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Week 4 of Great Fast


Devotional based on texts taken from the Scripture Readings of Fourth Sunday of Fifty days Lent – Canaanite Woman

“O Physician who have come to visit Your people which was lost, heal my daughter! Be like David, Your father, who by the sound of the harp put to flight the Evil One.”

This morning is the fourth Sunday of the Great Lent – the Sunday of the Canaanite woman. While we go about our daily affairs in the world on the outside, on the inside the Lenten Fast is leading us in retreat from the vain noise of the world and into stillness of soul to stand in the presence of God just as did the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel.

Jesus was journeying through the borderland of Tyre and Sidon when a Canaanite woman came out to meet Him, beseeching, “Lord have pity on me, my daughter is tormented by an evil spirit.” In Christ the Canaanite woman saw relief. With tears and supplications she approached Him and begged Him: “Firstborn of the Father, deliver the image of Your Majesty, my daughter, from the clutches of the wicked oppressor that she may have an inheritance with You and that she may become the dwelling place of Your glory, You who came to save the image which your hands had fashioned.”

How does Jesus respond to her? He completely ignores her. It says, “He did not answer her at all.” How often do we bring our concerns, our pleas for help, to God and we hear nothing? No answer, no sign of hope, nothing comes our way. Either in desperation or in anger, we begin shouting at God and still nothing. Do we give-up at this point? The Canaanite woman does not. Even after Jesus’ disciples tell Him to send her away, she draws very near to Him and kneels before Jesus saying, “Lord, help me.” Does Christ help her now? She’s persistent, she’s humble and she’s self-less, asking for someone else’s healing. He should heal her now, right? Christ responds by saying, “No.” Worse yet, He likens her to a dog, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” How often has God told us, “No”? How often have we felt that He is even kicking us while we are down? Do we give up at this point?

The Canaanite woman does not. Accepting Jesus’ canine label, she does not accept His rebuke but comes back at Him with some profound words, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” In other words, “I am not giving up. I will take whatever little you will offer to me.” How does Jesus respond this time? Finally, He openly acknowledges her great faith and grants her wish and heals her daughter instantly.

St. John Chrysostom asked, “Was she silent and did she desist? By no means, she was even more insistent.” Chrysostom pointed out Jesus knew she would say this. Jesus wanted to “exhibit her high self-command.” She went even a step further, demonstrating her profound humility by not calling the Jews children, as Jesus had done, but “master” (Homily LII, on St. Matthew XV).

This miracle occurred in the land of Tyre and Sidon. Now, scholars tell us that the word ‘Tyre’ means ‘besieged.’ And the daughter of the Canaanite woman was exactly in that situation – she was besieged by demons. And the word ‘Sidon’ means ‘those who seek.’ Finally, the word ‘Canaan’ means ‘prepared by humility.’ And that is precisely the case of the Canaanite woman. For if we are besieged by demons and we seek, prepared by humility, then we shall find Christ, as did the Canaanite woman. This might be a far stretched explanation, but it does carry some truth. To follow the Canaanite woman’s lead we too must be committed to Christ with all our heart. We have to be persistent, tenacious, stubborn, undiscourageable and joyful. Our Lord often acts in way in order to test the strength of our faith. Even if Jesus seems to put up a decisive refusal, we must redouble our faith, come near to Him, worship Him and beg for His help. We must be like Abraham who pleaded five times with the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah on behalf of the few righteous people that remained among the abominable sinners. We must be like Jacob who struggled with God and was rewarded for his effort.

The question we must ask ourselves is do we give up our faith in God when He does not answer. We must trust God that whatever answer He gives and whenever He gives it, He does it to build our character, to make us stronger, to deepen our appreciation for Him and everything we have. Listen to the Lord’s silence and follow where His rebuke would take you. It will take you into your heart, and it will heal you. It will make you one with the Lord who made himself one with us, so that in Christ, we may offer ourselves to God on behalf of all and for all, for the salvation of all.

“Merciful Physician who do not turn away from the sick, visit Your servant whom Satan oppresses.” The Lord said: “Go, your desire is fulfilled.” Blessed is He who by His word delivers His servants from rebellious spirits. Let us this day, like the Canaanite woman, also cry out: Have mercy on us, O Lord! Lord help us! Amen.

