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Ascension – A call to Action
Fr Anthony Charanghat
Our world is inundated with news of death tolls, the COVID-19 infection spreading even to children and widespread proliferation of the coronavirus disease, uncertainty about opening of churches, and concerns about going out freely in public again. We would like to flee the daily reports of a calamity-ridden world of lockdown and a broken public health system. We would like to escape, ascending to heaven. Yet, we are in the world, on earth, and need to join scripture’s declaration of the reality of the Ascension on the one hand, with what we see on TV and cable news, if we are to be relevant as ministers of His Word.
The Ascension readings ask if we can be both heavenly minded and concerned with earthly good? Can we have an eternal perspective, embracing the after-life, and also seek this worldly beauty and justice in our earthly lives? The Ascension of the Lord is not the marking of a departure, but the realization of a presence. Matthew’s Gospel begins with the dawning of Emmanuel: “God is with us”; it concludes with Emmanuel’s promise: “I am with you always, even to the end of time.”
It is not an abstract or distant presence; Christ is the centre of our Church in Word, in Sacrament, in every moment of generosity and every act of compassion we perform and experience. Jesus’ Ascension is both an ending and a beginning. The physical appearances of Jesus are at an end; His revelation of the “Good News” is complete; the promise of the Messiah is fulfilled. Now begins the call to Action - the work of the disciples to teach what they have learned and to share what they have witnessed.
The Ascension readings are about height and depth and time and eternity. First, Jesus is asked when the realm of God is to come to earth. His answer is evasive and lends itself to the Christian conviction that we do not know about the end times and cannot foretell the Second Coming. History and ethics, faith and spirituality, are to be lived out now, without paralysing anxiety about God’s future for us. The same might apply to the coronavirus pandemic: when will be free of it? When can we open the church doors, get back to business as usual, or jettison our face masks and social distancing? Jesus’ words can be translated as, “Do not succumb to political spin.” They are healthfully agnostic, inviting us to live in the now, while planning and acting for the future.
The Acts 1 passage continues. Jesus is ascending. Jesus is no longer on the earth. But this is no cause to abandon our planet or our ethical obligations. The moral and spiritual arcs of history do not take a holiday, even in a time of pandemic. We have work to do. It is an opportunity to take our place as Jesus’ companions in creative transformation, in bringing beauty and healing to the good Earth here and now. Ascension is the reality, already now experiencing His new and perpetual presence. God is in us and with us, and is luring us forward towards new adventures in faithful discipleship.
“You will receive power from the Holy Spirit!” What might that mean to us on Earth? What does that promise mean to struggling persons and priests and religious, dealing with pandemic challenges and post-pandemic concerns?
As we consider Jesus’ Ascension, we are reminded that our work is here on earth. We do not need to wait for heaven to experience the beginning of God’s perpetual presence and to live out God’s Good News. Heaven is for real, and it is right here, as well as perfect presence on the far shore of immortality.
The fledgling Church was not off to a very promising start. Christ places His Church in the care of a rag-tag collection of fishermen, tax collectors and peasants. And yet, what began with those eleven has grown and flourished through the centuries to the very homes of our own parish family.
Faith Formation in Lockdown time
How parents can use available resources to build the faith of their families
(especially of their children) in spite of the lockdown
When you stood in front of the altar on your wedding day, one of the things the priest asked you was: "Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?" And you said: “Yes, I am.”
Then on the day you carried your baby to be baptised, the priest asked you and the child's godparents if you were ready to accept responsibility for training and raising this child in the practice of the faith. And you said: “Yes, I am.”
Unfortunately, most people don't remember what they were asked and what they committed to at the altar, and hence don't follow through with action to fully receive the ever present graces available to us in both Sacraments: to be the primary teachers of our faith to our children.
Inviting them into a lived relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (evangelisation) and teaching them how to practise that faith in everyday life (catechesis) has always been the primary responsibility of us parents to whom God has entrusted the souls of our children. So whether the church buildings are open or closed, whether we live in lockdown or freedom, we are accountable to God for the promises we made to Him.
Let's take this extended lockdown and the inevitable delay in re-opening church buildings and schools as a golden opportunity to repent for our laxity, and renew our commitment to depend wholly on God for the grace to do as parents what He and His Church require of us: lead our children's souls to Christ.
