Issues Vol. 169‎ > ‎

Vol. 169 No. 07 • FEB 17 - 23, 2018

01 Cover

posted Feb 16, 2018, 1:06 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 1:07 AM ]

03 Index

posted Feb 16, 2018, 1:05 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 1:06 AM ]

04 Engagements

posted Feb 16, 2018, 1:04 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 1:05 AM ]

05 Editorial - United in Diversity for a Mission of Mercy

posted Feb 16, 2018, 1:00 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 1:00 AM ]

The 33rd General Body Meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, held at St John's National Academy of Health Sciences, inaugurated on February 2, 2018 ended on February 9, 2018 with a solemn thanksgiving Mass presided over by the new President - Cardinal Oswald Gracias and a Valedictory Function which followed. The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, was present at this concluding event. The theme of the General Body Meeting was: 'United in Diversity for a Mission of Mercy and Witness'.

The members elected Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, as the new President, Most Rev. Joshua Mar Ignathiosn Metropolitan Bishop of the Eparchy of Mavelikkaran as the First Vice President, and Most Rev. George Mar Njaralakatt, Metropolitan Archbishop of Tellicherry, as the Second Vice President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India for a period of two years. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas SFX continues his three-year term as the Secretary General of CBCI.

The Bishops, following Jesus their Master, rededicated themselves to their mission of service and witness: feeding the hungry, comforting the disturbed, promoting the dignity of the marginalised, healing the sick, giving hope to the hopeless, freedom to the captives, forgiveness to the sinners, and justice to the poor. The Bishops underlined the contribution of the Church in India to nation-building and service to all Indians, irrespective of religion, region, culture, race or language.

India needs the Church, and the Church needs India. No one should doubt our loyalty or our commitment to the nation. They appealed for true nationalism that can lead our motherland to genuine peace, harmony, progress and prosperity. Authentic nationalism respects the human dignity of every citizen and calls for integral and inclusive development that percolates to every strata of our society. The Catholic Bishops wish to urgently call all people of goodwill to uphold the rule of law guaranteed by our Indian Constitution.

The Bishops urged all Indians to resolve to go beyond narrow domestic walls of every kind in order to establish a truly secular, socialist and democratic nation, as is enshrined in the Constitution of India. Dialogue with followers of other religions and with ecumenical groups is the need of the hour. The General Assembly resolved to promote transparency and accountability in society. They plan to encourage and train lay people and youth for involvement in vitally important areas of our national life such as politics, civil services, defence, law and judiciary.

In a climate of violence, they appealed to all fellow citizens to shun mob culture and vigilantism in favour of peace. The Bishops desire to continue and intensify their collaboration and partnership with the Government at the Centre and in the States to reinforce our work of nation-building through educational, healthcare and social upliftment activities.

In service to the nation, the Christians will join hands with all men and women of goodwill to ensure the integral and holistic human development of our beloved country, which is measured by the scale of human index, and not merely by economic statistics. The Catholic Church will ensure the implementation of the CBCI Policy of Dalit Empowerment in every diocese, work for the protection and integral development of the Tribals and Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and take special initiatives for the relief and welfare of farmers, fisherfolk, migrants and other deprived and exploited communities by providing care, comfort and hope to them in their distress.

An important mission to be undertaken by the Church is to work towards increasing the awareness about ecological issues and protection of the environment according to the teachings of Laudato Si', the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis.

The Bishops pointed out that the Christian faith gives us hope to move ahead to continue our work for unity in diversity, so as to establish peace and harmony and make our country live up to its exalted calling.

Press statement: Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX, Secretary General of CBCI

06 FOOTPRINTS of the Lenten Journey - Fr Kieran O'Mahony

posted Feb 16, 2018, 12:55 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 12:56 AM ]

Lent does not have the impact it used to have. To deepen our Lenten experience, we need to retrace the footprints of Christ as He walked His journey to the Easter Glory. The gospel for the first Sunday of Lent is always about the desert and temptation of Jesus. Mark's account of the Temptation is the shortest by far. There is no dialogue between Jesus and Satan, and the details of the temptations are not spelled out in any way. Instead, we have enigmatic statements about Jesus in the desert, with the wild beasts and angels ministering to Him.

