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James Thanickan

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On Religious Topics

On Religious Topics
 
 
 
CONTENTS
 
1. John 8:30-36
 
2. 1 John 4:7-13
 
3. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, 13
 
4. Peace - Christian Perspective

John 8:30-36 

 30Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

 

 31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

 33They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"

34Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

 

 

Yesterday we celebrated Independence Day, the anniversary of the day we won freedom from the colonial masters, the day  we  kept our tryst with destiny (Jawaharlal Nehru), when we had redeemed our pledge. Christ event was also one of redeeming a pledge, a promise made by God to humanity that he would send a Messiah (a saviour) to ‘free’ them. Jesus is reminding his listeners of the fulfilment of that covenant.

It may be surprising to many in this land that the very concept of freedom finds its roots in the Bible. The components of freedom, as per the Bible, are discipline, not an externally imposed discipline like that on a slave but one arising out of one’s self like that of a son of the family, trust in God, knowledge of the true teaching, love of humanity, purity and, above all truth. Truth is the essence of freedom. “If there is no truth about man, man also has no freedom. Only the truth makes us free.” (Cardinal Ratsinger, Truth and Freedom in Communio: International Catholic Review, Washington spring 1996)

Jesus Christ, in simple and direct language, adumbrates the basic concepts on which free India’s governance is built, that of freedom, fraternity and truth. When we became masters of our fate, we took as our motto, Satyameva Jayate. (Truth alone triumphs), engraved on our national emblem. Jesus exhorts every one to know the truth and assures all that the truth shall set them free. In another part of the Bible we are told Pilate raised the question, what is truth (John 18:38).  He, however, was not interested in knowing the truth and, therefore, would not wait for a reply. The common people listening to Jesus on this occasion were not in such a hurry as Pilate later would be. So Jesus goes on explaining to them what truth is.  He says he is the truth. As he said on another occasion, “I am the truth, the way and the life” ((John 14:6). Truth is what sets you free. True freedom is realisation of truth, of God. Sages everywhere and at all times realised truth is God. Mahatma Gandhi too concluded that truth is God, that truth and God are interchangeable. In words reminiscent of Jesus’ he said God is life, truth, light. He is love. God realisation is realisation of truth, the ultimate Moksha or Nirvana, that feeling of ultimate reality and freedom from all bondages.

Adam and Eve were also after truth, truth about the trees of life and wisdom that would “free” them and allow them to be like God. But the truth was not what had been told them by the devil. They were deceived, lured away from truth. So they ended up losing their freedom.

In our day-to-day life also we are searching for truth but most often end up in falsehoods, deceptions, and pretensions and not in truth. The result is slavery to falsehood; loss of our freedom and a life of bondage, a life of worries.

As always, Jesus’ words are relevant in our daily life and not merely in a high spiritual sense. He is not one of those ivory tower philosophers [teachers of law] who could quote chapters and verses from other ‘philosophers’ but a lay person who chose his words and examples from the life around him. What he says here contains a great moral principle and practical wisdom. Practise truth and you will find that life is easy and worry-free. Take any situation in life from a simple matter of applying for leave from the office to paying tax to marriage negotiations, from interpersonal relationships within the family to that in an organisation or in the big network of society. Truth makes life trouble-free. If you tell a lie you will have to say at least two more lies to cover that up and the number grows ad libitum. We all say and know that ultimately the truth will emerge. So why say a lie at all. Every one has high regard for a truthful person and gives special heed to his or her words. One does not have to read many self improvement books such as The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, but just reflect and act on the words of the Lord and life becomes an easy one. Be a free human being. Hold your head high with your feet firmly on truth. There is nothing better than that.

James Thanickan 16 August, 2005.

