Issues Vol. 169‎ > ‎

Vol. 169 No. 50 • Dec 15 - 28, 2018

01 Cover

posted Dec 11, 2018, 9:26 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 13, 2018, 10:34 PM ]

03 Cardinal's Message

posted Dec 11, 2018, 9:25 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 13, 2018, 10:38 PM ]

04 Engagements

posted Dec 11, 2018, 9:24 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 11, 2018, 9:25 AM ]

06 Editorial - Certainty of Christmas

posted Dec 11, 2018, 9:16 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 13, 2018, 10:40 PM ]

Certainty of Christmas

Fr. Anthony Charanghat

This Christmas, we proclaim the certainty of the coming of Christ amidst a deep sense of uncertainty in the state of the world. There have been concerns about the current instability in economic prospects, the ineffectiveness of political structures, an increasing fragmentation of the unity of peoples, hazards of climate change and the scandal of priests and nuns who have fallen from grace owing to a tepid spirituality. Yet we confidently announce the certainty of the good tidings of Christmas, ‘Christ has come, Christ is coming, Christ will come.’

Uncertainty in the midst of much prosperity which few have access to, is a sign of our trust being in the wrong things. It tells us that our values are in the wrong place. Political power, economic progress, advances in technology that has intervened with God’s creation and communication marvels have not resulted in the reign of peace, justice for all and harmony among peoples.

Yet it is in these anxieties and fears, that we must recognise the moment of ‘Kyrios–the Lord’, which is what Christmas is all about. Here we come to a deeper centre, to Bethlehem, to Him who shows us the foundations on which we must build, the priorities we must seek. Christ is the Lord-The Alpha and Omega and the Centre. The Alpha-the beginning, the Omega-the end–and always centre of our life.

The eternal dimension of Christ’s birth celebrates sacramentally every moment He comes into our hearts as the Saviour, made possible by His historical coming more than two thousand years ago. The end of 2018 may turn out to be one less predictable and certain, due to new avatars of terrorism that create fear and division by the mindless killing of innocent human and animal lives and destruction of their habitats. But the certainty of peace that Christmas augurs, brings us a new awakening to prepare for the final welcoming of Christ who comes in glory to calm the storms of life.

Our modern world is quick to dismiss Jesus’ virgin birth in the small town of Bethlehem as a myth. It is beyond their comprehension that the host of angels should choose to announce the birth of the promised Messiah to a bunch of confused and ignorant shepherds. Given their lack of communication skills, they would be incapable of delivering such astounding news--that God had come to dwell with humankind to save us, with any telling impact.

Our celebration of Christmas as God’s decisive action to send His Son to take on human flesh to redeem us, looks like God’s apparent mistake, a plan that has gone awry. Yet this is no mistake, but the greatest plan there ever could be. Because, in this child we see the way God calls us to relationship with Him, to lives of purpose and to being witnesses that God is with us. Not only is the manger an invitation to life, but of life abundant, full and free.

In the manger this Christmas, we are empowered to have a new perspective to see something completely different from all our human strivings for freedom. It is amongst those on the edge, those ignored, persecuted and sinners that we have most clearly seen the glory of God, a glory that makes it possible to chase away the fear of terror, the power of death, the economies of despair and to have courage to repent and the awareness to reject fake news that divides.

Syrian martyrs have found strength to witness to faith in the face of decapitation and torture; the lonely and the elderly sick from advanced nations have discovered new hope to battle against odds in humanitarian outreaches; even in India, survivors of human trafficking oppressed by a culture of silence, have begun to find their voices to raise protests. We are also experiencing a groundswell of rumblings against the man-made growing carbon footprint.

Liberation begins with the risky birth of God in the form of a baby of a teenage mother, in a poor family, in a war-torn country ruled by an infant slaughtering psychopath. Jesus’ life continues mostly in obscurity, ends in betrayal, abandonment and humiliating execution, but this child offers the seed of hope for the flowering of enduring Peace. He is power seen in humility, and He offers freedom expressed in loving service. There is no power in the universe stronger than God’s love and it is directed towards the liberation of human beings.

