Me and My Mission


SELF REALIZATION AND ROLE IDENTIFICATION

 

TEXT:  LUKE  1:39-56 specially (1:40-41; note the phrase: the babe leaped in her womb); and JOHN 3:29.   Also read 2 Sam. 6; Isa. 41:1-10; Matthew 7:21; Mark 3:35; John 6:40; 

 

re.al.i.za.tion n (ca. 1611) 1: the action of realizing: the state of being realized 2: something realized

self-re.al.i.za.tion n (1874): fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality

 

iden.ti.fi.ca.tion n (1644).  a: psychological orientation of the self in regard to something (as a person or group) with a resulting feeling of close emotional association b: a largely unconscious process whereby an individual models thoughts, feelings, and actions after those attributed to an object that has been incorporated as a mental image

 

 

In the 60s and 70s of last century we witnessed a new movement called the “hippie” movement.  One of the reasons for the emergence of this was the Vietnam War.  Most of the people associated with this were the youth in America and Europe.  They questioned all establishments of the society and religious structures.  They dressed carelessly and wandered raising questions about the meaning of life and existence.  They rebelled against all set and established patterns of social norms.  Actually the socio-politico-religious situation made them do this.  It slowly faded away.  However in varying degree people are asking the same question even today at various points and stages of life, particularly when faced with crises.  Questions like, where do I come from, and where do I go to, what is the meaning and purpose of my life are quite pertinent to human life. 

The Biblical text quoted above will help us study the issue at hand.  Our conference will try to address this question so that life for us will be more meaningful and with quality. 

Mary who confronted an unusual situation, which could turn her life upside down, wanted to share the agony with some one else.  The best person she could find was her cousin Elizabeth who was also in a similar situation.  She went to her and saluted her.  There are two other individuals involved in this; tow yet to be born persons.  They also share the joy of meeting in a crisis situation.  One of them is thrilled with joy and leaps in her mother’s womb.  This joy is not a simple emotional one.  This is because of the recognition of the self.  It occurs in the presence of God who is letting himself incarnate and currently in the womb of her mother.  Self-realization of individual occurs at the face of crisis and in the presence of God.  The presence of God is not abstract but concrete, yet not fully comprehensible. 

 

This self-realization involves role identification.  A person who is able to realize his/her self can realistically identify his or her role in this world, only then she/he can know what to do in a given situation.  This knowledge will lead to fullness of joy.  John reaches the fullness of Joy (John 2:29) after he has fulfilled his work as the one to introduce Jesus to the world.  We should realize that once it is done he is to be killed by Herod.  But John is not worried that his life is going to end pretty soon.  He is happy and thrilled at the fact that he did identify has fulfilled in mission in this world effectively and with utmost dedication.  The prayer of penitence that accompanies any Promion in our worship includes a sentence at the end, which says, “grant us a Christian end”.  This Christian end is the one after the fulfillment of his/her mission in this world.  For that identification of the role is important.  Today we have a lot of right people in the wrong place and that caused problem in the society, the Church and politics. 

 

While the identification of the self is in close company of others, it also makes its impact on others.  When John in the womb of Elizabeth leaps, she recognizes it and was filled with spirit and pronounces a prophetic word about Mary.  Mary in return talks about her and about others, and this chain continues.  Many times when we live our lives we are living just our lives.  This is not true.  In every aspect and moment of our lives we are making an impact on others.  Hence spirituality is not individual centered but human centered or in a wider perspective creation centered.  Our life and work in this world will become meaningful and productive only in relation to others.

 

This realization and identification will take away the element of fear in our lives.  After having shared their problems and worries Mary goes back to her place ready to face life with determination.  She is not worried any more.  Fear of tomorrow is the worst thing that can happen to us in this world.  It will make us do all sorts of bad things.  Fear primarily comes out of a realization that God is not with.  God incarnate (Emmanuel – God with us) tries to tell us that he is with us and we do not have to be afraid of life and others.  Thus we will be empowered to face life with courage and do what is right for us to do.  This is the fullness of joy in our lives. 

 

We realize that we are the creatures of God in his presence and we need to do his will.  We should explore ways and means to feel the presence of God in our midst so that we will realize our self and will be able to identify what to do when and life will be happy and prosperous. 

