She Helped Me Steal Away to My Neverland

 

I have always been intrigued by my childhood and the role it has played in making me, me. In this sense I keep visiting the memories of my days in Sangamwadi, Pune. It is a very unassuming place where houses with a bedroom and hall and a small kitchen was the norm. There was a bathroom attached but toilet was a Public one. Being a Child I had the luxury of the fields and gutters, which ever I preferred. Honestly the moments of ablutions were time for a retreat into another world where animals spoke, mice had a train of their own, cats had buses and there were pygmies who had an army that was at my disposal. Going to shit (sorry for using such a crass word, but what else to use) was my ticket to Neverland. And I used to be at this maidan (field) for hours to the dismay and disgust of my parents. Where was I getting these stories from? Who led me to this fascinating world that I refused to come to reality? How did I entertain myself to believe in a parallel world where children taught and the elders went to school? When I saw the crows flying by in the evening, why did I tell myself that their school is over, they are all going home?

Vimala Bai, as we called her, was our maid as a working mother needed someone to look after her only son. Vimala Bai lived in a slum nearby. Her husband had abandoned her. She lived with her mother and two daughters. Our previous maid was Nanda who was a very benevolent soul, but after her wedding she went to Baramati. It was in such a context that Vimala Bai filled the void of a caretaker and help. I was 5 years old when she took over. She was a short lady of dark complexion and weak constitution. Her energy level was high. She did her work incredibly well and got along with my mother. As my school got over by 1.30, I spent a lot of time with her. Initially I kept comparing her with Nanda who was way more beautiful than Vimala Bai. It took me some time to get close to her. Vimala Bai had a very animated way of speaking and expressing. She knew I was keeping a distance but she knew how to break the ice. She started telling me stories every afternoon. The first story that she told me was about a sparrow and crow. The impact was so good that I started believing that birds could speak. I tried talking to them and kept wondering why they never spoke to me. Somehow cats were always negative characters in her story. Dogs were given the best treatment. Elephants had interesting textures. She had unusually great stories of elephants that sacrificed, fought against cunning tigers and in trying to save a rabbit, the elephant fought against a lion and a snake, eventually bravely rescuing the rabbit but himself dying in the end. Listening to that story I remember crying so much that she changed the tragic end to suit my taste. Then she started telling stories of small human beings who were far away and lived a fascinating life in the jungle along with lions and elephants. I later guessed this would be the pygmies. This story remained with me and became an alter ego. It was always the subject of my day dreaming where pygmies travelled on the trunk of an elephant, had ants and flies as pets and used cats and dogs as horses.

As told earlier she lived in a slum nearby. One day I went there. I really loved the place and the swing that was outside. She asked me if I wanted food and as a child I had never learned to say no. The dal and rice I had was of a different league. To this day the dal she made has had no parallel. I loved the way she cooked. My mother used to make food for me but after eating Vimala Bai’s food, I knew where my preference lied. When my mother came home, she was happy that I had eaten the food she (my mother) made and had wasted none. She never realized that the food she made was exchanged with the daughters of Vimala Bai, Rekha and Radhika, and their food I had. Radhika was just a year elder to me and we played together. She was the one who taught me to fly a kite and I must say I was a very poor student. She taught me all the childhood games like Blindfold, Chor Police, Dhapandi Stop and what not. I started becoming very popular in their house and I loved being there. I loved the attention and respect that I got. Every holiday I used to be at their place living life with abandon. During Raksha Bandhan , Vimala Bai asked permission of my mother, if Rekha and Radhika could tie rakhi on my hand. My mother agreed and there I was beaming with joy with 2 rakhis.

Paradise could not go on for long. I, as a child fell ill quite often and the diagnosis of a very worthy neighbor was my frequent trips to the slum. My mother could not agree to this but my health was important for her. So indirectly she informed Vimala bai not to take me to her home. This was a big setback for me. Everything that I associated with joy and fun was in that slum, in the small house of Vimala Bai. But disobeying and rebelling is how childhood is explored and I broke the sanction imposed upon me, time and again. Vimala Bai tried to dissuade me but I dint relent. But a day came when we left Sanghamwadi for good. Now we had a flat of our own. Vimala Bai continued coming to our new place but her health took a back seat. She informed my mother that she could not continue for long and the last day dawned upon us. I still remember that I refused to come out when she left for good. I was inconsolable. When she walked out, I rushed to the balcony to say good bye. But Radhika and Vimala Bai came on every Rakshabandhan dayi so that Radhika could tie me rakhi. This went on till I was in my 6th standard. When they came I felt embarrassed and I kind of indicated that ‘I was not liking this’. I don’t know why I did that. From next year they stopped coming. I know my attitude might have really hurt them and I recently told my mom “I wish I had not done that, I want to see her again.”