Those in power love to slavishly cling on to it. The self-emptying, helpless, stable-born baby who is God has brought and continues to bring more freedom than all powerful leaders. In Mary, we see the right response to Christmas when we accept the invitation of God to use the gift of freedom in generous self-giving. It may involve suffering and self-denial, but above it all is a life of fulfilling freedom. The nature of God who has all power, and from whom all power comes, is to lay it aside for love’s sake and without fear, force or manipulation to offer true freedom for every human being.

The certainty of Christmas manifests this truth of freedom in its most complete form, Love in its purest aspect, the true Light of freedom all wrapped up in the Baby in Bethlehem. He unravels God’s plan to free us through the power of the Light of His Truth and Love. It is the truth that dispels the darkness of sin and the Saving Love that calms the turbulence of human relationships and the tremors of natural disasters. This is the reality of Christmas challenging us to live to the full, dying to the self as the centre of the world. A radical loss of self-centeredness and a transformation of our lives—the real hope of Christmas for a world of genuine Justice, Peace and Love.

08 The Divine became Human to make Humanity Divine

posted Dec 11, 2018, 9:14 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 11, 2018, 9:15 AM ]

Fr Errol Fernandes SJ

Genesis narrates that humankind was created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-28). This means that the origin and identity of the human (male and female) are found only in God. The commission to “be fruitful and multiply” is indicative of the fact that Creation was meant to be ongoing. It was not a static event, but a dynamic one in which humans were invited to be co-creators with God. This is also sign-posted by the generosity of God in giving to humans “every plant yielding seed… you shall have them for food” (Gen 1:29). Through this munificence, God intended that humans would live in harmony with God, each other and Nature.

Initially, humans responded to God as God directed them, but soon, things spiralled out of control. The ‘use’ which humans were supposed to make of things, turned to abuse. The harmonious relationships that male and female were meant to have deteriorated into disharmonious and discordant ones. The communion and intimacy with Nature turned into hostility, aggression and violence. Cosmos was turned once again into Chaos.

On numerous occasions, God intervened and tried to restore the harmony that was intended (Heb 1:1). This was done in a variety of ways. God sent prophets, messengers, kings as well as blessings and benedictions, and reminders through catastrophes, calamities and devastation. To these, there was initially a positive response, but soon, humans forgot themselves, and again and again, Cosmos turned to Chaos. We tried to figure God out, and the result was God was made in our image and likeness.


10 A Pilgrim’s Quest  for the Child Jesus

posted Dec 11, 2018, 8:29 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 11, 2018, 9:17 AM ]

Arvind Pinto

What better preparation could there be for Christmas, than to walk the roads and paths where the Child Jesus was born, lived, suffered death and rose into Heaven? This was my intention while travelling to the Holy Land, just a month before Christmas. Like many of the faithful, I wished to walk the earth that our God who became a human person had tread 2000 years ago, when He willingly chose to enter into human history.

It all started in the town of Nazareth, the capital of the Northern district of Israel, that borders Jordan and Syria, and is close to the Sea of Galilee. This is where the Angel Gabriel came down to announce the ‘good news’ to Mary, the daughter of Anna and Joachim that she, though a virgin, would conceive a male child who would be called Jesus. Today, old Nazareth is the Arab capital of Israel, since the majority of its citizens are Muslim.

