[Diocesan Bishop of Kunnamkulam-Malabar Diocese, Marthoma Church]


"Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you." [Joel 2:25]

Recently I have noticed in the News Daily, Malayala Monorama, a caption for a picture as 'Aerial view of destruction'. The picture below was that of World Trade Center, which was a proud cultural and economic iconic structure of America located in the heart of New York City, being destroyed in the 911 attack. When we scan through the newspapers, we read lot events concerning the state of disaster and destruction in different zones occurring and continuing. In the cited scripture reference Prophet Joel proclaim the terrible desolation, which should be made in the land of Judah by the locusts and caterpillars. The lamentable devastation made of the country of Judah as a judgment does have no precedent of it in former ages. It was of such extreme as could not be paralleled in the ages that were past, in history of their forefathers.

Ruin and devastation in many aspects of life is a very common phenomenon of the modern world. The recent bomb blast in Poona, Bombay, Delhi Parliament and in many other places is to be considered as visible reflection of political radicalism. We are witness of homicides of people caused by political rivalries. We see now many power aimed political leaders who do not keep their words and who does not follow any ethical code or fidelity to moral principles. Corruption has long been a major problem in India, recognized by all political parties. Sloppy leaders do not keep any integrity with their philosophies and go on defecting political parties in search of power. Governing Machinery itself get paralyzed and become inactive due to the factional thoughts and contention among party leaders. These all reveal the collapse in political arena.

The religious devastation is a reality and quite prevalent in this age. Religious animosity is up surging in our State, which is traditionally famous for religious fraternity. The rampant religious fundamentalism had taken lives of many innocent people. In the recent days, religious discourses of vivid religions and denominations are very popular at every nook and corner of our land. However these multi-spreading of discourses does not seen making any changes in quality of people. The numbers of human gods are multiplying day by day. Commercialization of religion overlooks its divine commission of saving soul and either keep quite or join up with act of annihilation. As the Church is torn by politics, it cannot concentrate on the spiritual nourishment of the fellow believers. So the shambles of religion is also a current reality.

Rupture of the family, which is the radical factor of the society, is a matter of great concern of the modern age. Though the educational and economic status of the people is considerably elevated, breakage of the family relations is ever increasing. Incidents of killing husband for the sake of lover, joining with outsiders to slain the parents or relative to grab the wealth etc. are briskly initiated in our society also. Old age homes for abandoned or destitute parents are growing like anything. Old age parents became a burden for the younger generation. Divorce and remarriage is getting common in our society. Nobody feel shy of speaking of it and it is now considered as very casual. Because of the emotional instability many children and youngsters seek way for suicide for flimsy reasons. These all reveal rampant devastation in the families.

The consumption of liquor and drug is going widespread in our land. Use of alcohol on festivity among students and youngsters is quite rampant. Being intoxicated by open consumption of alcohol appears to constitute an acceptable behavior in our birthday and marriage parties. Alcohol reduces inhibitions and lead to intolerable behavior in the class rooms and even in family atmosphere. This cause panic for the women teachers and mothers and sisters who are alone at home. Consumption of alcohol ruin many lives, families and cause deterioration of health and economic scenarios.

Kerala is confronting with number of epidemic communicable diseases like dengue, chikunguniya, leptospirosis, viral fever, cholera, malaria, hepatitis etc. The recent fever epidemic, which had gripped the State, was the disastrous outcome of the lack of proper garbage treatment coupled with societyís irresponsible attitude towards maintenance of hygiene. The outbreaks of fever, especially dengue fever, have become now an annual phenomenon, which comes along with the every monsoon. It is an alarming fact that dengue fever numbers are growing larger every year.

State has now become vulnerable to setbacks in the form of calamities from nature. According to studies, State is becoming increasingly prone to earthquakes, landslips and cyclones. Global warming can alter our climatic pattern. The worst global warming scenario envisages the Arabian Sea rising with unprecedented speed and gobbling up part of Kerala's coastal belt where a large chunk of the population lives. As an impact of global warming many people suffered sunburns in different parts of the state during the summer. Environmental scientists are concerned about abnormal increase of water level of Cochin coastline.

The declining economic leadership of the United States will pose hard choices for other countries also to sustain their financial and monetary stability. Though significant sustainable development took place due to the scientific and technological Advances on one side, ruin and devastation is rampant on various aspects on the other side. Now the Church faces a challenge how it should respond to prophetic calls against the devastation and destruction in diverse domains of life. Housing, food, clothes, healthcare, employment, income supports, love and care; all these are the immediate needs of the society.