When I look back Vimala Bai has been a very integral and formative part of my childhood. She was a mother to me when my mother was away at work. She, through her stories helped me to see a world that is beautiful and wonderful. A world where birds and animals spoke, truth got rewarded, love was always the winner. But was I fair to her? I have thanked many of my teachers for making me who I am. But I have never thanked Vimala Bai or any of my maids. Nobody is going to commemorate a Maid’s day where we appreciate them. We will keep having sick Ads like Tata Docomo where a maid is the one who always steals. I wish to meet her real soon to say “Thank you and I am very sorry”.

P.S. I wrote this experience after seeing the very disgusting ad of Tata Docomo where a maid is the one who steals. Maids are integral in an urban house system and yet they have the roughest deal with no holiday to claim, with Provident Fund being a fantasy. If they have anything in abundance it is prejudices of the so called middle class who will always view them with suspicion laced with theories of conspiracy.

 

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Guwahati

 

 
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Ephphatha: Lord Open Us UP

 

 

Text: Mark 7: 24- 37

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet.  The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs. “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”  She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”).  At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Message

There are two miracles that we are going to deal with. In the first part Jesus is in the Gentile area of Tyre. One must assume Jesus was here on a retreat, to rest. His weariness was very evident in his response too. It was in such a context that a Syro- Phoenician woman arrives for the healing of her daughter.  It is said that she begs Jesus. We will have also read Matthew 15: 21- 28. To the request of the woman there response of Jesus was,Jesus did not answer a word (Matthew 15: 23). Here Jesus behaves as if he had not heard the woman’s plea. When the disciples insist he answered “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15: 24) When the woman insists and pleads further Jesus answered “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Mark 7: 27). What? Jesus said that? We have to understand that Jesus is fully God and fully Man. Here Jesus displays his self-understanding and mission which was till then only restricted to the Jews. There is where the answer of the Syro- Phoenician woman is important. “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” ( Mark 7: 28). This is what moves Jesus to heal the daughter of a Gentile woman. This is the “Ephphatha” moment for Jesus where he opens up from his ethnic understanding of ministry. He reaches out. In a way when Jesus was acting deaf towards her, the woman opened up Jesus ears. When Jesus spoke words that did not heal, the woman loosened his tongue to proclaim words of healing. The greatness of Jesus was he was ready to be opened by a gentile woman.

After this encounter Jesus goes to again a Gentile area of Decapolis. Here some people bring a deaf man who can hardly speak so that Jesus can heal. There are all possibilities that this man was a gentile. Jesus took him away from the crowd and put his fingers into the deaf man’s ear. Here Jesus is communicating with the deaf man. By putting his fingers he was communicating the act of healing. His spit on the tongue signified loosening so that the man with labored speech could speak clearly. Then Jesus looked up to heaven with a deep sigh and said “Ephphatha” which was the Aramic word for open up. My humble observation is that these two miracles are interlinked where the first miracle is the Syro- Phoenician Woman facilitated the “Ephphatha” of Jesus ministry and attitudes. The second miracle helped Jesus to reach out the gentiles and open up the Deaf man who had a labored speech.

I remember that when I joined for Masters in Social Work (M.S.W.)in 2003 I had so many prejudices that made me a very closed person. There were many students who were from the rural belt of Maharashtra and I as an urbanite felt it was below my dignity to interact with them. When everybody in the class ate lunch sitting on the floor I decided to sit on the chair. I only associated myself with the English speaking urban people. Best thing was I was not even aware of this discriminatory behavior of mine. It is when one of my friends Sangharsh challenged me at this point. He observed this inherent contradiction in my behavior and confronted me. This confrontation was not easy to digest. I also was in no mood to accept that I had done something wrong. Sangharsh is a person filled with passion for justice for the people who are oppressed. During our course itself he started living in the slums to understand the problem of the people.  It is in association with him and his commitment to the Dalits and needy that I could slowly accept my closed behavior. My friendship with him was the Ephphatha moment for me in my life. This helped me overcome my elitism in some sense. It helped me realize my disability sprouted from my attitude towards people. If one wishes to be effective Christians and human beings we have to open up. We have to realize that the prejudices that we hold against people and communities does not reflect who they are but is just a mirror reflection of who we are.