Here are some excellent ways for us to get going:
1. Build your own faith first. You can't give what you don't have. "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17) Invest time in reading the Word of God for yourself as an individual first, then as a couple, and lastly, as a family. The Holy Spirit is waiting to reveal Himself to you and there are lots of Catholic Bible apps available to make the experience easier, especially if you are not a reader. https://appgrooves.com/rank/books_and_reference/catholic-bible/best-catholic-bible-apps
2. Unite around the Eucharist. Daily Mass is being livestreamed and available as a download on YouTube all over the world in different time zones and languages. For the first time in history, you can join in at Mass with the Pope everyday at 12 noon IST on Shalom World's YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAgstcPokw0. In the Archdiocese of Bombay, you can join His Eminence, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, at the Daily Eucharist at 7:30 a.m. Unite around the Eucharist with your family at home and your Christian family all across the world. Use the opportunity this global crisis provides to find a Mass in a time zone that you can participate in with family across the globe, especially on Sundays and special remembrances.
3. Use child-friendly resources that give you ready-made ways to evangelise and catechise your child. The fruit of such learning, however, only comes when the parents create an environment at home that invites constant seeking and pursuing of the truth. Encourage your children to ask questions, and enjoy finding the answers together. Please note that no programme/channel/technology can replace your unique role as first teachers of the faith, so these resources won't work, unless you participate wholeheartedly in making them understandable and practical to your children.
Here are some resources you can use to begin that process:
1. https://formed.org/ is a Catholic website that offers a wide array of programming for all age groups from movies and audio talks to books and documentaries. They have a wide collection of Catholic family movies, and an even better section on children's programming that makes for thoroughly enjoyable learning. Formed was offering a free trial period during Lent, but now it costs around Rs 7500 for an annual subscription. That's approximately how much you spend for wifi for an entire year, and it’s so totally worth it!
2. There are many free movies available on YouTube for your family to enjoy together and relate to real life together. The ones I would recommend are:
(a) The Visual Bible: the Gospel according to Matthew
(b) The Visual Bible: the Acts of the Apostles
Please note that some other links have 'Visual Bible' in the name, but they are not made by the original producers of the above two movies who have displayed the chapter and verse numbers on the bottom right of the screen throughout the movies. The two links above are Scripturally accurate, and you can follow the narrative with your Bible open which makes the Scriptures really come alive.
Also, please note that some “Jesus movies” have been made by the Mormon cult/Seventh Day Adventists and atheists too, so please be wary of those.
(c) The Encounter shows Jesus as a very accessible person in our modern day world—a great way to communicate Gospel truths anew.
(d) The Angel of Columbia is a riveting documentary about a 9-year-old boy who changes the world.
(e) Faith's Song is about a girl who clings to Jesus in a personal crisis
(f) The whole family can enjoy the first season of The Chosen on https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBXOFnNTULFaAnj24PAeblg
Though it has a lot of ‘back stories’ added to it to make connections between the Gospel narratives, I have yet to see anything more effective when it comes to sharing the Gospel visually. After you watch each episode, look up the details of the events covered in your Bibles together; research why that ‘back story’ makes sense or doesn't.
3. Catholic printables are the way to go if you have a printer at home. Just select, print and give the kids some colouring tools for hours of relaxed learning.
4. Another great way to connect with God and understand Him better is through His Creation. Naturalists relate better to exploring God by exploring what they can see and what He's made. Watch glimpses of the wonderful world He has created on
The last link has live safaris telecast from Kruger National Park at 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. IST, where you can ask questions in real time.
5. Those who enjoy music will enjoy these resources:
Learn the names of the books of the Catholic Old Testament with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZeWEginPL0. It might inspire you to write your own lyrics and tunes to worship our Father that you can then send to HSI bandwagon at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k7tC1SHdHE
6. Finally, if your children want to do it all (listen, watch, sing, dance, colour, pray) then don't miss out on these two time-bound opportunities:
(a) Catholic Bible Camp (Bangalore) from May 20-24, 2020
(b) Jesus and Me Online Retreat (conducted by Teens United For Christ (TU4C) INDIA) for 7 to 13-year-olds from May 24-31, 2020 using YouTube and Zoom. You can register on https://forms.gle/xgpz3xmmrAe3z9a96 and contact Supriya on 80820 15436.