Historically, it is known that Mary, the daughter of Anna and Joachim, lived in Nazareth. But the Scriptures tell us nothing about the infancy of Mary or her adolescence. There were no schools in that era, and knowledge and literacy was confined to the Scribes and Pharisees, or those who taught in the Temple. We have no sources of information of the life that the young Mary led during her days in her own family. It was therefore of interest when we stopped at the site of Mary’s Well in the public square at Nazareth. Oral tradition has it that this was the well that the young girls of the time would come to draw water from. In the times of Jesus, public wells supplied water for the surrounding households. Of the many duties of a young Israelite girl was the task of going down to the well to draw water, and carry it home to her mother. It is this well that Mary, like most girls of her age, would come to draw water, and carry the pitcher home to her mother Anna. While today most houses in the region have piped water, this was not the same during the times of Mary, and she, being God’s Vessel of honour, would have had to go down to the well, draw water and carry the pitcher home.


12 Christmas – the Sacrament of Peace

posted Dec 11, 2018, 8:28 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 11, 2018, 8:28 AM ]

Christopher Mendonca

The celebration of Christmas is, first and foremost, a celebration of God’s presence among us.

It is meant to herald the advent of inner peace and stillness.

Though we celebrate this event by the singing of Silent Night

and traditional carols that speak of peace, stillness and tranquillity,

our present world is notably defined by signs to the contrary.

Christmas often becomes an annual ritual,

a kind of comic relief, giving us the much needed break we need.

Even as we put on a happy face, we often feel empty.

We just want to put behind us, to blot out from memory

the unpleasantness, the hurt, the anger,

and get on with life, hoping that things will change eventually.

In our anxiety, we are often reduced to silence,

but a silence that is burdensome.

It is a silence that is enforced by circumstances,

a silence born out of despair, out of a sense of powerlessness,

our inability to change the situation.

It is also the silence of the eccentric, the naïve, the gullible,

the exploited, the downtrodden, and those of us who live at the margins.

Nevertheless, this caricature of true silence enables us to get on with life,

allowing us to keep our daily routines,

while our energies are steadily depleted by underlying fear.

It is often mistaken for resilience.


13 The Meek shall Inherit the Earth - Fr Austin Norris

posted Dec 11, 2018, 8:27 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 11, 2018, 8:27 AM ]

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). This promise to the meek is but a repetition of Psalm 37:11; only the word which our Evangelist renders — ‘the meek’ — is the same which we have found so often translated as ‘the poor,’ showing how closely allied these two features are!

When one gazes on the familiar Christmas crib, in our homes and in churches, we see the statues of people and animals… and each one looks “meek and in awe” of what they are comprehending—the Babe of Bethlehem! None of the figurines has a haughty look about them, but they are generally bowed low in posture and stance, and so are the lowly animals. It should tell us something—right?

When you visit the Holy Land, and in particular, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, yes, you must bend low. You can see three entrances. The large square opening is the original; large enough for camels to enter, which they did. The Crusaders thought animals should not be in the courtyard of the church, and built the smaller arched entrance. Later, a smaller entrance was built that requires one to bow low for increased defensibility. We also heard that it forces people to enter in reverence and walk through the door of humility, small enough to force everyone to dismount from their horses upon entry, and down the steps to the grotto, where, we believe, Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ. Bow low, and why not? We are indeed bowing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Everything about Christmas is stamped with humility and meekness. The humble maiden of Nazareth – Mary, the gentle and meek foster father – Joseph, the humble abode of birth – the manger, the lowly pasturing men, considered impure and bottom of the rung – the shepherds, the meek and non-threatening animals – the ox and the lamb, the three kings, their tired and crown-clad heads bowed in obeisance, each one heralding in their own meek and unique way, the majestic Birth of the Messiah.


14 If it’s Christmas, it must be midnight Mass

posted Dec 11, 2018, 8:25 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 11, 2018, 8:25 AM ]

George J Coelho

This was the feeling which started ever since I can remember and has stayed till today. When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared an Emergency in India, someone coined the term “Indira is India, and India is Indira.” To borrow that expression, for me, Christmas has been midnight Mass, and midnight Mass meant Christmas. There are, of course, many other trappings associated with Christmas, too numerous to mention, but midnight Mass is something very special. However, since the last few years, due to security reasons, the midnight Mass has been advanced to a couple of hours earlier, but we still call it the midnight service.