 

 

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Worship in Diaspora


Tuesday Third Hour Sixth Colour: Spirituality of A community in Diaspora

Yuhanon Mor Meletius

 

I believe in a God who works in history. When I read the Old Testament I continuously confront the phrase “I am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Dt. 5:6; Ps. 81:10; Jer. 7:22 etc.  ). This certainly talks about an event in history that made a community that is Israel, which centuries later became the religious community of my Lord Jesus Christ.  When I read the New Testament, I see that my Lord Jesus was born in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) in to this community. Hence I believe that God who was working in history worked in incarnation to tell me that he cares for me and the world around me. 

 

The Old Testament statement about the Exodus event of liberation in history was not to talk about a one time intervention of God that was never repeated.  But this statement was only a reminder at every definite time and occasion God had to work again in history again to say that this new event was a repetition in the same line.  This is how at least Second Isaiah understood it (Isa. 40:3ff.).  Through that the Old Testament wanted every current intervention to be understood as of the same importance and magnitude.  Just the same way when the author of Galatians talks about an event of God’s intervention in history through His Son, it was also to say that even at that time of mentioning of the past event the Christ event or incarnation was again occurring. Hence I believe that God continues to work in the history of creation so as to see the perfection of the same. 

 

When history passes through time and ages, it also confronts time- bound humans and the rest of the creation.  This is where culture becomes a crucial question in my life.  I know that I am a historical being, a history in which my God works. I also know that I am a social being where lot of other elements in creation co-exist and grow with me and with my participation.  On the other hand I exist and grow in their participation too. My experience of God and of his work in history can be perceived and comprehended by me only in the given context and historical process and in the context of my neighbors who participate in the God event.

 

Thus I see a dialogue going on in two levels.  One, a dialogue I engage in with my God and two, a dialogue I engage in with my fellow creaters. Dialogue in any case and circumstance involves language or medium of communication.  My God was so gracious to me that he was able to communicate with me in my language and through human symbols familiar to me.  I know that my God is not a male person, though some times I address Him as if God were a male person.  I also know that if He wanted to, when he decided to incarnate, taken the form of a woman instead of a man, he was able to do that.  I also know that the Jewish community of Jesus time was a highly or criminally male dominated one. Here I presume that He would not have been so successful in making a big wave in the society he lived in if He had bourn as a woman. So I assume that He was using a language or culture of the time to speak to me. Language as we all know is an expression either verbal or otherwise, an expression of the culturally guided ideas and feelings.

 

To support this I also see that when my God decided to deliver certain people from bondage in Egypt, He used the language conditioned by culture of that region. He brought Moses from Media who knew the language both of the Egyptians and of the Hebrews. He made Moses one like a magician usually found in courts of kings to amuse the lords and princes.  He also used the phenomena and things in nature that the people were afraid of, which they called plagues, to speak to them. He also used a fellowship meal that existed in the wilderness culture, to prepare the Hebrews before He really took them to the desert.  It also helped to communicate to them that they were setting out for a long journey. With much astonishment I see my Lord using the culturally defined language of both Egyptians and Hebrews to talk to them and to deliver a message to them.

 

Later when the liberated people came to certain safe and comfortable place, Sinai, God spoke to them regarding the way they should be responding to God and be communicating to their neighbors. I know that much of what I see in the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments which God gave them came from the great king Hammurabi of 17th Century Mesopotamia.  I other words, God used the best legal system available at that time to talk to them.  This attitude of adaptation and using of the cultural and political elements of neighboring people by Israel is seen all through the Old Testament.

 

I see my Lord Jesus doing the same thing when He tried to communicate to the people around him.  He talked to the fisher folks of Palestine in their own language.  When He called them to be his disciples, He promised them that He would make them ‘fishers of people’.  He used what they called miracles to make them convinced of His mission. He voiced the complaints the people had about their leaders and religion.  When He talked to the Pharisees and the leaders of His religion, He used the scripture quotations to prove them wrong. He knew that in their culture the ultimate proof was that of the Scriptures.  When he talked to the Samaritan woman, He used her language. I see my God all through history using the culturally and historically relevant language to talk to me. I see me at the other end of the dialogue event or history.  What language I should be using to talk to him.