Readings from Genesis and St Paul give us a perspective of looking at life as a struggle between sin and grace, selfishness and holiness. Our time on earth will be successful in the measure that we put aside sin, and try to live by the grace of God. There are two contrasting reactions to temptation. The first humans, Adam and Eve, are imagined as preferring their own inclinations to the will of God. Jesus, the Saviour, on the contrary, resisted temptation, remaining faithful to what God the Father required of Him. St Paul reflects on how these choices affect ourselves: Adam's sin brought trouble on all, but we are saved and offered new life, because of the fidelity of Christ.

People undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to follow in the footsteps of Christ—a visit to Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem; climb the Mount of the Beatitudes and swim in the Sea of Galilee. Walk from Jerusalem to Jericho, look into Jacob's Well at Nablus, and stand on the place in Cana where Jesus changed the water into wine. And in Jerusalem, even kneel at the place where He was crucified. If they read the appropriate passage, they have a moving experience all the way up to the sepulchre. But the strongest impression is of the desert where Christ spent forty days before starting His public life.

It is not surprising that the three great world religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—were all born in the desert. It was through the desert that Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. It was from that desert that John the Baptist came to herald the Messiah, and soon after, Jesus followed to proclaim Himself Messiah. A visit to the Holy Land will make one realise the significance of the desert. The desert is a purgatory man must pass through to reach paradise. What is impressive about the desert is its sheer aridness. There is no vegetation, no bird life, and apart from the odd tiny lizard, almost no animals.


07 From LONELINESS to SOLITUDE - Christopher Mendonca

posted Feb 16, 2018, 12:53 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 12:53 AM ]

The Devil (a first-person account)

I love to dwell in lonely places,

and the desert is one of my favourite haunts.

Strangely, it is in apparent loneliness

that I find I am often in good company.

I know very well the difference between loneliness and solitude.

Loneliness seeks the company of the self;

Solitude seeks to dispel the illusion that it exists.

The human mind is not limited by time.

Its cellular structure often gives rise to

a virtual reality in which

the past is either nostalgically recreated

or traumatically dragged into the present,

and the future either enhanced or catastrophised.

Were it not for this, I would have no existence at all.

I exist as the alternative self, conceived in the womb of desire.

"Deception" and "forgetting" are its cornerstones.

The sincere seeker is one who undertakes

to make that journey from loneliness to solitude,

and it is the desert that is its destination.

Maintaining the state of illusion and amnesia

ensures that it is pre-empted.

Even if against the odds one does make that journey,

I have a wry smile, since it tastes sweeter

when I succeed in maintaining the illusion

that one has gone to the desert,

when all that one has done is to step out into one's own backyard.

Truly, "it is as possible to be a solitary in one's mind

while living in a crowd,

as it is for one who is a solitary

to live in the crowd of his own thoughts."1                                     

I wasn't surprised to see Jesus in the desert.

It wasn't by accident that I asked him

to turn stones into bread.

'Using one's loaf' is another way of saying

that one must pay attention to one's thoughts,

allow them to generate images and

create an alternative reality by which one lives.

I felt uncomfortable in his presence;

much easier for me to deal with my projection of him.

I thought I could manipulate him to suit my convenience.

My testing him in the desert was in fact

a test of how well my copy measured up to the original.

How well Jesus recognised my motive when he said:


08 The GIFT of LENT - Eddy D’Sa

posted Feb 16, 2018, 12:51 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 12:52 AM ]

When the Church decided to do some deferred maintenance, Raphael the painter got the job. As always, he thinned his paint way down with turpentine. One day, while he was up on the scaffolding —the job almost finished—he heard a horrendous clap of thunder, and the sky opened. The downpour washed the thinned paint off the church walls, and knocked Raphael off his scaffold to the ground. Raphael realised that this was a warning from the Almighty, so he got on his knees and cried: "O God! Forgive me! What should I do?" And from the sky, a mighty voice thundered: "Repaint! And thin no more!"