As a church too we need to open up. We love to have mission fields in far off places like Tibetan border, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. We are also ready to support it. But how far have we been able to make an impact in the places where we have our churches. The questions posed by Rev Sunil George Mathew at the Delhi Diocese Clergy Conference were:  How are we associated with the larger benefits of the Society? How many from the church are ready to send their children as doctors to places where there is no medical facility? How many are ready to send their children as social activists and social workers? As writers who challenge the system? What are we doing to address the spectrum of disabilities that the society is facing? With the rise in sexual crime against women, how have we responded?Are we using the Government Welfare Schemes for the larger benefit? Are we engaging with the panchayat? Before the Great lent begins, let these questions challenge us.

Let us pray. “Lord we have turned Lukewarm. Our hearts are closed. Our eyes are closed. Our ears are closed. Our Mouth is shut. Lord we pray that you touch our heart. You touch our eyes. You put your fingers in our ears. Lord with your spit, loosen our tongues. Let us hear you say “Ephphatha”. Lord open us up. Amen”

 

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Guwahati

 

 

What’s On Your Mind?

 

 

Text: Philippians 4: 8

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Message

The more I read this Bible verse, the more I am in awe of Paul. He is writing this passage languishing in a prison where the hope of release looks very bleak. He is aware of his death and getting ready for it. In midst of that he exhorts the Church of Philippi. Paul certainly was a man who had too many discouraging things happening in his life. He had opponents who hated him. There were people who thought he was useless. There were people who even made fun of his appearance and speeches. Take a look at this. ‘For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”’ (2 Corinthians 10: 10) In midst of all such negativity how did he manage to have so much hope? Not only that, he also gave hope to people around him.

Facebook had a patent question that it asked “What’s On your mind?” In short it was asking what you are thinking about. Did you know that the average person has 10,000 separate thoughts each day? That works out to be 3.5 million thoughts a year. If you live to be 75, you will have over 26 million different thoughts. Already most of you have had over 2,000 separate thoughts since you got out of bed this morning. You’ll probably have another 8,000 before you go to bed tonight. Then you’ll start all over again tomorrow. Every one of those 10,000 thoughts represents a choice you make, a decision to think about this, and not about that. So what gets clear is that thinking is a choice. But it is also true that our thinking gets influenced by the people and circumstances around us. There are many circumstances that discourage us. We face rejection, people call us useless. When we look around we feel out of place. We hear voices like “I am not good enough. I am not fair. I am not intelligent. I am never going to succeed. Nobody loves me” These are the range of voices that go on buzzing in your head. It pulls you back. It makes you fear taking a risk. You are afraid of falling. Everything looks very tough.

Let me share a small parable. There once was a bunch of tiny frogs who arranged a climbing competition. The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower.A big crowd had gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants. The race began. No one in the crowd really believed the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower.Heard throughout the race were statements such as, “Oh, way too difficult”, “They will never make it to the top”, “Not a chance they will succeed”, and “The tower is too high”.The tiny frogs began collapsing, one by one – except for those who, in a fresh tempo, were climbing higher and higher. The crowd continued to yell, “It is too difficult! No one will make it”!More tiny frogs got tired and gave up. But one continued to climb higher and higher. This one refused to give up!At the end of the race, all had given up climbing the tower except for the one tiny frog who, after a big effort, was the only one who reached the top!All of the other tiny frogs wanted to know how this one frog managed to do it. They asked him how he had found the strength to succeed and reach the goal. It turned out that the winning frog was deaf!

Now it is not possible for us to turn deaf to what people say. Neither can you avoid negative thoughts. Because the more you avoid negative thoughts, it becomes more prominent. Try telling yourself “I am not going to think about red.” The more the color red will pop up. So Paul says instead of avoiding negative thoughts, just hear a different voice. The voice of the Lord. Once when Paul complained about an ailment to God and asked him three times to get cured he heard the Voice of God saying ““My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9). This is why memorizing Bible Verses is so powerful. I had all kinds of negative thoughts before writing my Marathi paper in standard Eight. My head was full of the voice of my teacher who ridiculed me as I had failed in her subject. I just did not know what to do. This voice just stuck with me. There is when my mother told me to read Psalms 91. “Whoever goes to the Lord for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty, can say to him, you are my defender and protector, You are my God, in You I trust…..” That was the voice that helped me sail through. I did not avoid a negative voice, I heard a different voice.