1 John 4:7-13

 

This is a passage, which talks about love, both human and divine. It contains the single greatest and most succinct statement about God in the whole of Bible, that God is love.  That is also the most profound theological statement, which explains many of the difficult questions.  It explains creation. God knew there would be disobedience. Still he created the world and man. Why? Because since God is love he cannot exist in loneliness. It explains free will because love has to be free. Machines cannot love because there is no free will. It explains providence. Unlike a factory worker who develops a machine and leaves it to run itself, God has created human kind and because he is love he does not leave us to our fate, but constantly cares for us. It also explains redemption. God did not leave human kind, which had sinned as lost souls, who should suffer for their disobedience but offered to save them. And it is also the explanation for life beyond. God has not left us as flowers, which the frost of death has withered too soon, but because he is love he has offered us eternal life with him.

 

More than the theological statements, the passage tells us about how to conduct our selves in our personal and societal life. It says whoever does not love does not know God. We cannot see electricity. But we can see the effect it produces. We cannot see God physically but we can see the effect of God in love. John bluntly tells us that the man who claims to love God and hates his brother is a liar.  If we love God, we cannot hate our fellow beings. We should prove our love of God through loving kindness to our fellow creations.  We cannot pursue a course of revenge and hate.  That applies to both individuals and governments.  Through war and hate campaign we cannot make the world a safer place.  It can be done only through love. Let us rededicate ourselves to God, by discarding the thoughts of hate and revenge, which we may have, felt for others and start loving every one as God loves us

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1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, 13.

 

The thirteenth chapter of Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians is an extremely beautiful and, perhaps, the most, wonderful chapter in the whole of the Holy Bible. It is a paean to love in its most sublime form. The Corinthians, like many moderns, had confused ‘love’ with ‘lust’. Such confused understanding of this most beautiful human feeling is understandable when one recalls that Corinth was famous for the rites of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. (She and Eros were often depicted together.)  Saint Paul, therefore, in this passage enumerates the fifteen characteristics of true love, the love that emanates from God, the love with which Jesus Christ loved humanity, the love that Lord Jesus asked us to give to each other, as distinct from what the Corinthians had been perceiving as love. Love is the quintessence of the teaching of Jesus; it is the sum and substance of true Christianity.

 

According to Paul love is a gift of God to people who have faith and hope. Paul says that a person may have the gifts of tongues, that is, of speaking in many languages, of prophecy, that is, of preaching God’s message to people, of intellectual knowledge, of passionate faith like many missionaries (and the Inquisitors), of giving alms like the philanthropists, and even suffering physically like the martyrs of faith, but if he does not have ‘love’ then he has ‘nothing’. Paul then proceeds on to describe what is true love. It is patient with and compassionate to people, accepting their shortcomings and weaknesses; it is kind and benign unlike the institutions of authority in all ages; it knows no envy at the success of others; it is no braggart looking out for popular applause; it is self-effacing always conscious of its own unworthiness; it is not inflated with its own importance unlike leaders of today “dressed in a little brief authority”; it behaves gracefully with courtesy, tact and politeness; it does not insist upon rights and privileges unlike people of importance in religious and secular institutions today; it does not fly into a temper at short fuse; it does not keep in memory any wrong that it has received, that is, the good deeds of others are remembered and their bad deeds are forgotten, unlike as in Julius Caesar where the good is oft interred with the dead person and the bad is remembered; it finds no pleasure in evil doing, that is Christian love has none of that human malice that finds pleasure in ill reports and gossips; it rejoices with the truth, that is, Christian love has nothing to conceal and is glad when the truth prevails (Satyameva jayate); it can endure anything, any injury, or any disappointment; it is completely trusting like an innocent child both in God and in fellow human beings; it never ceases to hope in God, in humanity and in oneself; and, finally, love bears everything with triumphant fortitude, that is, not passively suffering but actively transforming the suffering to a victory as Jesus Christ did.

 

Paul goes on to speak of the absolute permanency, completeness and supremacy of love in the last verse of the chapter. Love overrides everything, even obedience to authorities as Paul says in Romans 13: 8, Be under obligation to no one – the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law.

 

It is this great love that every human being has to strive for and pray for infusing all institutions including the Church.  When such love permeates all relationships and structures in the world, irrespective of linguistic, religious, social and political differences, then truly one can say that the Kingdom of God has arrived. Let us pray for that Brave New World.

