Issues Vol. 169‎ > ‎

Vol. 169 No. 08 • FEB 24 - MAR 02, 2018

01 Cover

posted Feb 22, 2018, 9:07 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 22, 2018, 11:11 PM ]

03 Index

posted Feb 22, 2018, 9:07 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 22, 2018, 9:07 AM ]

04 Engagements

posted Feb 22, 2018, 9:06 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 22, 2018, 9:06 AM ]

05 Editorial - Become what you Behold - Fr Anthony Charanghat

posted Feb 22, 2018, 9:02 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 22, 2018, 11:15 PM ]

The Scripture readings for the Second Sunday of Lent recount three types of mountaintop spirituality needed for the fullness of faith, love and life to experience the resplendence of the Christ Transfiguration. We are drawn to climb these mountains. The Transfiguration invites us to configuration. We cast off everything unworthy of our personal relationship with the Infinite, and we take on the lustre of the Son of God. Silently from Tabor, the Saviour begs: "Become what you behold!"

The feast of the Transfiguration brings into our hearts glimpses of the fullness and greatness of God. However, there are a lot of times when we feel low and spiritually dry, and could hardly feel God's glory. Our brokenness and sinfulness somehow make us spiritually blind and insensitive to all that He has done for us. We feel so detached from our Lord, quite far from Him, that we find it quite difficult to see the great things we have in Him.

So let us look at these three mountains. First, there is Mount Moriah. In his old age, Abraham is asked to leave the people of the Chaldeans and their awe and belief in child-sacrifice and go to a place God intended. God called him to a mountain to teach him in a very dramatic way that human sacrifice can never be part of fidelity to the God of Life.

We are called during Lent to abandon the worship of gods of our culture (when we allow our politics, entertainment and cultural permissiveness and greed to direct our values) and to discover again our fidelity to the one true God.

St Paul speaks about Christ's Love for us shown on Mount Calvary. During Lent, we are called to embrace more fully the love of Jesus Christ, and see Him as our only Saviour. Several years ago, the Holy See issued a document on contemporary 'New Age thinking' and its contrast with Christianity.

New Age thought does not see God as a personal being, but as an impersonal cosmic energy to be harnessed and used. God is not beyond us, but within us. It sees us somehow saving ourselves through techniques of self-fulfilment, self-realisation, self-redemption, rather than salvation coming from the Passion, death and Resurrection of Christ. Salvation is seen not as a liberation from sin, but only a vague self-induced transformation of consciousness. It confuses psychology and spirituality.

In New Age meditation, we are not encountering the living God, but talking in effect to our inner selves. It sees sin as an imperfection, and so we go through a cycle of reincarnation (recycling) until we get it right, rather than seeing our life as a unique and sacred drama of sin and grace, our one-time journey back to God. To climb the hill of Calvary is to leave this self-absorption behind and see Jesus Christ alone, the Way the Truth and the Life, that comes to us each from His saving death and Resurrection.

Finally, there is Mount Tabor, the Mountain of Transfiguration, that revealed something stupendous to the apostles. We can limit our vision and hope to this world as the apostles thought, but He took them up a high mountain. Once there, He started to change—first His clothing, then He Himself. Then Elijah and Moses appeared. Then the cloud came and the voice, "This is my Beloved Son; listen to him!" Suddenly, everything was over. Jesus was standing there, just as they had seen Him before. But now, they knew what the future held not only for Jesus, but for themselves as well.

The call of Mount Tabor to them (and us) is to trust in the glory that awaits us. Our Christian life here, whatever the cost, is only the beginning of a transformation and a glorious future with Christ!

06 Darkness can be RADIANT - Fr Thomas Rosica, CSB

posted Feb 22, 2018, 9:01 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 22, 2018, 9:01 AM ]

Moriah. Sinai. Nebo. Carmel. Horeb. Gilboa. Gerizim. Mount of the Beatitudes. Tabor. Hermon. Zion. Mount of Olives. Calvary. Golgotha. Mountains are often used in the Bible as the stages of important encounters between God and His people. Though we may have never visited the lands of the Bible, we are all familiar with these biblical mountains and the great events of our salvation history that took place there.

The Old Testament and Gospel reading of the second Sunday of Lent take place on two important biblical mountains—Mount Moriah and Mount Tabor. Both readings give us profound insights into our God and His Son, Jesus, who is our Saviour. First, let us consider the story of the sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham, as portrayed in Genesis 22:1-19. The story is called the Akedah in Hebrew (Anglicisation of the Aramaic word for 'binding') and it easily provokes scandal for the modern mind: What sort of God is this who can command a father to kill his own son?

How many pagan voices were assailing Abraham at this moment? What would a contemporary father do if he were to be called on to sacrifice his only son to God? He would be thought mad, if he even considered it, and unfaithful to God as well. What a poignant story indeed! "Take your son, your only son Isaac whom you love ... and offer him as a burnt offering. ... So Abraham rose early in the morning." Because Abraham listened to the Lord's messenger, his only son's life was spared. The binding of Isaac, then, is a symbol of life, not death, for Abraham is forbidden to sacrifice his son.