“If man does not raise his hands in prayer for himself and for the sake of his people, even after knowing God, how can we say man is better than animals who are not wise and cannot think about their future.” – St. Gregorios of Parumala

“Do you fast? Then feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, do not forget the imprisoned, have pity on the tortured, comfort those who grieve and who weep, be merciful, humble, kind, calm, patient, sympathetic, forgiving, reverent, truthful and pious, so that God might accept your fasting and might plentifully grant you the fruits of repentance.” – St. John Chrysostom

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Week 3 of Great Fast


Devotional based on texts taken from the Scripture Readings of Third Sunday of Fifty days Lent – Healing of the Paralytic

In St Mark’s Gospel, the reading for this third Sunday of Lent (Mark 2.1-11) comes immediately after the healing of the leper (Mark 1.40-45), a story we heard last week from St Luke’s Gospel. Last Sunday, after a full week of Lenten struggle, the Church offered us the example of the leper, a man who was full of leprosy, who sensed his need for cleansing, and was not afraid to approach Jesus, kneel before him, and profess faith in his ability to cleanse him, if he was only willing to do so. In response, Jesus stretches out his hand to him, touches him, and heals him. The leper serves as an example to us–to know and acknowledge our own spiritual sickness, which completely infects us; to boldly and confidently approach Jesus; and to ask him for healing, having faith that he is always willing to heal those who come to him with a broken and contrite heart.

Today, a very different example is given to us. Jesus preaches in a house in Capernaum, and there are many people listening to him; they are a large crowd, impossible to break through. Nevertheless, four men manage to get to Jesus, carrying a paralyzed man on his pallet, lowering him through a hole they made in someone else’s roof. Seeing their faith, we are told, Jesus forgives the paralyzed man’s sins, and, in response to the doubts of the scribes, raises him from his pallet and restores his ability to walk.

The paralytic may have been earnestly praying and hoping that he might be cured one day. He may have heard of the carpenter-rabbi from Nazareth, of his teachings, and of his miracles, and he may have thought that this man was his best hope for healing. He may have gotten some friends of his to bring him to Jesus, and it was his faith and theirs that saved him. It is also possible that the paralytic was a bitter and broken man. Paralyzed from birth or through some accident, perhaps he was angry at God for having allowed him to live in such a pitiful state. Maybe he heard of the carpenter-rabbi from Nazareth and responded with cynicism: “Another false messiah”. Perhaps he didn’t want anything to do with Jesus, but his friends took him anyway, and being paralyzed, he was helpless in the matter. We don’t know either way, because St Mark hasn’t told us one way or another–the paralyzed man says not a word. It is the faith of the four friends that is known for sure, and it is in response to their faith that our Lord heals and saves this paralytic and sets him free.

Today we are reminded that no man is saved alone, on his own, by himself and through his own efforts. Ultimately, our Lord Jesus Christ provides healing and salvation for sinners, but sometimes sinners are brought to him for healing and salvation through the mediation, effort, prayer, and faith of others. And we are reminded that our calling as individuals, and as a Church, is to be one of those four men, willing to do everything in our power, and even to take a risk here and there, to save our fellow man. That is our calling as individuals and as a Church; to always be on the lookout for the lost, and to bring them back to Christ and to the Church.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that our Church is very often not a place where this happens. It is supposed to be the spiritual hospital to which Christ calls the sinners in order to repent, but we usually turn it into a “spiritual country club”, where the “holy” and the “pure”, the “good” and the “faithful”, can come, pray, sing, read, light candles, and receive sacraments, making a show of their “holiness”, rejoicing in their “salvation”, and being satisfied with themselves. If we notice our brother or sister going in the wrong direction, heading into sin or peril, we do not sincerely try to help. We stand back and watch, waiting for the fall, and when it happens, we talk about it, we laugh, we make fun, and we feel good about ourselves, that we’re not all that bad. We may even come up with excuses to defend this behavior of ours. Usually, that fallen brother or sister will not feel like they have a place in our community again, and we do not go looking for them to bring them back. They become, and always will be, shameful outcasts. After all, the entire population of Capernaum most likely knew about the paralytic, but they ran past him to sit at the feet of Jesus. Only four men were found in the town who cared enough about the paralytic to bring him to Jesus and place him in the midst of the congregation from which he was most likely very isolated. We are rarely like these four men, and most often we are like the citizens of Capernaum.