In spite of all its restrictions and uncertainties, this is still a season of extraordinary grace. Don't miss out on all the good God wants to give you and your family in this time. Make the most of this time pursuing our Lord together.
Adele Pereira is an ordinary Catholic mother from Mumbai, enjoying an extraordinary life following Jesus.
Helping children cope with the coronavirus outbreak
Many people are struggling with anxiety around the questions: “Will my family get sick?”, “How long will it last?”, “Will I have the things I need?” Kids, too, can get anxious, especially as they see the stress of adults around them. How can we help kids cope with the stress of the outbreak and its ongoing effects on our everyday lives? Here are a few tips:
· Keep adults informed, but limit children’s exposure to ongoing media reports about the virus. This is especially important for young children. Children below the age of seven not only have trouble understanding much of what’s in the news, but also in putting the information into perspective, because of their limited experience with the outside world. They might tend to think that the virus is much more widespread than it actually is, and might assume that if cases of coronavirus are reported in your community, it’s outside the door waiting to infect them.
· Reassure children that you will keep them safe. Help them know what they can do to control the spread of germs, like washing their hands and appropriately covering their mouth or nose, but tell them that you are there to protect them and will make sure they have what they need.
· Prepare. Don’t resort to panic buying, taking more than you might need, but do keep on hand extra food and other supplies to stay home for a period of time. You might wish to involve older kids and teens in these preparations, if they are interested in helping. Sometimes doing what we can do helps us feel a little more in control of a scary situation. In your family preparations, consider what you might need to keep kids busy for a period of time if schools are closed. Art supplies, board games and other items that are alternatives to constant screen time might be helpful. The website screenfreeparenting.com has a number of indoor activities that can be alternatives to screen time.
· Retain some routines. Although many things about our lives can change in the midst of an outbreak like this, try to maintain as many routines as possible, such as bedtime, dinner time, and other activities within the home. This provides a sense of security for kids.
· Don’t make promises about things you can’t control. We would love to be able to promise kids that no one they know will catch the virus, but much is still unknown about how extensive this outbreak will be. Instead, if it is indeed the case that no one in your family or circle of friends has the virus, tell them that it’s not that widespread yet, and “no one we know has it right now.” It might also be helpful to tell them that most people who catch the virus only experience it like a cold or flu.
· Consider “virtual visits” with family members and friends. In communities where people have been advised to stay home, consider using one of the many digital applications that allow for video-based chats. This might be especially important for staying in touch with grandparents and other elderly family members, who have been strongly advised to practise social distancing during this outbreak, due to their increased risk of complications from the virus. But social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation; look for creative ways to stay connected.
· Remind kids that “this too will pass”. Though many of our routines will change in the coming weeks, coronavirus doesn’t need to change our lives forever. Disease outbreaks last for a season. Young children, especially, often haven’t had enough experience with temporary life disruptions to remember that things can and do get back to normal. Reassure them that any fun parts of life they are missing will be back soon.
· Spend some time each day in family prayer. Pray for those who have the virus and for the safety of those who don’t have it, especially healthcare workers and others on the “frontlines” of the outbreak. As we cope with this current crisis, it’s important that we remember the words so often repeated in Scripture: “Do not be afraid.” God is with us not only in good times, but in stressful times, too.
A stressful event like the coronavirus outbreak can help remind us of what’s really important. Despite the practical disruptions of work and school closures, consider the potential benefits of increased, unplanned time together at home. Use this unexpected time together as a gift to your family. Embrace it as an opportunity for your family to spend some much-needed time together and draw closer to one another.
Dr Joseph D. White is a child and family psychologist and national catechetical consultant for Our Sunday Visitor.
Crown, Cross & Coronavirus
Fr Anthony Charanghat
The feasts of the Crowning of Mary and the Holy Cross in the month of May give us a clue to spiritually meeting the challenge of coronavirus, named after the crown-like spikes in the shape of crosses on its surface. This pandemic has created worldwide economic recession, cessation of global travel, international supply stoppages, and most importantly, monumentally significant human suffering and loss of life.