 

On Tuesday last, I went to the chapel of St. Thomas Orthodox Seminary, where I was teaching Old Testament for a short period, to talk to my Lord (I hope!). It was 12.30 in the afternoon, but the prayer book said it was the third hour. I had no clue why I should say third hour instead of noon hour when time is no more measured by the old system of ‘watch’ or nazhika and vinazhika.  That was only the beginning of my confusion.  The noon prayer was in a hymnal form.  We started singing. I myself, as in the case of most of us in the chapel, either did not sing or pretend to be singing. One or two sung loudly, but no one knew whether they were singing the right tune or not. Any how later Dr. George Pulikkottil Achen, at the lunch table, told me that the song was to be sung in the Sixth Colour. I did not understand the world ‘Colour’ with reference to a song. Then I learned that Syriac tunes are said to be Colours.  In Malayalam it is Ragam.  But being a Syriac Christian I should not use the word Ragam which comes from Indian culture. What a fate?

 

Here is where my concern begins. Do I really communicate with God in my worship?  Songs are verbal expressions of idea and mood united.  Idea is the literature in songs and mood is the Ragam in them. Mood will also decide the content of the literature.  Different cultures express moods differently. How can I express my mood and inner feeling in a Raga set by some other culture?

 

The matter is not related to songs alone.  It is related to rather every thing I do in my life before my God. I am a product of my culture. In what I say, in what I do, in the way I think I will be exhibiting in some way or other my culture. When I fold both my hands and lift it to the chest looking at another person, I mean ‘Hi I greet you’.  Of course when I greet a person of another culture I might use the expression of that culture because it will help him understand what I mean. But what is the culture of my God that I can use to greet Him?  Since He created me and put me in my culture and intervene in my history, I do not have to worry about the language and symbols He can understand.  My language is His language; the symbols I use are His symbols too.  The question is, can I talk to, or enter in to a dialogue effectively and meaningfully with God if I use language and symbols that are not mine or of my God in the given situation?  This is my spiritual crisis part one.

 

Again in my history with my God, I am in dialogue with my neighbor.  There are two levels for that.  When I am engaged in dialogue with God I am doing so with the company of my fellow beings.  The Liturgy of Eucharist says “Whom all the heavenly orders, divisions and hosts adore … we also the meek and sinful on earth too praise shouting Holy Holy …”.  Second, in worship I am communicating with each other or I am in dialogue with my fellow beings.  The deacon in worship says; “Let us give peace one another with a holy and divine kiss”.  Taking both in to consideration, I ask myself, am I in perfect communion between? 

 

Let me go back to that prayer song of Tuesday third hour, sixth colour. Seminarians were singing the song. I did understand the literature because I had the prayer book with me and the language was of my culture. But I did not understand what mood the song was expressing.  They did not communicate it to me.  Because that song was not sung with a tune or Raga familiar to my culture or of those who prayed with me. I am a Malayalee living among Malayalees most of the time.  I speak to them in our language mostly. If used another language to talk to them, I will be using a common language. English is one among them.  I use symbols to express my ideas made by my Malayalee culture.  But the moment I am in the Church or in prayer occasion or liturgy situation or delivering a sermon, I switch to a different language and symbolism that is not quite familiar to me and to those with me.  The question is am I understanding my own thoughts, jesters and words or am I just being mechanical like that person in the famous Charlie Chaplin’s move “The Modern Times”?  Again am I making any sense to my fellow being when I pray or talk with a language and symbols defined by a culture strange to us all? Am I in dialogue with my fellow beings?  This is my spiritual crisis part two.

 

When I struggle with these questions, I happen to come across two passages in the Bible. They are Jeremiah 29:4-10 and John 4:35-38.  In the first, the prophet who works as the mouth piece of God, is asking the people of Israel in Babylon taken as captives and were worried about their spiritual well being in a foreign cultural context, that they should actively participate in the socio-political life of the community and should become an integral part of the society there.

 

There are two major areas where they are asked to be part of: 1. agriculture/ business and 2. marital relationship. The second one particularly aims at a prolonged life in Babylon.  Both involve participation in worship of the local people.  Of course, they worshipped the Lord.  But the liturgy of worship was decided by the context. They formulated new forms of worship. One of the major contributions of the Exilic time was literary work. During that we can see two major concepts of faith in Babylonian culture influencing Israel. One about the concept of creation and the other is about the temples of Babylon known as Ziggurats.  While the second was rejected to a great extent (because it did not match with their experience with God who traveled with them as part of the community), the first was whole heartedly accepted. The Babylonian cultural elements influenced very much in Synagogue worship and the hymns used in there.  If you read the book of Esther with an open mind we would get more stories of cultural influence. This adaptive attitude made people of Israel in Babylon very successful politically, religiously and in terms of social status.  Therefore the response to the offer of King Cyrus made to the Israelites to go back to Jerusalem was very poor.  Probably this is what Jeremiah meant too. 