Today’s Gospel teaches us to be the eyes and ears, the arms and legs, of the Good Shepherd, always willing to look for the lost sheep, to find them, and to bring them back to Christ in the midst of his Church for healing and restoration. If we do this with pure motives, he is able to work miracles and transformations in the lives of those sheep, whatever their spiritual condition, because of our faith. God can work through us to heal the spiritually paralyzed if we are faithful. But today’s Gospel also convicts us of the reality that this is often not the case, that we quite often ignore, disregard, and even condemn such people, and we are reminded that they may well remain spiritually paralyzed if we do nothing, and what’s more, we will be guilty because of it, and we will join them as our hearts become colder and stonier, as we ourselves become spiritually paralyzed. And if that happens, woe to us–we may not find four friends to bring us back to Jesus.

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Holy Nativity Greetings from His Holiness

In the blessed name of the Tri-une God, Self-existent,
Beginningless and Endless, Perfect in Being, (Glory be to Him)
Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II Catholicos of the East and
Malankara Metropolitan enthroned on the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas

Blessings to our beloved Vicars of the parishes, Priests of the locality, Kaikkarans of the parishes and all members of the Church!

Dearly beloved,

Once again we are blessed with a season of Nativity. Christmas reminds us our vocation to our Savior’s childhood. This reminder but gives us significant responsibilities. We cannot lead a life as we please, but we ought to make ourselves analogous to the will of God. Staying in the premises of our lives, the challenges that we face are diverse and those may often tend to break us; but this higher sense of vocation that we have been called to be His child should in every way give us the impetus to go forward. Yes, this great event had made us His ‘heir’. Let the Feast which revealed to us that there is space in the heart of Jesus Christ for all creatures, make us more spiritual. Let us dedicate ourselves in holiness to prepare a manger in our hearts so as to equip ourselves to face the challenges of the age in the power of the Holy Spirit.

May this Christmas not be a commercial event for us but this may bring each one of us the sense of our vocation. May the peace of this season continue to sustain and reflect in you to be carried over to a very blessed New Year. We wish and pray that the Almighty grant you all a Christmas of spiritual renewal and joy and a blissful New Year.

May the Grace and Blessings of the God Almighty abide with you forever. May the prayers of the Mother of our God, the Holy Virgin Mary, St. Thomas the Apostle of India, our Holy Fathers Mar Gregorios, Mar Dionysius and all the Holy Saints be a stronghold for us. Amen.

Baselios Marthoma Paulose II
From Catholicate Aramana
Devalokam, Kottayam, Kerala, India
On December 05, 2011.

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All Souls Day; Sunday Preceding the Beginning of the Holy Lent

St. Luke 12: 32-48

According to the lectionary of our Church February 27 marks ‘All Souls Day’ this year. This is the Sunday that just precedes the beginning of the Holy Lent as well. The holy gospel that we hear on this Sunday is taken from St. Luke 12: 32-48. Parallels thereto can be seen in St. Matthew 6:19-21 and 24: 45-51.

Before we get in into the exegesis of the gospel portion, let us remind ourselves of two important concepts the Holy Church emphasizes thoroughly. For one, the holy Church includes the faithful, who are physically visible and invisible for us and for the other, holy lent is a combined experience for both the parties. In other words, we enter into the holy lent not without our departed ones, but with them. Our prayers gain wind when are added with that of the departed and their prayers gain momentum when added with that of ours. Since the seal of baptism is active upon us and upon them, we pray on this Sunday for them and in their realm they pray for us that the Lord prepare us all without spot and blemish to experience the heavenly bliss of resurrection. Therefore, the fathers have arranged the lectionary remembering all the departed clergy and faithful on two very Sundays before the holy lent commences.

St. Luke 12: 32-48 can be divided into three sections: I. v. 32-34, II. v. 35-40, and III. v. 41- 48. These three sections highlight the necessity to become poor by giving alms, the necessity of being watchful and the necessity of being faithful managers.

I. Necessity to become poor, give alms (v. 32-34)

When we buy something we pay the price, either in cash or in kind, just as the proverb goes, ‘there is no free lunch’. V. 32 exhorts that the little flock need not to fear for it is their Father’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom. One needs to buy a share or place in the kingdom by earning the good pleasure of the Father. To get into the kingdom, and to have a good treasure in the kingdom one is advised to sell all possessions off and give alms. When one sells ones possessions one gets money and that money shall be distributed as alms to get rid of it. In other words, one shall be poor in this world to enter into the kingdom and it is by becoming poor that one is buying a share in the kingdom.