No one can doubt that coronavirus is causing a worldwide escalation in fear and anxiety—personal fears, family fears, communal fears, global fears and the fear of being on the brink of another World War. How are we supposed to keep our inner peace through an undoubted pestilence pandemic? While the response to coronavirus is uncertain, the Christian response to it is not.
One possible reason why God sometimes permits global pestilences such as these is to return us to our true priorities—to the God who loves us, and to the families and friends He has given us. Here are three basic pillars of the Christian life that can help us to maintain our spiritual and interior peace during the ongoing coronavirus challenge.
Ironically, sometimes, the response to hard times is by becoming even busier, even more active, due in part to our increased anxiety according to our materialistic world vision. Christians should rather be returning to increased generosity in prayer, which remains the perennial Christian remedy for greater fear and anxiety, by acting according to God's world vision of harmonious relationship of ourselves with God, others, and with Creation.
Along with all the necessary and appropriate active efforts to prevent the spread of evil of any kind and evade its sting, to discover in the present case of this plague an antigen for its cure, a person of spirituality must see this viral outbreak also within the context of trusting faith and divine providence to bring about a change of lifestyle to contribute solutions to this overwhelming threat.
It is not an oversimplification for us to say that all human challenges can find their ultimate answer and remedy in the Eucharist. Jesus is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the real personal presence of Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, and His Sacred and Eucharistic Heart possesses a more effective solution and consolation to every human trial, as Christ unequivocally proclaims, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." We can typically feel the fear and anxiety dissipate by the moment, and find creative ways patterned on Christ who is our Guide, compass to truth and our personal destination.
Suffering that is inevitable because of our free choices, while never seen by the Church as good in itself, nonetheless can lead to a supernaturally transformative quality that cannot be replaced by any other human experience. St John Paul II put it this way: "It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls (Salvifici Doloris, 27)."
Christians also need to be reminded that we were saved through suffering, and we too must save through suffering. Colossians 1:24 enunciates the sublime call of St Paul to "make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church." Through the uniting of our present sufferings, including those related to coronavirus, to the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross, we can cause a supernatural release of the graces merited infinitely by Jesus on Calvary to be applied for the salvation of our brothers and sisters today.
The role of Mary, Mother of Jesus, as the perfect model of Christian discipleship in collaborating with God's plan of salvation, provides the ultimate example of the supernatural value of uniting our human sufferings to those of the Redeemer for the salvation of others. Once again, St John Paul II explains: "It was on Calvary that Mary's suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view, but which was mysterious and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world (Salvifici Doloris, 25).
Turning to Mary calling upon the Mother of God, particularly during times of trial and persecution in the early Church, manifest her unparalleled motherly intercession in their gravest of necessities. History, time and time again, testifies to the truth that invoking Mary Queen of Heaven and earth and Mother of all, energises us to work for personal peace and the common good of all.
Hope in His Mercy
Fr Anthony Charanghat
“Jesus is Risen, Alleluia!” The Resurrection of our Saviour is the hallmark and defining event of our faith. It is the wellspring of our eternal hope that the purity of God’s all-merciful love flowing through us will overcome all things. Given the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic on our global society, this week’s message of hope in His all-embracing Mercy could not have arrived at a better time.
Our Easter celebrations this year have found us all living in a surreal landscape. The worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus has dramatically and suddenly impacted the normal course of our lives over the past several weeks. As the number of cases, the danger to our health and the death toll have all grown, we have been starkly reminded that every life is truly a precious gift from God.
Our Lenten experience this year was far from typical. Living out isolation, quarantine, social distancing and the suspension of public Masses were unimaginable concepts during Holy Week. While necessary for the preservation of public health, these measures have negatively affected people financially, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In these times of uncertainty, there is a temptation to sink into despair.
The characteristic mark of Lent therefore this year, was that people kept their eyes fixed on Christ, the crucified and merciful God, as a means of inspiration to encounter the world with charity and good will. Now that Easter has arrived, we must keep our eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ, the resurrected. He inspires us to receive and to give a love that is boundless. This love is pure. It does not discriminate. It is invincible. Neither contagion nor death can conquer the transforming love and mercy of God.