Another season of Lent has started. Another opportunity for deepening our lives is being given to us. Let us hope that all of us will be able to receive the gift that God is offering to us during these special days. Well, what is that gift? What gift does God have for me, for you? More life,a deeper life, a fuller life. That's a very powerful and wonderful gift, isn't it? God wants us to live with the deepest, fullest life possible. That's really what this season of Lent is all about. We get this gift by being open to receiving it, by wanting it with all our hearts, by asking for it over and over again, by waiting in the presence of the loving Giver. In the prayer for the Eucharist, we hear these words: "Father, through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of your Son's death and resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives."

We should be very clear about one thing. Lent is not a second chance to see if we can keep our New Year's resolutions. Lent is not really about giving up this or that, no matter how hard this or that may be. There may be a place for some kind of self-sacrifice, but only if that self-sacrifice is done with an eye on receiving the gift of deeper life from God. Giving up desserts or your favourite television show is not at the heart of this season. But if giving up something helps you to become more receptive to receiving the gift of deeper life from God, then, by all means, give it up. If television is mainly just a distraction, keeping you from spending time with others whom you love or who need your care, then give it up.

Many of us need to do one very important thing in order to ready ourselves to receive God's gift; we need to empty ourselves. We need to let go of whatever is threatening to take over our lives. That is going to be very difficult for each of us. Many of us have allowed ungoverned, uncontrolled and constant activity to effectively push out any empty space in our lives. Some of us are still trying to consciously fill ourselves up with too many things, too much food and drink, too much entertainment, too much work, too much shopping, and so on. You can complete your own personal list. God does want us to pay attention to our desires, but not just to our superficial desires. God wants us to pay attention to our very deepest desires—for love, for compassion, forgiveness, mystery, peace, silence. In other words, God wants to give us all the gifts we really need in order to live the loving and God-filled lives all of us really want to live.


10 This Joyful Season of Lent - Fr Aniceto Nazareth

posted Feb 16, 2018, 12:50 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 12:50 AM ]

This title is not of my own making. Contrary to our expectations, it is exactly what the Liturgy itself calls Lent – a Joyful Season. Naturally! Since Lent is a time of Reconciliation with God and with each other, it is bound to have its share of happy moments. St Augustine reminds us, "Our hearts were made for you. They'll never find rest until they rest in you." And there is a hymn which says, "Happy the heart that lives in the heart of God, the heart of love."

Moreover, Lent is a home-coming, our "journey" with Jesus from death to new life, when with renewed mind and heart, we can approach God, our Father with reverence and join our community with willing service! A liturgical word for this "passage" is a "Passover". Bookworms however, like to use a difficult expression, which few understand, coined as it is from Hebrew and Greek roots: the "Paschal Mystery". I prefer to sing a happy song about this "transition" we make during Lent. "I've wandered far away from God; now I'm coming home." Unthinking people unfortunately use this song at funerals, so that while others are [at last!] speaking well about the deceased, the song leader believes that she or he "wasted many precious years."

Lent is also a season of grace that renews us in spirit, purifies our hearts, and control our desires. During Lent, we learn to live in this passing world with our hearts set on eternity. All this happens as we recall the great events that bring us to a new life in Jesus. In Lent, we hear the cry of Jesus: "Come back to me with all your heart. Don't let fear keep us apart. The wilderness will lead you to your heart where I will speak: 'Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.'"

Yes, in Lent, it is God who spurs us on to possess a more abundant life, and being rich in mercy, He constantly offers pardon and invites us sinners to trust in His forgiveness. By the working of the Holy Spirit, He changes our hearts and makes them ever new, so that hatred is overcome by love, revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord turns into mutual respect. Though time and again, we have broken His covenant, He has never turned away from us, but has bound the human family to Himself with a new bond of love. We would do well in responding to Him: "Love lifted me."