I will end this meditation with a story that has transformed me. Before going to Seminary as a pre- Seminary training, I was assigned to Navjeevan Centre, Mumbai. The special task that I was assigned by the director Rev. Dr. Moni Mathew, was to teach the 16 children who were preparing for their Standard 10th exams. This was exciting as I had to teach History, Economics, Business Studies and English along with Roshen George and Koshy Kurian. Before the exams there was an aptitude test arranged for these 16 children. I was with the Psychiatrist and Psychologist when they did the test. All the feedback was given to me. It quantified how successful a candidate would be in clearing the 10th Standard exam. Out of that, one boy Prakash was given the lowest marks. The Psychologist made it very clear that “He is not a good choice for academics. He will not do well. Be prepared that if he appears he may fail in all the subjects. He just does not have the aptitude.” My heart sank. I shared the results with Moni Achen. He said “Prakash will write the exam. These are tests. It may be wrong.  Do not tell this to him. If he knows this he may be discouraged. You just encourage. If he fails, it is ok. I will take care of that.” Honestly it was very tough teaching Prakash. He took time to understand. But he was the most sincere among the 16. He woke up every day at 3:45 AM. He studied. He had many doubts. He kept asking all of us. He told me “It is very tough. I do not understand a lot of things. But I am praying. I am trying my best.” There were days Prakash felt discouraged but he kept trying. The day of exams came. One after the other exams was getting over. We all were worried about how the children would fair. This exam allowed failure in 2 subjects. So I was hoping atleast that they should achieve. The result was out in July when I was in Seminary. The first result I asked Koshy was about Prakash. I expected the worst. I prayed for the best. He had passed in every single subject. Yes. Prakash had passed in every single subject. I just could not believe my ears. Tears flowed. I am still misty eyed writing this. Prakash had too many things against him. But he believed in God. He tried his best.

I have myself been a slave of other peoples’ opinion. Do not get me wrong, the friends who have critiqued me have helped me grow. But there are way too many things that pull you down. There are many stereotypes that we need to subscribe. Let nobody else decide what you can or cannot do. Hear the Voice of God who has created you. Let his voice guide you on. So my dear friends’ whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ Amen

 

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Guwahati

 

 

The Miracle of ‘Touch’ and the Infection of Life

Text: Mark 1: 40-45

 

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”  Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Message

Leviticus 13 and 14 gave the Jews rules to follow when it came to skin diseases. They were to come to the priest and get examined. There is a laundry list of things that that the priest will look over and in the end pronounce him unclean. If that person had leprosy that meant that had to follow Leviticus 13:45,46 “The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.” So this was the state of the man who came in front of Jesus. He lived alone. He yelled “Unclean! Unclean!” That is what he thought of himself.

In those days a Rabbi was considered holy because of the distance he kept from mundane affairs. He was perceived to be closer to God because he avoided association with sinners and unclean people. One could only be holy if one distanced themselves from the common people. But here was the Rabbi of Rabbis who was God in the incarnate form, who had what one could call the “Miracle of Approachability”. Jesus was available for everyone. If being Holy means to keep distance from people and the world, the one is definitely not following Jesus. His gift to the people was His availability. As a Priest, I always feel tempted to be aloof and disengaged from mundane affairs. But I need to constantly ask myself, am I approachable? Am I available to people? Am I following Jesus?

It is this availability of Jesus that compelled the person with Leprosy to come out of his isolation. The law demanded that such people should never come out in public and never appear in front of rabbis. But this Man did come out. He knew that Jesus could cleanse him and heal him. But he was not sure if Jesus would engage with him. That is why he says  “If you choose, you can make me clean.” What did Jesus do?

Navjeevan Centre, Mumbai is a rehabilitation Centre for children of Commercial Sex workers. Most of the children had something about them where we could call it the “touch-deficit” inscribed on them. Either they were touched for all the wrong reasons or were not touched at all. This affected their self-esteem and confidence. There was a phenomenon that I saw when the then Director Rev Dr Moni Mathew came to the Centre. Children would run towards him. Was he giving gifts for them to flock. Yes. He was giving them the biggest gift that he could give. The gift of ‘touch’. He would hold them, affirm them, pat them and encourage them. Children loved that moment of eternity where they were respected and touched as humans. To be honest it is that day it dawned to me how important a human touch is. A touch means the world to people who are deprived of it. It is the touch that makes them feel human.