It has been a painful, confusing and trying time, but in Christ and His triumph on the Cross, God’s great love for us prevails. That love transcends our human understanding and is more powerful than we can comprehend. It will never fail us, regardless of where life finds us. Right now, life finds us in a particularly difficult time that has slowed our world to a near stop. Yet, it has also given us an opportunity to rediscover those things that are truly important.
These ominous days will pass. We shall overcome them as a united family of God. So, during this Easter season, let us look to God with renewed hearts and minds more so than ever before. May His love flow through us and inspire us to encounter one another with tenderness and mercy. May that same love of Divine Mercy also strengthen us each day with the resolve to see value in ourselves and in one another. A new day will dawn, and we can rebuild through Him who makes all things possible.
Pray for those who have died; May they rest in peace. Pray for those in mourning that they may find comfort. Intercede for those who are sick. May they be healed. Plead for the gift of courage for our first responders and health care providers who are on the front lines every day battling this virus, along with our government officials who have been working diligently to ensure our safety. May they be strengthened and protected in the course of their daily work to overcome the current global health crisis.
All of us owe a debt of gratitude to those working to impede the spread of the coronavirus and eliminate the threat it poses. We must all be united in sentiments of gratitude and blessing. Through the compassion and mercy of God, these ominous days will pass.
We shall overcome this scourge together in a spirit of solidarity. Until we can come together again physically as communities of faith, we can remain united through the blessings of technology and social media. In our archdiocese, we have done so with virtual Lenten retreats, live broadcasts of the celebration of Mass and many other prayerful initiatives. These initiatives have created fresh opportunities for the faithful to reignite the domestic church with renewed faith lives, that lead to creative and appropriate action at home and beyond.
Easter brings hope to our lives and inspires us to take actions that build a better community and a better world through our interactions with one another. May this Easter season bring us peace and joy. Most importantly, may it strengthen our mutual resolve as people of hope in His empowering Mercy and His redeeming love that goes beyond the justice we deserve.
A Resurrection Response
Fr Anthony Charanghat
At Easter, we will celebrate the high point of the glorious saving message of our Faith that promises New Life in Jesus, our Risen Lord. In the face of the challenge of the Coronavirus calamity, we are called to wrestle with a Resurrection response of hope that life will prevail over death. Confronted with the rapid exponential growth and mortal strikes of this insidious and treacherous virus, can we draw light from the Resurrection event to contain the underlying cause of the new COVID-19 pandemic?
There is panic in grocery stores—an insane and insatiable greed to hoard food and other basic necessities beyond our needs. We see a proliferation of anxiety and fear of financial crisis and the loss of jobs and lives. Many are asking where is God, in the darkness and despair the world is currently experiencing.
There are harmful speculations that see plague and virus solely in pharisaic simplistic terms as the wrath of an angry and fickle God for the hardened transgressions of others. This paranoid anxiety and morbid fear of death arise from our own free choices of turning inwards towards self, while excluding others and God’s plan for wholesome happiness and for harmony in His Creation.
The prevailing scenario of panic flows from the folly of frequently mimicking the underlying pattern of original sin of humankind. We have succumbed to the temptation of overly self-protection, self-glory and vaulting ambition. Our lifestyles have become an obsessive focus on ego, through which suffering and the evil of death enters the world.
This is contrary to the message of self-giving service and dying for values of unity and equality of the common good that the New Life of Easter beckons us to. A life of community - caring and sharing, mirroring His unending Love ensures this solemn Easter promise of eternal happiness.
Our preparation for the Easter event provides us insights into recognising the fallibility of our fallen nature, owing to human disobedience of His life-giving laws. It has caused a concrete alienation within self and relational fissures between man, Creation and God. Surely our acts have consequences, but God is much more graceful than we are.
Evil and suffering have never been willed by God our loving Father, who always saves; He revealed His all-embracing love, merciful forgiveness and compassion in the life, death and Resurrection of His Son Jesus. The One who seeks to bring us abundant life (John 10:10) is not a party to an un-redemptive suffering. He may not take away unavoidable suffering and inconveniences, but He can transform it to draw greater good out of it.
The clarion call of the mystery of salvation to the fullness of life is the need for conversion and repentance for our many failings, and concrete actions of reconciliation and restoration of our disordered orientations.