I know a person, who has literally distributed all his wealth to the ones, who asked him therefore. Recently an Achen, who was a close ally to LL Catholicos HH Baselios Marthoma Mathew I narrated an incident similar. Bava Thirumeni had 42.5 laks of Rupees in his possession from the sales of Qurbanakramam, which he used to publish for decades. At his mid eighties, during 1980s, Bava Thirumeni would suddenly start distributing his wealth to anyone, who asked him. All the money was gone and his secretary Fr. Binoy (later LL Augen Mar Dionysius) told Bava Thirumeni that anymore checks would mean he would become bankrupt. That prompted Bava Thirumeni to preach a sermon about the need to become poor before dying. The Achen himself, who narrated this to me, heard it from Bava Thirumeni. It is very important to become poor, if one needs to enter into the kingdom.

One might think in the line, like Bava Thirumeni was a monk and a monk can distribute his wealth like that. In fact a monk is not supposed to own anything as well. Can we, the ones, who live in this world

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Devotional Thoughts on the Nineveh Fasting (3 Day Fasting)


By the grace of God, we have once again ended the 3 days fasting popularly known as `Nineveh Fasting’, the smallest of the canonical Lents of the holy Church. “Lent is not a collection of prohibitions but it is an option for what is positive”. Fasting is one of the traditions Christians have inherited from Judaism. It was common enough at the time of Jesus for him to warn us: “When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do. They pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward”. (Mat 6:16).

There are many ways to keep a good Lent. During Lent time, a faithful believer of Christ is supposed to abstain from some particular food or pleasure, especially avoiding non-vegetarian and sex. This is what exactly St. Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:5 “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self control”.

Some people doubt whether diet regimen during Lent in our Church is biblical or not. Abstaining from the king’s rich food, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah ate vegetables (lentils) and drank water. (Daniel 1:8-12). See what Daniel says, ” In those days, I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks, I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.”(Daniel 10:2-3). It is said in Joel 1:14; 2:12 that we have to lament and mourn for sanctifying fast. The fasting period is called the lamenting period. Daniel did not eat any delicacies, meat or wine during fasting period. According to one’s strength, power and call everyone adjusts the dietary arrangements and the duration of the fasting. We see that St. John the Baptist, the greatest of all born of women abstained from eating fish or meat. The children like Hananiah and the rest ate only lentils, and drank water. Daniel rejected the delicacies and wine. The Church takes note that the Hebrew youths were blessed by God through holy fasting. It was fasting that delivered the children from the furnace and Daniel the prophet from the jaws of the lions.

Simple food in small quantity helps creating in oneself awareness that gluttony is a sin. A scoop of simple food would help one to cherish an idea that our prayers should be need based and not greed based. Lent is, further, an opportunity for oneself to abstain from bad habits like smoking and drinking.

The Church’s commandment is that one should not eat anything until evening or 3 p.m. If one is not capable of doing it, fast till mid-day. If possible, one should avoid tasty and rich food like egg, milk, fish, meat, etc. And purify himself/her self through prayer, meditation on Bible and prostration. One is bound by moral obligations, such as giving alms and helping the needy etc, during fasting period. It is compulsory that one should participate in the Holy Qurbana after the true confession.

As our lives become ever busier, there is the danger that the voice of the Lord gets drowned out. Even in Jesus’ own time, it was easy to become distracted by the cares and duties of everyday life as the episode of Martha and Mary shows. As an antidote, Jesus invites us to “come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). In the early centuries of the Church, men and women accepted this invitation quite literally and withdrew to a solitary life in the deserts of Egypt and Syria. From this began the Christian monastic tradition. While not all of us feel a call to become monks or hermits, there are many disciplines and practices we can all undertake to help us live this season of renewal to the full.

Lent means living exclusively with God. It means making a space for God in our life. Spend time reflecting on your own baptism. Read John 4:5-42, John 9:1-41 and John 11:1-45. Ask God to renew the gifts you have already received. Do something extra, like visiting the sick. Lent is a time of not only prayer, but also for fasting and alms deeds, which Augustine called “the wings of prayer” meaning, presumably, that without the fasting and alms deeds, our prayer remains earthbound and ineffective. It is good to have a charity box for each one of us. Earmark the money thus collected by fasting for philanthropic activities. See what kind of fasting God wants from us all. “Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives” (Isaiah 58: 6-7). This is not enough to fulfill a Lent. What is necessary is to have repentance.