 

I think this poses a challenge to the people in this part of the country (that is out side Kerala) who came from Kerala with a Judeo-Syrian-Malayalee (?) Christian spirituality.  It is doubtful whether we were successful in developing a truly Malayalee Christian spirituality in Kerala. Now those who failed in creating a genuine indigenous religiosity in Kerala are in North India in a much more confused situation.  In Kerala, since we were a failure to make a genuine spirituality, we could not make a long standing and concrete spiritual influence there.  Gandhiji, the father of the nation said, “but for Christians I would have become a Christian”.  Dr. Radhakrishnan, former President of India said, “Christians are ordinary people who make extra-ordinary claims”. 

 

Most of our influence was for our petty needs and not for the welfare of the society (I am not forgetting the contributions in the areas of education and health care in the 19th  amd early 20th centuries. But that was not primarily by the Syrian Christians.  By the time they came in to picture, it already had become areas of business motives). I am afraid this is going to happen here too. Our kind of worships can keep us away from the society around us.  The language and symbols we use can either make us a community in aloofness or gradually may make us loose our own people to other communities.  It is our task on the one hand, to reinterpret our faith in the new context and become part of the community around us by participating in their life and adapting their language and symbols in our religious life. Through this we can truly stand before God in dialogue.  On the other hand, we certainly will hold up the basic tenets of our faith in Lord Jesus Christ.  I underline ‘basic’ not to be confused with Syro-Christian culturally defined elements in our religion.  This takes us to the second text.

 

John 4:35-38.  “Lift up your eyes and see how the fields are already white for harvest”.  Samaritans were supposed to be untouchables for Jews.  They would never dare to greet, journey with, dine with or stay over night with them.  All these acts would involve them in participating in the cultural expressions of the Samaritans including worship.  That means there was a dialogue going on between Jesus and the Samaritans.  Jesus had no problem is making himself attuned to the cultural milieu of his hosts. He was ready to give up the traditionally handed down attitude of his own people for the sake of his participation in the life of the Samaritans.  He did not have to leave his relation with Jerusalem to enter in to a dialogical relation with Samaria. But he left the petty hatred and dehumanizing segregation attitude of Jerusalem behind to enter in to a participatory life with Samaritans. 

 

The question is, will we be able to hold on to the fundamentals of the traditionally handed down Syriac-Malayalee elements in our faith and practices, but leave behind those out dated and irrelevant elements in it for the sake of keeping the community alive and vibrant. Only this will let Christ and we, the Diaspora Christians in this part of the country, enter in to a participatory life with the people in northern India. This includes the second generation Orthodox Syrian Christians living here.  Will we be able at any time in future to worship God with our own fellow being in this part of the country using language and symbols familiar to them and thus have a meaningful and effective dialogical relationship with our Lord and with the people of this land at the same time? 

 

Of course this poses a threat of loosing our identity and foundation. Any change has this threat. But if we do not take this challenge up, we will never be at home with these people. Hence it is imperative to engage in experiments. The Seminary is the right place to do it. This is where analytical studies are conducted, this is where new information is shared, and this is where fresh insights are evolved. The Seminary should walk in the fore front leading the Church to the unknown frontiers. When you walk ahead, we those in the Church have the confidence that we are walking behind a committed and dedicated people of wisdom, understanding and rationale.  If you fail to do that the Church behind you will be limping in the irrelevant out dated filthy environment where people will either suffocate to death or escape for life.

 

Let me also say that I am not talking about liturgy and worship alone.  I am making this a model for all events, phenomenon and every thing that occurs in this universe.  You should study them, experiment with them, critically and passionately analyze them and come up with concrete suggestions. You may some times go wrong.  But you will accept it and correct it. In any case it will be better than doing nothing and living in this world a life of irrelevance and of meaningless repetitions of some one else’s culturally defined concepts and themes.  Will you walk ahead of me – a humble member of the Church?  That is my question and that is the challenge before this community of intellectuals and students of history, philosophy, theology, culture and what not! God help us. Amen

Overcome Evil with Good


 

Overcome Evil with Good

Yuhanon Mor Meletius

 

 

Apostle Paul exhorts his readers in Rom. 12:21 that they should not be overcome by evil, rather they should overcome evil by good.  This is a very common advice any ethical person would give to others.  But when we go to the specifics of the advice we are tempted to reduce evil to certain set of things which may not have much of a relevance to our day to day life.  We have a long list of good and bad things available in the commandments of the Church and in the confession preparation prayers.