What happens on Mount Moriah finds an echo in what happens atop Mount Tabor and Mount Calvary in the New Testament. The mounts Moriah, Tabor and Calvary are significant places of vision in the Bible. For on these peaks, we see a God who never abandons us in our deepest despair, terror and death. God is with us through thick and thin, through day and night.

These mountains teach us that it is only when we are willing to let go of what we love most and cherish most in this life, to offer it back to God, the giver of all good gifts, that we can ever hope to receive it back in ways we never dreamed of or imagined. Only then will we experience resurrection, healing, consoling light and new life.

We can only speculate on what lies behind the story of the Transfiguration—one of the Gospel's most mysterious and awesome visions. (Mark 9:2-8; Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36). Peter, James and John had an overwhelming experience with the Lord on Mount Tabor. Following the night of temptation and preceding the blackness of Golgotha, the glorious rays of the Transfiguration burst forth. Before their eyes, the Jesus they had known and with whom they walked became transfigured. His countenance was radiant; his garments streaming with white light. At his side, enveloped in glory, stood Moses—the mighty liberator, who had led Israel out of slavery, and Elijah—the greatest of Israel's prophets.


07 DEATH and DYING - Christopher Mendonca

posted Feb 22, 2018, 8:59 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 22, 2018, 9:00 AM ]

Undertaking a spiritual journey is in essence

knowing that one will not complete it

if one does so, immersed as we are all in chronological time.

Abram left Haran with no regrets;

the anticipated joy of reaching a land of promise

was incentive enough, even as he advanced in years.

His belief in the LORD was one way of chasing his dreams

believing in himself, that against all odds

(and there were many) he could make it happen.

When the LORD first made his promise and Covenant, Abram was immersed in chronological time.

Progress was to be measured; there would be ups and downs.

But provided there were more "ups" than "downs",

all would be well.

It was against this mindset

that he tried to have a son through Hagar.

It was a water-shed moment, however,

since he suddenly felt himself

snatched out of chronological time

and inserted into sacred time.

Abram now becomes Abraham.

This was the reason why against all logic,

inconsistent with the prospect of fulfilment,

he willingly agreed to sacrifice the son of the promise – Isaac.

In consenting to his death in chronological time,

he was immersed into the process of dying.


08 Pope Francis warns against ‘fake fasting’ during Lent

posted Feb 22, 2018, 8:58 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 22, 2018, 8:58 AM ]

Pope Francis has reminded the faithful to give up something for Lent, only if it demonstrates compassion and enriches others.

Pope Francis' words of warning against what he called "fake fasting" came during the homily on Feb. 16 at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.

When fasting, Pope Francis said, a true Christian must be consistent, not putting himself on show, never despising others or engaging in quarrels or disagreements.

Warning against behaviour that is inconsistent with the Lenten spirit, the Pope invited those present to ask themselves how they interact with others.

He reflected on the First Reading of the day that highlights how the fasting that is acceptable to the Lord aims to "release those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke."

Don't pretend to be virtuous

Pope Francis reminded believers that fasting is one of the tasks of Lent, and said that even "if you cannot commit to a total fast, the kind that makes you feels hunger in your bones," you can still fast humbly and consistently.

Isaiah, he said, highlights so many inconsistencies in the practice of virtue, like "carrying out your own pursuits, driving all your labourers, and yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting."

Fasting, the Pope said, is a little like "stripping oneself" of pride. He said that to thank the Lord, and at the same time, despise your labourers that are forced to fast, because they do not have enough to eat is inconsistent and unchristian.

Inviting those present to perform penance in peace, he said, "You cannot talk to God on the one hand, and to the devil on the other."

He also warned against the temptation of 'showing off' by fasting; "by making a fuss of it and letting people know that we are practising Catholics and we do penance, so that people think 'what a good person'. This is a trick." he said. "It's pretending to be virtuous."

Fasting with a smile

"We must pretend, Pope Francis continued, but with a smile. That is not showing others that we are performing acts of penance."

He invited the faithful to fast in order "to help others. But always with a smile."


09 An Untraditional Lent - Marcellus D’Souza

posted Feb 22, 2018, 8:50 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 22, 2018, 8:56 AM ]

This year, I have decided to observe Lent in an untraditional style. The Church requests all adults to fast and abstain from alcohol and meat, to attend Church services and Stations of the Cross. But I have instead decided to visit the sick in hospital, the house-bound, the cancer-stricken, the drug addict, the lonely and the abandoned.

It is a different experience. Each of those who are visited yearns to be comforted, or at least be heard out. Each has his/her own story to narrate. Some stories may be unique, and one is struck with awe, as one fact after the other tumbles out. Some are ordinary and are run of the mill. They sound like complaints, and one has heard them many times before.

Lent is that time when one offers a patient hearing, a shoulder to cry upon, a compassionate hug and a warm handshake. No, not alms. I do not believe in doling out cash. I would prefer giving alms to the Missions. I believe giving money only ruins the situation, and allows the victim to go out to buy more vices.