When Jesus began his public life and preaching, his first message was not “Love one another” or even “Love your enemies”, it was “The kingdom of God is close at hand, Repent”( St. Mark 1:15). The English word `Penance’ is the translation of a Greek word `metanoia’. The root of penance is the Latin word `Peona’, meaning punishment, penalty, pain, grief. It is not surprising that Lent, time for penance, is not our favorite time of the year. Metanoia, however, does not mean punishment or pain: literally, it means a change of mind. So Lent is not meant to be a time for punishment and pain, but a time for changing our minds, changing our outlook and attitudes, a time for changing our hearts. This is vividly illustrated when Prophet Joel tells Israel, “Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn” (Joel 2:13).

Finally, apart from abstention of food and worldly pleasures, it is good to have `Mauna Vretham’ (Keeping silence all through the days of the Lent). Silence is the best way to hear the voice of God for it is written thus in Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God”.

May God give us strength and enthusiasm to observe this Lent without failure.

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Encountering God In His Word

Text for Meditation:
2 Timothy 3:14—4:5

Verse for the Day:
2 Timothy 3: 16,17

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Reflection:

The Scriptures shapes our life and faith. As we engage the Scriptures, we encounter, dialogue with and experience God. In our text, Timothy is challenged to maintain a close relationship with the Word of God. What Paul is saying is that the fundamental characteristic of Scripture–what makes these writings ‘holy’–is the fact that God inspired them, that they have their ultimate origin with God himself. Now this fundamental characteristic of being God-inspired makes the Bible ‘useful’ – ‘practical,’ and ‘beneficial.’ The Bible has vital practical relevance for our lives.

This relevance is seen in four areas: teaching, reproof, correcting, and training in right living. We are to thirst for truth, and hunger for righteousness, as the very cause and basis for our reading the Bible. We are to let the Scriptures be written on our hearts, to be formed by them, rather than to treat them as a book which must never be opened because it is too sacred and we are too unworthy.

When we read the Holy Scriptures we need to humble ourselves because God can only teach, correct and instruct a heart humble and ready to receive his Word. The humble believer is ever looking to understand what God wants of them. We hear the Word in order to obey, to bear fruit, to be an example to others who can then themselves listen to God and know how to obey by observing the life of the saints who model holiness to the world. Hearing God’s Word in Scriptures is accomplished when we allow God to work in our hearts, minds and lives. We become agents of God’s love, and work to make this world a better place.

In a world of great uncertainty, many believers are grasping for an assurance of salvation, an infallible certainty about what the Scriptures mean. In doing so, they sometimes rob the Scriptures of their vitality and depth: that they speak across the ages, across languages, across social borders, and across denominational barriers to all the people of the world. They do speak to us personally, but their purpose and meaning is not limited to or by our understanding of them. “ How great are God’s riches! How deep are his wisdom and knowledge!” (Romans 11:33). It is our own insecurities that cause us to fear the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God, and to try to tame them and conform them to something we understand, and perhaps believe we can control.

Instead, we must read the Bible to ignite that light of faith in our hearts, which will guides us through the darkness into the Light, into Christ, who is the Light of the world and through him we will be able to bring many in the world into the Light. Amen!

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I Know My Redeemer Lives and I Will See God

Verse for the day: Job 19: 255, 26

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God…

Reflection:

The book of Job starts, “There was a man named Job, living in the land of Uz, who worshiped God and was faithful to him. He was a good man, careful not to do anything evil.”

Job’s life was shattered one day when raiders and lightning consumed all his wealth—they took all Job’s oxen, sheep, and camels; then a great storm killed all his children; and, if that wasn’t enough to ruin your life, he broke out in painful sores all over his body. In despair he cried out, “I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing.”

It is remarkable how at the point where the world was crumbling before his eyes, where he felt the helplessness of absolute abandonment, Job praised God. In humility, Job cried out, “The LORD gave, and now he has taken away. May his name be praised!” Job didn’t stop with praise. He didn’t retreat into the solitude of resignation. The God Job knew was the God, who loved his people and a God who entered into a relationship with his chosen ones. Job praised God, he worshiped God, thanked God and marveled at his wonder.

Even though Job felt as if God had turned on him, that God had abandoned him, Job still hoped. This hope that defies all hopelessness testifies to the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain us. In the depths of his pain, Job bursts out, “But I know there is someone in heaven who will come at last to my defense. Even after my skin is eaten by disease, while still in this body I will see God. I will see him with my own eyes, and he will not be a stranger.”