PEACE – CHRISTAN PERSPECTIVE

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow love

Where there is injury, pardon

Where there is doubt, faith

Where there is despair, hope

Where there is sadness, joy

Where there is darkness, light

This prayer of St. Francis of Assisi summarizes the Christian concept of peace.

 

Peace is traditionally defined as freedom from strife of war, an antonym for war. Peace is not mere, particularly in the Christian hermeneutics. Peace is more than the absence of war; it cannot be reduced to the maintenance of balance of power between opposing forces nor does it arise out of despotic domination, but it is appropriate called “the effect of righteous”(S.S. 78:1)

 

Peace is a state of mind which gives freedom for orderly action.  Coercion to act is an orderly way is not peace, asthat involves denial of freedom as well as violation of an individual.  In other words, a policed peace is no peace.  That is why peace imposed by a dictator is not genuine peace.  On the other hand, peace does not mean license to do anything one wishes.  The act is to be guided by the desire to restore the order of things.  That is to say, peace is “the fruit of that right ordering of things with which the divine founder has invested human society.”  Since change is in the natural order of things, inertia is not peace.  Therefore, keeping the status quo is also not peace.  Peace must lead to orderly development of society in the path commanded by God.

 

Peace in the Bible

 

Jesus said, “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you.  I do not give I as the world does.” (Jn.14:27)  What is the peace Jesus is referring to here?  The Hebrew word for peace is shalom.  It means everything which makes for a person’s highest  good.  When a person greets another shalom or salaam, he/she wishes the other not mrely the absence of evil things, but the presence of all good things.

 

In the Bible peace means not only freedom from all trouble; it means enjoyment of all good.  The peace which the world offers us is the peace of escape, the peace which comes from the avoidance of trouble and refusal to face things.  The peace which Jesus offers us is the peace of conquest. As Shakespeare says,

“A peace is of the nature of a conquest; for then both parties nobly are subdued, and neither party loses.”

 

The peace of conquest is not passive but active.  It is characterized by the absence of hatred, injury, doubt, despair and sadness and by the presence of positive virtues of love, pardon, faith, hope and joy.

 

Peace cannot thrive in a society where inequality reigns; where inequality reigns; where a few appropriate all riches and millions starve; where there is hatred, injury, doubt, despair and sadness.  Poverty imposed by man is a cause of strife and a hindrance to peace.  Hence the right against poverty, injustice and inequality is a war of peace.

 

Mahatama Gandhi has said, “No one can be actively non-violent and not rise against social injustice no matter where it occurs.”  If we want to achieve peace we cannot turn our backs on the sufferings of others.

 

Peace means active good will to all people.  “Peace cannot be obtained on earth unless the welfare of people is safe-guarded and people freely and trustingly share with another the riches of their minds and their talents. (G.S. 78:2) A just society cannot allow widening of economic inequalities and disparities; that will be a step away from peace.

 

Love, the Source of Peace

 

Peace flows from the commandment, “Love thy neighbour, as thyself.”  If you love your neighbour as you love yourself there will not be any strife, instead there will be active peace, where a person can obtain the highest goods of life.  For love goes beyond what justice can ensure.

 

The practice of fraternal love calls for respect for the dignity of the other person.  The presupposes acceptance of the basic equality of all human beings.  Undoubtedly, not all are alike as regards physical capacity of intellectual and mental powers.  But all people are endowed with reason and are created in God’s image; all have the same divine calling and destiny.  There is a basic dignity and equality in persons, and it can be given full recognition only in a peaceful society.   

 

Peace is not an isolated concept; it is intrinsically inked with other concepts like equality of human beings, personal dignity, social justice and forgiving love.  It is not a mere absence of strife not a lull between wars, but an active and dynamic force that shapes life and leads human beings in the divinely ordered path of development.  It does not stand for status quo but is a catalyst of change.  It flows out of giving rather than receiving, for, as the saint from Assisi prayed, “it is in giving that we receive.”  Peace is the path leading from darkness to light, from untruth to truth and from death to immortality



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