There is no medical help for loneliness or depression. Every visit to a lonely person gives me hope. The fact that I am welcomed with a 'tooth broken' smile, the fact that the person holds your hand warmly, and repeats what has been told to you many times before. It is what I call sessions in remembrance, of memories of old. Of how life was, and what it has become. The narration revolves around the joys, sorrows and tribulations of growing up in what was then thought to be a 'challenging world'. About how a clutch of children were brought up, educated and married off, only to be abandoned in the sunset years. How dreams crystallised, one at a time, and the unthinkable was achieved. Yes, they want to share their life stories. The parting is painful, and only an assurance of another visit is reassuring.

Drug addicts are another special group of people I love to spend time with. While our perception of drug addicts may be warped, some of them are educated and hail from 'respected' families. The reasons why they have taken up drugs vary. Some do it on an experimental basis, while others due to peer pressure. What is most shocking is the fact that many take it as an escape route, due to the constant nagging and fights in the family. The stress of a divorce or a separation or an extramarital affair leads to trying out 'party drugs'. The refrain "Nobody understands me" is constant. They need a friend to understand the situation they find themselves in. Lent is that period when quality time can be spent with those who are depressed and need a shoulder to cry.


10 Stay a while - Ninette D'Souza

posted Feb 22, 2018, 8:48 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 22, 2018, 8:48 AM ]

The Church gives an easy to remember slogan for Lent–Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Lent is essentially a time of prayer, spread out over 40 days. This prayer takes us on a journey, so to speak, one that hopefully will bring us closer to Jesus, and leave us changed by our Encounter with Him.

I think Lent is the only time some of us Catholics fast. What is it we fast from? I think the answer would be – alcohol, cigarettes, meat and chocolates. Has it become a game maybe for some of us? But fasting is actually a form of penance, a means to help turn away from sin, and towards Christ. Instead of looking to give up something in a frivolous manner, I think Lent calls us to focus on being positive. Like "I'll exercise more, I'll pray more, I'll save a little more pocket money and give to those in need, I'll be nicer to my family members,colleagues, and neighbours, I'll ..."; the list can go on and on. It is also about self-control, finding out the areas in our lives that are not Christ-like or Christ-driven, and letting them die. Of course, even with the simple goals we set for ourselves during Lent, I believe we will still have trouble keeping them, because Lent opens up various areas of weakness. This can be painful, but recognising how helpless we are will only make us seek God's help with renewed urgency and sincerity.

Almsgiving during Lent is not about putting in that extra mount of tithe. It is to do with reaching out to others and helping them without question—a way of sharing the experience of God's unconditional love in our own lives. This explains St (Mother) Teresa's inspiring words to her Sisters. "Without suffering, our work would be social work. All the desolation of poor people must be redeemed, and we must share it to do God's will under all circumstances." Often, we are influenced into compromising our convictions, especially due to social pressure. Lent questions our sensitivity to others. Are we ready to suffer for their benefit? Are we ready to feel compassionate towards Christ, suffering with the poor?


11 Wandered away from home - Celine D’souza

posted Feb 22, 2018, 8:43 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 22, 2018, 8:43 AM ]

He wandered far away from home; sadly but surely, he did. Purposefully, knowingly, willingly. The pastures were greener on the other side; the tempting lures beckoned. Like any other teenager, Ian sought joy in the material. He joined a band of good for nothing fellows and strayed, wandered, roamed. Prodigal child! Black sheep! Who, ME? No, never, he thought, what is wrong in seeking happiness independently, exploring the unexplored, unearthing the hidden pleasures? He moved from the safe haven of HOME to the unknown realms of uncertainty and insecurity. With his new found gang, he wallowed deep in vices—drinks, drugs, the works!

Years of hopeless habits ruined Ian. His career paused, health plummeted and name touched dust. The only ray of sunshine, which he was oblivious to, was his mother and family waiting for a homecoming without a grumble or whimper, only silent tears. Several summers Ian spent in a trance of pretentious ecstasy. He became a non-entity, a nobody, unrecognisable as the boy next door. Only HE was happy cordoned off, cocooned. Then, as one late winter was slipping into early summer, LENT dawned, and God laid his hand on Ian. He was surprised to see that what he had left behind was beautiful, safe, loving, and he returned home.

Lent and Islam's Muharram are mystical periods—a lament against strife and pettiness. Yet, the relevance of both cannot be lost in a world that chooses to remain strife-torn with narrow minds. Both periods are a call for peace; they tell us that beyond are the Angels waiting at the harbour to greet us home, and who does not want to go home? Home to rest, home to peace. The man who has worked the whole day rushes home in the evening; the weary traveller waits for the journey to end and be at home; those ill in the hospital long to be discharged and return home. Even the rose in full bloom gives out its enticing fragrance, knowing well it will wilt.

Going home is metaphoric. For Ian and scores of others like him, it means coming out from the deep abyss of abuse, the black hole. Breaking all self- made barriers, bringing light into life which darkness cannot resist. Almighty God knows that the old world values have crumbled under the onslaught of a new vicious culture, so He forgives and welcomes all back home at each confession. It is thus important for the wanderer to listen to the voice calling him home. The voice is obscure, different each time. It may be an anguished mother, father, sibling or God almighty Himself.


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