This man with Leprosy was one who nobody touched. Imagine a life where no one touched you. No one held your hands. No one patted your back and said “Well done.” No one hugged. No one kissed. No one put hands on your shoulder and said “Do not worry. Everything will be fine.” It is here we understand the “Miracle of Touch” that Jesus uses. He could have just said “be healed” and that would have been enough. But he chose to touch him. He affirmed the man his dignity. And then he says “I do choose. Be made clean!”. The man’s biggest struggle was the fact that he was unclean. It bothered him more than being a leper.  Jesus addresses his deepest struggle and made him clean.

What is the most fascinating part of this miracle? The man with Leprosy was believed to be infected. His disease was believed to be contagious. But here the Leper did not infect Jesus with his sickness. Jesus infected the Leper with his life. How beautiful! Jesus is life. And the life he has is infectious. When Jesus touched him it is said in vs 42 ‘Immediately the leprosy[e] left him, and he was made clean.’ The infection of life was so strong that even when Jesus warned the man with Leprosy to not tell this to anyone, But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word. He was filled with a new life that compelled him to spread the infection of life that Jesus promised.

When I am on facebook I come out feeling very miserable. There is so much of hatred, abuses, and negative comments all over. In our daily life we are faced with so much of anger in bus, work places and roads. We are all infected with hatred and we too are spreading this infection. I remember when in college, my best friend Sherin Abraham came and hugged me. I did not know what the matter was. Then he narrated to me a story. “I was riding my bike. I came to a signal where there was this old man. I partially nudged him and his tiffin fell on the ground and his food was all over the road. The people nearby yelled out in anger. I knew that was it. Then I looked at the old man who I had wronged. He looked and smiled at me. You know I was in tears. And he told me to go. He had every right to be angry. But he chose to smile. It was such a huge lesson of grace for me. He just ended the cycle of anger there and then.” In a time where prejudices, hatred and anger are so contagious and spreading like wild fire, Jesus is asking us to be contagious with life. Spread the joy of love. Celebrate life.  Spread the infection of being human. Let us spread the joy of life.  Life is truly wonderful.

Before giving the Holy Body and Holy Blood at the Eucharist, the Mar Thoma Liturgy has a passage where the Priest holds the Holy elements and turns to the congregation and says “Daivamaya karthaave Kaanapedavtha-alaatha Ninte Valath Kai Neeti……” (Lord Stretch out your invisible right hand…). We at the table of our Lord are infected with anger, jealousy, hatred and pride. The Priest beseeches Christ to Stretch out his hands like he stretched out to the Leper, so that we may be cleansed and be infected with the Life that only Christ can give. May Christ Stretch out His Invisible Right Hand and touch us. Let us hear him say “I do choose. Be made clean.” Amen

 

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Guwahati

 

 

Daiva Suthar: Children of God (Understanding Trinity)

Text:Romans 8: 12- 17

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba,Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Message

This passage shows the Trinitarian nature of God. Trinity is a very important doctrine, so let me emphasize it before I concentrate on the passage above. There is always trouble in understanding the Trinity. Trinity emphasizes that God is one in three persons. That sounds like a paradox. The Infinity of God is beyond our understanding. But in the Three persons, God reveals three aspects of God-head, so that we can comprehend him. Bishop Kalistose Ware in his book The Orthodox Way explains the 3 Aspects or Persons in the following manner:

A) God Who is Beyond Us. God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3: 14) This answer will help us understand that Moses here was trying to make God more tangible for the people. He wanted to accommodate God in the concepts of humans. But God cannot be domesticated or accommodated in our boxes of thoughts. “I am That I Am” can also be translated from Hebrew as “I Will Be Who I Will Be”. It points to a Dynamic God who is on the move and beyond our grasp. There are many things in our life that makes no sense to us. Many things is beyond our reach. We did not decide to be born on our own terms choosing our parents. We do not even choose our death. It is beyond us. When everything is fine in our lives something disturbing happens and we just do not know what the meaning of this is. There are so many aspects of our planning that has gone for a toss. We have to have the humility to accept that “God is beyond us and our understandings”. This is not a very comforting thought for a control freak generation like us. But accepting this reality helps us to open ourselves to many realities in lives. It helps us to fight against our patterned thinking and minds filled with hatred.