On our part, there has been a failure to become aware of the rising peril of Climate Change and a gross neglect for the Earth by our destruction of eco-systems and environmental pollution.
There is a wilful focus on profits and not on human development. Due to our unbridled technological endeavours, playing God, our experiments have gone awry and have endangered human health. The traumatizing of children and economic injustice are all a human malaise, responsible for bringing on the present state of distress.
The Easter event of the great salvific act of His Son Jesus Christ convinces us that God is at work in the world. We need to discern where God is moving in our lives and in the current pandemic to bring healing to the vulnerable, prevent future illness, and join God’s arc of morality, spirituality and healing.
This surely involves trusting faith and persevering prayer, unwavering hope and action. God is at work in the world, seeking healing and wholeness, inspiring physicians, researchers, nurses and other healthcare givers, first responders and compassionate friends. God’s work involves us.
Prayer is not an excuse for passivity or inaction. While it is important to pray, to trust and to hope in God’s grace and loving power to heal us and our situation, we are called to be responsible stewards of our personal lives and the lives of our fellow human beings. We are God’s agents in healing the world. Passionate faith calls us to mission. Prayer calls us to action.
The Apostles, frightened and dispirited after the Crucifixion, who locked themselves behind closed doors, discovered the Risen Christ appearing in their midst, summoning them to go out and preach with courage the Good News of the reality of undying Hope and healing through the action of building communities in Love, Caring and Peace.
We live in an interdependent world. There is no solitary or isolated person or nation. We are all part of an intricate fabric of relatedness; our joys and sorrows are one. Accordingly, we are to balance localism with global concerns, and evaluate all our decisions in terms of the common good, as well as personal gain. Our response to the Coronavirus must include larger and larger circles of a caring community, focusing on other nations, as well as our own.
As we continue our battle to eliminate this global affliction, we will begin to weaken the equally dangerous virus of personal and communal individualism and balance our self-affirmation of a narrow and restricted concept of ‘self first’ with an equally powerful and inclusive love of all. We are all in it together in a transparent solidarity, sharing our efforts and expertise to mitigate the dreaded destructive force of this recent plague’s visitation on humanity.
God is at work, seeking our well-being and enlarging our spirits. While we need to take care of our own self, we must look beyond our own immediate family relationships and our communal and national good to the largest circles of planetary care. Our Resurrection response should be one that is human-Divine participation and collaboration.
Christ in the time of Calamity
We are living in unprecedented times, when a global pandemic has united humankind against a common enemy. Religion, nationality, ethnicity, economic status, educational qualifications have all been deemed irrelevant, faced with an invisible virus that does not differentiate. The global crisis has also exposed the flaws and failures in terms of preparedness of governments to handle situations such as these. Greater budgetary allocations for arms and ammunitions, and decreased investment on primary healthcare, and on medical infrastructure in general, have exposed our misplaced priorities.
But the current crisis also shines a spotlight on faith and humanity. Most of us have never witnessed closed churches and suspended church services in our lifetime. The Eucharist has always been available to us; a number of online posts state that this period will help intensify within us a thirst for the Holy Eucharist, and help us understand the significance of Mass for our daily spiritual sustenance.
Sunday, March 29 was slated to be celebrated as Pro-Life Day in the Archdiocese of Bombay, following its proper celebration usually on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. This year, the celebrations will be marked by people restricted to their homes and united more closely with their families. This could be a wonderful divine design, since the theme for Pro-Life Day this year is 'Celebrating Life in the Family'. The pressures and hectic pace of urban contemporary life make it extremely challenging for families to spend time together. This is a golden opportunity for families to strengthen their connections, for children to receive their parents' undivided attention, for grandparents to regale the younger generation with stories of the past. Families that "waste time" together, eat together, and most importantly, pray together, will be the greatest blessing to emerge when the coronavirus pandemic is behind us.
The two Pro-Life Day articles in the pages of this issue, authored by Desiree Lobo and Jeanette Pinto, highlight the blessing of large families and the ensuing benefits for family life and for their future. This also reminds us of the accentuated pain and suffering of those who find themselves alone at this trying time. Pope Francis has spoken of those who live alone, who are dying alone, and without the comfort of their families. He says he was struck by the story of an elderly woman who said her final goodbye to her loved ones over a phone belonging to one of the nurses. "The pain of those who have died without saying goodbye becomes a wound in the hearts of those who are left behind," says Pope Francis.