In the midst of his agony, Job receives a wonderful gift, a glimpse of God. Like Job, we too go through moments of pain, losses and tragedies. We have nowhere else to turn but to God who knows all and, more importantly, promises to liberate us. We must encounter, experience and embrace God in and through the trails and tragedies of life. We must learn to praise God whatever be the situation in our life. Like the psalmist in Psalm 17, we too must pray, “Reveal your wonderful love and save me; at your side I am safe from my enemies. Protect me as you would your very eyes; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the attacks of the wicked.” Our trials must become a window through which we see God.

And whatever tragedies or hurts or losses and misunderstandings we carry with us as part of our life, we know that they will be resolved and transformed by joy once and for all, when we see God in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen!

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Hoodos Etho Sunday

An exposition on the gospel according to St. John 10:22-38, the reading meant for Nov 7.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen+.

As part of the cycle of seasons in the liturgical year, we have come to yet another ‘Hoodos Etho Sunday’ which falls on 7 November. The Syriac term “Hoodos Etho” meaning, “The Feast of Dedication of the Church”, has a connection with “the Feast of Dedication of the Old Testament Church”, which took place approximately three months after the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:1-10:21). It was also called ‘Hanukkah or Chanukah’ which was of 8 days celebrations by the Jews. Like Diwali to the Hindus, it was a ‘Festival of Light’ to the Jews.

The temple of Jerusalem, though beautifully built by King Solomon, was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah it was rebuilt and preserved. Again it underwent destruction. King Herod for the third time renovated it extensively. In BC 170, the Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanus, greatly influenced by the Greek culture, wanted to replace the Jewish religion with the Greek religion and custom. He decided to wage war against the kingdom of Judah and finally he invaded the city of Jerusalem. 80,000 people were massacred and an equal number of people were taken captives. It was during this time that St. Solomonia (Morth Shmooni) and her 7 children were brutally assassinated. A large quantity of wealth from the temple was looted and the booty was estimated to be 1,800 talents. The house of God was made a house of harlots. As a result the worship in the temple was obstructed. He even defiled the holy temple of Jerusalem by sacrificing a female swine on the holy altar as an offering to the Greek deity Zeus. Antiochus was permitted by God to carry out this insane desecration of the most holy temple because of the sins of the people. It was not just because Antiochus was bent on destruction, but because the Lord allowed it for the good of his people.

In 164 BC, the Jews succeeded in retrieving the temple of Jerusalem from the Greeks and they renovated and refined the temple. Judas Maccabeus took the initiative in consecrating the desecrated temple. We learn of this story from the books of Maccabees of the Holy Bible. In commemoration of this act of rededication and as a mark of their joy of freedom, the Jews began to celebrate it flamboyantly. This feast came to be known as ‘festival of light’ as there were many lights to illuminate the temple and houses of the Jews who celebrated it. It was in this background, that Christ our Lord said that He was the “Light of the world” (John8:12). It is meaningful that Christ chooses to talk to the people in a ‘winter’ season for the reason that winter has a symbolic representation of darkness or death which is always followed by ‘spring’ indicative of a renewed life and brightening of light.

Antiochus Epiphanus was the personification of all evil. Even in the present time, similar forces of evil still exist causing closing down of many a church. Factionalism, fundamentalism, cultism and secularism are the main factors for such spiritual tragedies. We see in the book of Maccabees that there were some lawless and traitorous men coming forth from the sons of Israel by persuading many to yield to the Hellenistic customs, ordinances of the gentiles and finally succumbing themselves to the authority of King Antiochus . Similarly, there are some extremist people in the present Church too who bear the yoke of evil forces.

The unwavering faith shown by the Jewish scribe Eleazar and the 7 Maccabean martyrs along with their mother Morth Shmoomi , by defying valiantly the sacrilegious commands of King Antiochus IV Ephiphanus and by just ignoring the fierce persecution from the King for the sake of God, are prototypes of all Christian martyrs. They have set a model for true witnessing which we all have to emulate.

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Come to me, I will give you rest


Meditation Text: St. Matthew 11: 25-12: 8

Verse for the day: St. Matthew 11: 28 – 30
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Reflection:

In these days of science and many technological advancements, more and more, people are relying on ‘experts’ to determine how they live their life – what kind of foods they eat, how to raise their children, how to view life, and even how to understand God. Our world is a very tense, uptight and fast paced world, filled with hurry.