B) God Who is With Us. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1: 14 a). This passage like Matthew 1: 17 shows Emmanuel: God with us. Humans always struggle with uncertainties and change. If God Beyond us helps us to accept this reality, God who is with us helps us to deal with this reality. God has given assurance that he is always with us. God who suffers with us, who cries with us, who celebrates with us. In a world where we see purposelessness written writ all over the place, God who is with us gives meaning and purpose to our life.  Viktor Frankl says that “in the madness of the concentration camp where humans became beasts, the God who was with me helped me to carry on. I was not alone. I had hope. Friends we live in times where feeling lonely and alienated is very easy. With the boom in technology and communication one realizes that this does not assure fellowship and brotherhood but has pushed people to depression and acute loneliness. Let us remember that we are not alone. We have a God who is travelling with us. We are not alone.

 

C) God who is Within us: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. ( 1 Corinthians 6: 19.) Philip Yancey says that on the day of the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit took residence in our flawed and sinful human body. Holy Spirit lives within us. It is the Holy Spirit that helps us discern the presence of God in world that denies the very existence of God. There are moments in life that devastate us. We do not know what to do. We do not know what to pray for. We doubt ourselves. In such a moment the verse that gives me comfort and assurance is “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8: 26)

Well with that let us focus on the passage before us. Paul is talking about our slavery to flesh. We are slaves of our desires and think only of ourselves. This leads to a slavery of self-gratification where fellowship and relationship is just a means to fulfill our desires. It is here where Paul reminds us that by the Spirit of God we become the Children of God. “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” ( Romans 8: 15). The Holy Spirit has called us to be Sons and Daughters of God. It has called us to be in relationship and in perpetual love. My mentor Rev Sunny George says that the chant before the Holy Qurbana “Daiva Suthar……” conveys this meaning of adoption. “Daiva Suthar Naam Aayiduvaan, Jeevigalayi Nadanapol”. It says of the work of the Holy Spirit that has called us from our state of beastly nature (Jeevigalayi) to the possibility and grace of being the Children of God (Daiva Suthar).

After the Delhi rape case, Cousin of my wife, Vanessa updated on facebook as follows “Well the World did not end on 21st December 2012. So what? Humanity ended long ago. We live in times where calling humans as beasts is an insult to the beasts. It is in such times Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit has transformed us to be Children of God. This is just not a word of comfort. It is a call to be responsible human beings.

Yesterday when I was travelling in the train I happened to see the movie Schindler’s List. I was so moved by this movie of a man who was a Nazi official. He was a German industrialist who exploited the German invasion of Poland. He used the opportunities in Krakow by employing Jews in an enamel ware factory. He made a fortune out of sheer ambition. He bribed and looted people to get away in his business. His only reason to employ Jews was nothing noble. Jewish labour cost less. He was a favorite of the Nazi SS and was their frequent guest. While witnessing a 1943 raid on the Kraków Ghetto, where soldiers were used to round up the inhabitants for shipment to the concentration camp at Płaszów, Schindler was appalled by the murder of many of the Jews who had been working for him. This encounter changed him. He now tried to save the Jews who worked for him. He bribed and used his influence to get his work done. In the context of war he had to shut down the Factory of enamel ware. He therefore schemed to start an Ammunition factory where he had a list of Jews typed by his assistant Ishaq Stern. He listed 1, 100 Jews and they became part of his factory. Wives, children, and even persons with disability were shown to be necessary mechanics and metalworkers. His factory was a place where Jews were treated with utmost dignity, they were allowed to pray and follow the Sabbath. What was the most moving part of the movie was when in the end Schindler had to escape he cries as he believes he could have saved more Jews. He says “If I had sold my car I could have saved 10 more Jews”. Oskar Schindler died as a penniless man but solely responsible for the survival of a generation of Jews called the Schindler Jews.

We live in times where we see no hope. But the Holy Spirit calls us to be “Daiva Suthar”. It is a comfort but moreover it is a commission and a responsibility to realize the Kingdom of God. As it is said “Today we do not need successful people. We need people who are comforters, healers, story tellers and prophets.” May Triune God lead us on.

 

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Guwahati