Loneliness can also strike in more ways than one: families and communities (especially at the lower strata of society) may find themselves financially isolated by the loss of work and the crippling effects of closure on the economy; some may find themselves socially isolated, as housing societies turn against those who are suspected to be infected. It is then, at this time, that humanity must rally together, and ensure that everyone is cared for. Our Chief Shepherd, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, has urged us to be particularly sensitive to those who find themselves alone in these ways. Like the early Church at the time of the Apostles, we must pool our resources together, so that no one is left in need. His Eminence encourages us to pick up the telephone and check on vulnerable people in our communities, irrespective of caste or creed.
One cannot forget the army of doctors, nurses, medical personnel and volunteers, police and civil servants, and government who are on the front lines of this battle. Their myriad stories of relentless pursuit, sacrifice and social outreach that feature in the media is a wonderful testimony to the good that exists in humanity. It is incumbent upon us to therefore respect the directives issued by the government on social isolation, hoarding of essential commodities, and taking precautions to protect ourselves. We pray that God be with them and strengthen them in a special way during this time.
How do we strengthen ourselves during this time? Through Prayer! There are many televised and live-streamed Masses available; but even if you can't find one, you can pray on your own. When you do, remember that you're still part of a community. There is also the long standing tradition of "Spiritual Communion" when, if you cannot participate in the Mass in person, you unite yourself with God in prayer. Remember that the church is not a building; it is you and I, living stones, that form the Body of Christ.
Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.
Fatherhood of God’s Family
Two Sacraments – that of Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders – distinguish the vocation of priest and biological father in the minds of Christians. As Roman Catholics, we are accustomed to our priests being celibate; they do not marry, or seek the things that belong properly to married life. Children are told in catechism classes that though there are seven Sacraments, they will normally receive only six in their lifetime. Yet, paradoxically, we address our priests as "Fathers", following a Christian custom that goes back to ancient times.
This is because the relationship between priesthood and fatherhood goes back to the beginning of Creation. God creates Adam, the father of the human race, and gives him 'dominion' over the earth and all living creatures. "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" (Gen 1:28) The Lord then places Adam in the garden of Eden "to till it and guard it" (Gen 2:15). In this, we discover the purpose of man's creation. God called Adam to be a provider, a protector, a progenitor and a guardian. In short, God made him to be a father.
Yet, for ancient Israelites, Adam's paternity was not reducible only to his biological fatherhood. Nor was it a sum total of regular fatherly duties. Scripture points to Adam's fatherhood to be, above all else, a priesthood. The Hebrew words for Adam's mandate in the garden "to till it and keep it" – abodah and shamar – appear together elsewhere in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) only to describe the ministry of the priests and the Levites in the holy sanctuary (Num 3:7-8; 8:26; 18:5-6). This shows that God intended Creation to be a royal temple built by a heavenly king and served by a priest, a divinised creature, who through his holy work, is also a co-creator with God.
This was the primary work of the Patriarchs (or "Fathers") after Adam. They fulfilled the priestly role within their families. It was Noah who built an altar and offered sacrifice on behalf of the household. So did Abraham, so did Jacob. They were mediators for their tribe, ministers of sacrifice, custodians of the covenant with God. By means of their blessing, they passed their priesthood on to their first-born sons. From the priesthood belonging to every father of the family, the ministerial priesthood passes on to one clan, the family of Aaron and his sons, to serve the nation of Israel as priests, after the Israelites' shameful act of idolatry in the desert.
Growing impatient with Moses and Aaron, the Israelites turn to the worship of an Egyptian idol, a golden calf. As Adam had forfeited his priesthood through his act of disobedience, the family patriarchs also forfeit their own. The only tribe that did not participate in this shameful act was the tribe of Levi. And so God gave the priesthood to this tribe, who went on to fulfil that role in Israel for a millennium and a half.