We need to learn how to experience rest. If all we needed was physical rest we can always take a nap. If we needed only emotional rest, we can always take a vacation. But where can we find spiritual rest? How can we obtain relief regarding the deepest issues of life at the deepest level of our hearts? Jesus is relating the restlessness of humanity with its godlessness. And He is saying that we will never really know what it is to rest, until we know God. Jesus says, “Come to me, I will give you rest.”

The search to satisfy the spiritual needs on our own leads down many empty roads. The tiresome search of the soul, coming up empty is what Jesus is speaking to. He has a gift to give! Human effort falls far short of the standard God requires. The Cross is the place of exchange where what we are is placed on Him and what He is, is given to us.

The fatal mistake for the believer is to seek to bear life’s load in a single collar. God never intended man to carry his burden alone. Christ therefore deals only in yokes. A yoke is a neck harness for two, and the Lord Himself pleads to be One of the two. He wants to share the labor of any galling task.

The secret of peace and victory in the Christian life is found in putting off the taxing collar of self and accepting the Master’s relaxing yoke. God intends to interfere in our life. So the question remains: when does God interfere? And how? When we have faith God definitely will interfere and without doubt will work in our lives. And our experiences with God must allow us to say like the Psalmist: “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side,” Let Israel now say— “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, When men rose up against us, Then they would have swallowed us alive” (Psalm 124:1-3).

Our belief in God’s interference gives us comfort, peace and sense of security. “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you;” (Psalm 55:22).

Prayer
O Lord, who comforts, grants us rest and carries our burdens, stretch forth Your almighty right hand and bless us. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and guides us with Your counsel. Strengthen us in our walk with You. Grant us victory over the powers of the Evil One and his hosts. Be with us Lord and keep us in Your Love. May we grow in knowledge of You and rest in Your everlasting peace. All honor and glory, praise and thanksgiving to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always forever and ever. Amen.

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‘ I Need To Return To My Father’s House’

Verse for the day: I Corinthians 16: 13, 14
Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

Reflection:

St Paul is reminding the church in Corinth to be on their guard spiritually. He wanted them to wake up, to pay attention to their spiritual lives and their knowledge and devotion to God. Their lack of spiritual watchfulness was the foundation of the Corinthian church’s sinful condition.

Most of the time spiritual indifference and spiritual ignorance are the root problems in our lives.

This Lent, we need more than merely changing our behavior. We must be on our guard, with a focused awareness of His care and protection and His love for us as His children.

We live in a culture in which truth is regarded as relative. Our society waffles at the concept of objective, unyielding spiritual truth. It is dedicated to spiritual and ethical pluralism. If we are to be the witnesses God wants us to be, and if we are to have the relationship with God that He wants for us, then we must follow Paul’s admonition to stand firm in the faith. It is when we live out the Gospel of Christ in our daily lives, through the discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that we become more Christ like.

God wants us, in the midst of our spiritual watchfulness and our commitment to stand firm in the truth of the faith, to act courageously as Christians.

To be men of courage spiritually would be unpopular, perhaps even unacceptable, behavior in society. It could mean loss of stature in with our peers, perhaps loss of jobs and economic opportunities, and loss of friends.

We are in this world to achieve the standard that God has set.

Spiritual maturity demands courageous application of the truth, unfettered support of what we know is spiritually true and the standards that are true, and bold opposition to what we know is false. This maturity comes through our indulgence in the fast rigorously. God showers His grace and strength on us when we give ourselves completely to God’s will.

We cannot do anything by our own strength, only by God’s might and support. We need to submit to the strengthening power and work of our Savior. When we submit ourselves to God, He fulfills His promise to strengthen us. And what is the strength He gives us? It is the strength to stand firm in spiritual knowledge and truth and to courageously apply spiritual truths in our lives.

Today, we must stand firm in spiritual knowledge and truth and apply them with courage. Our part is to be on guard, to recognize and know what is spiritually right and wrong, and to act with courage. God’s part is to strengthen us.

Christ likeness is the solution to our problems as individuals and as a church. Do everything in love, incorporates the Christian’s life of serving God unreservedly and putting others above ourselves. Applying this principle of love for Christ and love for each other meant a radically different church, sold out to Christ and untainted by the world. Our goal is to be like Christ!

Prayer:

Help us, Lord, with the grace of your Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus Christ through our lives, our words and the opportunities you set before us each day. Amen.