11 The Deep Lenten Divide - Fr Kenneth Mendes

posted Feb 16, 2018, 12:48 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 12:49 AM ]

The Second Vatican Council brought about changes in the Liturgy and other aspects of social and moral life. Here we are concerned only about the observance of Lent and the renewal of the ancient practices of Holy Week.

Pre-Vatican seniors, sixty years and above, remember the rigorous rules of fasting, abstinence and diverse penitential practices. When you looked around the church, on the Altar, one noticed the absence of flowers, purple hangings all over the church. When you came to your home table and experienced the menu, you knew that Lent had begun. Yes there was a deep divide, a big moat between 'Fat Sunday's' meats and Lenten lentils.

The New Rite, according to Vatican II, throws the ball in your court. You have to choose between Daily Mass, Stations of the Cross, 15 minutes of meditation, fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstinence on Fridays of Lent. Abstinence from meat remains, but Fasting means one full meal a day and how much you need to sustain you mentally and physically at (1) Breakfast and (2) Supper. No food between meals; however, tea, coffee and aerated waters permitted. This is now the discipline required in the barracks of the soldier of Christ. The para-Liturgical Lenten exercises, like the Way of the Cross, have also been delegated to the lay people to conduct.

The Holy Week for pre-Vaticaners kept you in church for long hours in the morning and evening, with a modicum of food to add to the discipline of life led in the barracks of the soldiers of Christ. The New Order of Holy Week has services only in the evening and night. But because of pastoral and civic reasons, services do not go beyond 10 p.m. The spin-off of these regulations permit schools and colleges to have examinations on Maundy Thursday. Confessions, Choir and altar boys' rehearsals cannot take place easily with no academic holidays. Office-goers and other workers coming home tired have to come for long services in the evening. The ceremonies are prayerful and full of significance with good music mixed in them, but the congregation just doesn't have the mental stamina for the protracted services.


12 LENT: A time to cross over to the other side - Fr Charles Rodrigues, SJ

posted Feb 16, 2018, 12:47 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 12:47 AM ]

All too often, I have begun Lent with the earnest desire to spend 40 days of prayer and mortification with Jesus in the desert, only to end up feeling like I was, once again, in a lonely boat caught in a storm at sea. Which is why I feel that the story of Jesus calming the storm at sea (Mark 4:35-41) has as much to say to us about Lent, as any of our Lenten readings.

Of the many rich details in that story
—the storm, the disciples' fear, Jesus' seeming lack of concern, Jesus' power over the wind and the waves—one little detail often goes unnoticed. And that is how this story begins. "Let us cross over to the other side" are the first words Jesus utters (Mark 4:35), and it is this desire that sets into motion all the other events that follow in this story.

Let us cross over to the other side. How much of our lives do we spend in desiring to cross over to the other side? We dream of reaching a happier existence: getting a better job, doing something more fulfilling, healing a breached relationship, going somewhere—anywhere!—where things just might be a little better.

Even in our spiritual and religious lives, this notion of crossing over to the other side is often the engine that drives our existence. We want to be better Christians; we want to be more faithful disciples; we want to be more loving fathers, or mothers, or children; we want to do more to establish a just and peaceful world; we want to grow closer to God. Whenever we make a resolution to change something within ourselves, to give up some destructive or addictive behaviour, to pray more and become more responsible Christians, to get more involved in meaningful civic causes, to live more simply so that others may simply live . . . we, like the disciples in that gospel story, have entered into the boat with Jesus, and have embarked on our own nautical journey—be it a bunny hop of a ferry ride, or a transoceanic voyage—of getting to the other side where God wants us to be.

And yet, how often does it happen that a short while into such a journey, we run into a storm? The winds of fear and self-doubt inevitably arise: what was I thinking when I made this holy resolution? As if I could ever overcome my addictions and inordinate attachments. Do I really have what it takes to be more patient, or kind, or generous? And the waves of hopelessness and futility also begin to rock our boats: what's the use of doing this or even trying? It's not me who needs to change; it's everyone else! Will my modest ecological efforts really make even the slightest difference in our world? In my own life, I cannot tell you how many times I have made a good and generous decision one day, only to regret and second-guess this commitment the next.


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