With the coming of the New Covenant, Jesus restores the original, natural priesthood of Adam to all those who receive Baptism and a new life in Him. Christians are a kingdom of priests, and Christ is the new Adam. Yet, Jesus also established an order of priests to serve His Church through sacramental ministry. St Paul considers himself a priest and a spiritual father – "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel." (1 Cor 4:15-16) Hence, acting in the person of Christ, the ordained priest is the image of the Heavenly Father. In the priest, we see a fatherhood that goes beyond the biological dimension. A priest's life, like Adam's, is intended to be an act of total self-giving. He holds nothing back, just as Christ gave His life for His Church. That is the reason for the priest's celibacy.
The six young men to be ordained for the Archdiocese of Bombay on March 28, are called to be "Fathers" in this sense—spiritual fathers to the people they will serve, becoming living channels for God's people to experience the loving 'Fatherhood' of God. To be faithful to this role, priests must keep themselves close to Mary, the new Eve, the "mother of all the living" (Gen 3:20). The sacred Ordination of a priest in a diocese is a sign of new life and the perpetuation of God's Fatherly love and care for His children. Just as there is great rejoicing in a home with the birth of a child, the Church in Mumbai will erupt with gladness when these six young men rise as God's holy priests, uniting themselves in spirit to the Fathers right from the dawn of Salvation History.
(with excerpts from Scott Hahn's 'Many are Called' (2010))
Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.
Thirst for Living Waters
Fr Anthony Charanghat
The Gospel reading of the third Sunday of Lent this year is about the Samaritan woman who went to draw water from the well and found Jesus sitting there, tired from the journey. In His conversation with the woman at the well, He said to her, "Give me a drink." Just as in that Samaritan afternoon, Jesus comes into our life, halfway through our Lenten journey, telling us, as He did to the Samaritan woman: "Give me a drink" (Jn 4:7) thirsting to offer us living waters to eternal life.
"Give me a drink," he asks us. But really, what He wants of us is what He wanted of her – our hearts and all our love. His material thirst, says Pope John Paul II symbolises a far deeper reality; it expresses His ardent desire that His dialogue partner and her fellow-citizens will open themselves to faith.
If we give in to His request, we will simply be responding to His love for us; there will be an exchange. He will give us His heart. Jesus spoke of a 'living water' that He could offer her that would be able to quench her thirst, and become in her 'a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'
When the woman at the well encountered Jesus, she made fairly quick assumptions about Him. She was instantly able to see that Jesus was Jew unlike her, a Samaritan, and because of the resentment that existed between them, she thought He would not want anything to do with her. Besides, she was a woman and on the margins of the society in which she lived. She expected Him not to reach out to her.
His discourse with her demonstrated that He knew the state of her personal life, and proved her wrong in her assumptions. He does not share the prejudices of His people, or others' judgmental attitudes and gender discrimination. He very gently leads her on a journey of discovery. He shows her who – and what – she is. He shows her that He accepts her, will not condemn her or dismiss her. He gives her time, treats her with respect, acknowledging her dignity.
Patiently, He leads her to a deeper understanding of what He is offering. He is not put off when she brings up the differences between her people and Jesus' own traditions. Then, when she is ready, Jesus reveals who He is. In response to her intuitive remarks about the Messiah, He reveals that the hour has come to adore the one true God in spirit and truth.
Lastly, He entrusted her with something extremely rare: that He is the Messiah. Finally, she is so taken up with Jesus, that she spreads the message and brings others to meet Him, so that they also can spend time. The episode speaks to us of this dialogue that ends up in a salvific barter where the Lord, so 'deeply thirsted' for the salvation of the Samaritan woman, that 'he set on fire in her the flame of God's love'.
Even today, Jesus continues to 'thirst', namely, to desire humanity, 'thirst' for our faith and love, 'thirst' for our response of faith to so many Lenten invitations - to conversion, to change, to reconcile with God and our brothers, to prepare ourselves, as much as we can, to receive a new life of resurrection in the coming Easter.
'I who am talking to you, I am He' (Jn 4:26)—this direct and clear acknowledgment by Jesus of His mission, which He had never done before with anyone else, shows likewise God's love, a love that undergoes more in quest for the sinner and promise of salvation, that will abundantly satiate the human desire for true Life. This is why, in this same Gospel, Jesus will proclaim: If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (Jn 7:37b-38). So your commitment this Lent is to go out of yourself and tell all men: 'Come and see a man who told me…' (Jn 4:29).