My Christmas midnight Masses started in my home town of Belgaum in the late forties, and the services used to be held at the St Paul’s school grounds (somewhat like St Stanislaus’ School and St Peter’s Church) to accommodate the large crowds, as we did not have a bishop then, and the Cathedral came up much later, sometime in the beginning of the fifties. As with most schoolboys, I had to join the altar boys, and we altar boys had to practise for about a month before Christmas about the formations for the procession leading the celebrants to the altar, and which altar boy had to perform which function. The seniors always had the prominent parts like vesting the priests with their sacred garments before the Mass, the carrying of the Missal, and other varied functions that are held during the midnight service. However, at Communion time, we were given the task of holding the paten, and we used to fight to get the section reserved for the convent school girls. The prayers were all in Latin those days, which neither the congregation nor we altar boys understood, despite rehearsing the responses many times in advance. After the Mass, there used to be similar formations to lead the priests back to the sacristy, and from the look of the congregation, it was clear that they envied us for our designated functions. In those days, there were no lay Ministers, and unlike today, only boys led the procession to and from the altar. Once our school days ended, our altar boy days were over, and we had to go for the midnight Mass as ordinary parishioners, and it was our turn to envy the new band of altar boys. After the service, we used to be served cake which was a tradition in the parish.


15 Christmas in Hearts or ...?

posted Dec 11, 2018, 8:21 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 11, 2018, 8:21 AM ]

Fr Michael Baptist Fernandes, OFM CAP.

Christmas is celebrated all over the world, and it is one of the feasts which has universal appeal and character; all believers and non-believers celebrate it. But over the period of centuries, the meaning and significance of Christmas has been changed by the concepts of secularism, and now, in many countries, it is reduced to celebration of Santa Claus, and Jesus the Saviour is forgotten. Christmas is more in the malls, stores and things, buying and selling, in presents and gifts, spending huge amounts of money. In the first Christmas, this secularist and consumerist concept was not present. There was only Jesus, Mother Mary, Joseph, shepherds and poor people. There was only good news and healing, there was sharing and solidarity, there was joy and happiness shared beyond religions.

Today, Christmas is more in secular places like malls etc. where Jesus is projected along with a variety of objects on sale, and we hardly find the real Jesus, who came with good news of new life of Love, Peace and Joy. It is sad to see that we have many things around Christmas, but He is absent or not given prominence. Today, we feel happy to purchase things to make Christmas more decorative, and it is good to do so, but can we avoid the danger of falling in temptation to make Christmas only a feast of objects, and forgetting the reason for the celebration? Christmas should liberate us from our bondage of sin, darkness and sadness, and all the pomp and show of Christmas would not liberate us, but only Jesus. Jesus is not a movie actor who plays a character, and we celebrate the Hero without inviting Him to be part of our celebration. It is good that we decorate houses, illuminate streets, everything is welcome; but without Jesus, Mary and Joseph, there cannot be a real Christmas. Many things can be missing during Christmas, but not Jesus. Because He is missing from our celebration, society has made Him a character to be celebrated without His mighty and liberating presence.

Where is the real Christmas? Christmas is next door where an old couple is lonely and forgotten, sick and unattended, hungry and no food for days, need attention of a doctor but no one to take them to hospital. Christmas is in mangers of today, created by our selfish society between rich and poor, black and white, upper and lower class and caste. In these mangers, Jesus is purposely thrown out, though He would like to stay to rectify and bring about equality and Justice. Today, those who have everything lack Him, who could be in the neighborhood or who is knocking every now and then, but our doors are permanently locked for Him, or we have become deaf to hear Him and blind to see Him with our wealth and richness. During Christmas, we may have everything, but in the hearts of the members of our families, Jesus may not be there or He is not born. So Christmas then merely becomes a party, an event, a day to enjoy good food and wear good clothes, without really seeing Him.


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