was experiencing the presence of God. Immediately after he was healed, he ran to the temple instead of returning to his own house. Jesus saw him in the Temple. He was eagerly waiting to come to the temple to receive blessings from God. Christ was unknown to him when He healed him. This man, being unacquainted with Christ and Jesus retired into the crowd immediately after the healing, the healed man could not recognize Jesus in the Temple. Many of us who enjoy the blessing of God are yet to know and recognize Jesus to full extent. Though we claim that we know God and acquired sufficient theological knowledge, we may be standing far away without truly recognizing Him. Unless draw near to Him, transfigure and grow in God, we are making a false claim that we know and recognize God. Growing in God is like cumulating our wealth in cumulative deposits. There are many who make a great profession of religion who yet have to taste the real love of God. General Guardan had to conquer a mighty fort in the Sudan. The job was entrusted to a commander under him. It was a very difficult task. After successfully accomplishing the assignment of conquering the fort, the commander victoriously came to General Guardan with great satisfaction and expectations. But General Guardan simply appreciated and honored the commander and told him that he entrust him to conquer a more difficult fort. In our faith life we are called and exhorted to add one grace to another and grow in all grace, in faith, and virtue, and knowledge keeping Christ as our Head. By how much stronger we are grown in grace, by so much the more steadfast shall we be with the truth in love.
While we grow in Christ, we are equipped to share our experience of His love in our homes, church, community and throughout the world. This is the real proselytization. The healing was taken place while a large multitude came from Jerusalem and beyond to attend the Passover festival which was the most celebrated feast of Jews. There were many Jews from Jerusalem who were very traditional and came with a serious mind to worship God and to spend their time in religious exercises. Through this healing episode, Jesus was motivating to sow the seed of a transfiguration and remake of the individuals, society and the Church. God is looking for the purity of heart and transfiguration of our mind.
Out of those who gathered to worship in the temple, there were many who were strict to observe the piety and traditional values of the festivals. But there were none who was willing to look at the people eagerly waiting for the consolation. This situation is very typical with our contemporary world. Many do not hear at all the dreadful lamentation of many who are inflicted with sorrows and of great grief. Their hearts have become numb to show mercy and compassion to these deserving downtrodden and grief-stricken crowds.
The sermon was Christís vindication of himself before the Jews, when he was prosecuted as a criminal for healing the man on the Sabbath day. The Jews quarreled with the man for carrying his bed on the Sabbath day, accusing him that it was not lawful as it amounted to contempt on the Sabbath. These accusations were infallibly designed and unalterably determined with their erratic theological analysis of God's doctrine.
In our contemporary society the divisional feelings are being created out of boundaries created by mind of people with the physical and materialistic differences: rich, poor; illiterate, learned; high class, low class; powerful, powerless; etc. etc. Even the caste system was not created by any person or any ruler, but rather it developed out of a practice of a society and boundaries created by human mentality over several thousands of years. At this point, we have a big question in front of us; "Are we a caste by ourself?" The heart of Christ was much upon oneness of all; that all might be incorporated in one body. As a worshipping community, we are called to root out all these differential mentalities, as Jesus removed all the enmities and all had been reconciled. We are not called for to withhold ourself from the realities of sufferings and hardships of the people and live in secured and self protected palacious mansions. We see ourself in the same state of mind which the Jews on the Bank of Bethesda had towards the helpless people lying there.
Jesus Christ intercedes not only for great and eminent believers, but for the meanest and weakest; not for those only that are to be employed in the highest post of trust and honor in his kingdom, but for all, even those that in the eye of the world are inconsiderable. So any place of worship can not prohibit or restrict anybody; rather it should be the place where the sinner is turned and changed to holiness. Church should reach to the very bottom level of the society so that the ones who are fallen are supported and brought back to the Grace of God. As a follower of Christ we should become the role models of this call. Our mission is to search out the people who are deprived of fellowship, who are deprived from the society, who are deprived of a decent living and who are deprived of any thing in this world which he is also deserving.
The biggest danger which the modern society is facing is the pollution of our inner mind. Polluted mind is a frozen consciousness. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches us "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Accountability, transparency and quality are the three words which really touch our mind. We are accountable to God and to the society around us. Zacchaeus lived a life which he thought himself as unaccountable to anybody. But when he saw Jesus and hosted Jesus he got transfigured and considered all his deeds accountable. When the Lord touches our life and a transfiguration takes place all the pollution from our mind will be removed and it becomes pure so that we act in an entirely transparent way to our society. 'It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me' is the experience of the transfigured man.
[Extract from Message delivered at Maramon Convention 2005 : Original in Malayalam]
Translated by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA
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