In the cited scripture portion we see a prophet who recognized the wrath and loss of the nation. Now the Church stands in the place of the prophet. So the Church is now entrusted to sense the ruin and devastation in vivid areas and respond to it and also should take up humanitarian work, especially among the poor and disadvantaged. Church should take this commission seriously in the modern age. Church is commissioned for giving life and not for taking it. Lord Jesus came to this world so that we have life and have it abundantly. Also each individual of the Church has defined responsibilities as a part of the Church for the responses towards these devastation.

Now the Church, society and individuals fail to respond to the collapses and fiascos as it does not affect our self or we might have become used to it by continuous contact. The Church and society is in the grip of "Stockholm Syndrome". In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors. The syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg bank robbery in Stockholm, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage for many days. During that period the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, and even refused to testify against their captors, raised money for their legal defense after they were freed from their ordeal, as the kindness of the captors towards the hostages became a key factor. When subjected to prolonged captivity, these captives developed a strong bond with their captors, in some cases including emotional relations and one of the hostages eventually became engaged to one of her jailed captors.

How the faithful can respond to the ruin in politics? Voter turnout of believers has declined over periods. The voting right is one of the most cherished Constitutional Rights to voice our individual opinion regarding the elected leaders of good characters and qualifications and overall policies. By not voting, we give away our right to influence the government overall in a positive way. Providence has given to us the choice of our rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our nation, to select and prefer faithful and true believers of God who may continue in virtue as our rulers. We should be bold to respond and express our views against unethical agnostic propagandas and move taken by the rulers and fight against the wrong doing which are detrimental for the human society.

The strong conviction and fearlessness displayed by Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan, of Blessed Memory, is worth noting in this respect. When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi clamped the national emergency on the country, the Metropolitan saw that the country was in danger of losing its hard-won freedom. He was the only Church leader in India who took courage to write a personal letter to the Prime Minister asking that the emergency should be lifted in the interest of democracy. Thus he faced the risk of being placed under arrest. American President Abraham Lincoln ended the slavery and freed all slaves. Martin Luther King volunteered the Civil Right movement and started a new era in black history. Mahatma Gandhi saw the country is in danger in the hands of foreign imperial powers and fought for the freedom till his last. These all heroes were responding the devastation with prophetic eye view.

Catholic martyr Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero pleaded in his official letter to American President demanding an end to all military involvement, by which the National Guard was killing his most vulnerable people and priests of his land. He boldly spoke out against the poverty and injustice experienced by the vast majority of the Salvadoran people. He voiced strongly defending the human rights of the poor of his country, El Salvador, till his voice was silenced by his assassination. His formal theological, ecclesial and political explanations tell us about our own present situation, about ecclesiology and the prophetic obligation and mission of the Church in the modern world. He told once; 'Do you want to know whether your Christianity is genuine? Here is the touchstone. Whom do you get along with? Who are those who criticize you? Who are those does not accept you? Who are those flatter you? Answers to these questions prove the genuineness of your Christianity.'

Father Damien reflected on his great love for God and his sense of justice and responded against reckless behavior of authorities, by working to rebuild lives and form a community that was in great difficulty and dieing in the quarantine. God sent a variety of prophets, that they might strengthen the hands one of another in order that the people are called to repentance. All the Old Testament prophets revealed the plan of God and appealed the people to come back to God. Ezra, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and all other Prophets prophesized about promises God made of the return of mercy upon their repentance. Through Prophet Jeremiah God had not only promised the mercy of God, but also the promises of the pouring out of the Spirit in the latter days.

The only remedy for the current devastation is the repentance. Repentance is choosing to turn to God. The doctrine of Repentance in the Scriptures appears to be very prominent. St. John the Baptist and Lord Jesus Christ commenced the mission by proclaiming the Gospel of repentance as the Kingdom of God has come. The theme of teaching of Jesus was 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.' WCC chief had opinioned that if Christians are to be heard speaking truthfully in a fast-changing plural world, they must repent of domineering attitude and emulate the self-giving, non-violent love of Jesus Christ.

Finally, what will be the reward of repentance? Prophet Joel himself says: 'Then the Lord will be zealous for His land and will have pity on His people.' [Joel 2:18] God is ready to succour and relieve His people and He waits to be gracious; as soon as ever they humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face, He immediately meets them with His favours and His mercy promised shall take rise. He will pity His people, and, in pity to them, He will restore them their forfeited comforts. Godís compassion is a great encouragement to those that come humbly to Him as penitents and as petitioners. Everything that is lost will be regained thirty-fold and sixty-fold. They shall have comfort thereof and gives them plenty again and make them satisfied. We should pray to God for His Grace to foresee the devastation and respond to it boldly. Let the Lord bless us to turn ourselves to God and live according to the Gospel of God!

[Extract from Message delivered at Maramon Convention 2010
Original in Malayalam : Translated for LOL by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]

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