 

The problem is that even they do not represent many of the concerns we have today.  More over, economic and social evils are totally avoided in those lists.  This is where we should explore once again about the kind of evil that exists in our society today.  It is not easy to list all of them in a brief note like this.  My attempt is just to mention a few of them. 

 

Most serious form of evil is slavery.  Hence God and good are to be experienced in the effort for liberation.  The question of liberation has been distorted and misinterpreted in the Church and so much watering has occurred.  When we talk about liberation the first thing we say would be liberation from sin.  Then we reduce the relevance of the term sin to a few things the Church has given.  We have limited it to just what is called “spiritual liberation” or “internal salvation”.  I am not saying that those things are not at all important.  Rather we have to widen the horizon to other evil tendencies seen in our society.  What is needed is become more specific and concrete in naming the evil tendencies in our society and then talk about God’s liberative work in those areas. 

 

God was first experienced by Israel as a liberator.  He is said to have liberated them from political bondage in Egypt (Deut. 26:6,8).  When Jesus started to proclaim his Gospel he also presented himself as a liberator in the form that is described in the book of Isaiah (Isa. 61:1; cf. Lk. 4:18).  There the liberation is from socio-political evil powers.  This is evident from the last part of the verse where it is said that he was to proclaim the Jubilee year of Yahweh.  Proclamation of it is only in the context of socio-political justice.

 

This liberation is to happen in all the areas of human life along with the life of the rest of the creation.  For humans it has to occur first in the area of understanding.  Many of us like to be told what we should be doing in a particular situation.  It is easy to be a slave because you do not have to think and do not have to take the responsibility of what you are doing.  But it is a challenge to start thinking of self and others and about situations and what one should be doing about a particular situation.  God has provided humans with this ability.  But we see people flocking behind their leaders blindly and repeating slogans meaning of which they never care to understand, but do so simply because their leaders have said that.  Much of the fundamentalism in politics and religion would vanish if people would start using their head that God has graciously granted them filled with useful stuff.  Peter was so afraid when the boat was tossed due to rough weather while he was travelling with Jesus in the Sea of Galilee.  He cried out to Jesus asking for help.  Jesus asked him “Peter, don’t you have faith”.  Here faith is primarily a relationship and secondly an ability to analyze the situation on the basis of that relationship so that he would know what his response should be.  We should be liberated from lack of understanding and ability to judge. 

 

Another area where we should be liberated is the area of equality.  Our society is a hierarchical structured society.  Women and children are many times set in a lower grade than of men.  Take for example our Church.  If we look to the Sunday Service attendance, we see women in majority.  This will be the case with any other religious activity in the Church.  But when it comes to the question of their participation in the decision-making bodies such as General Body meeting and Managing Committee their participation is not made use of.  This is a clear example of discrimination against women. 

 

In many churches young people are also sidelined by senior people. This is quite contrary to the principle of justice we see in Jesus Christ’s attitude.  We are most of the time short of accepting the identity and individuality of children too. Adults make decisions for children claiming that they are better informed and have better knowledge about things.  But many times they do not care to ask of the dreams and aspirations of their kids.  This is a clear example of slavery from which we need to be liberated. 

 

Many of us have problem in accepting new converts especially from those basic communities as equal partners in salvation.  We are not ready to give them equal privilege and position to them.  We forget the fact that Jesus always accepted people of Galilee and other gentile parts of Palestine equal and some tome better in status to his own people in Judah.  We are enslaved by the traditionally handed down pattern of classification in the society.  We are being enslaved by social evil.

 

Another area of evil in the society is that of financial transaction.  We have developed a notion that we can acquire wealth by any means no matter how many people we are hurting in our attempt.  We have wrongly interpreted the advice of Jesus to use the opportunity wisely.  When there is economic crisis in the society we open money-lending business, which demand high rate interest as high as even 100 percent.  We do not care how the economy of the country is going to be affected by that and how we are using the financial crisis of a person to bring unjust money in to our pocket.  This is a clear form of economic evil that has to be overcome by us.

 

Many times our projects and plans of development in our Churches are not examples of good works.  We spend millions of rupees on church buildings and parish hall construction.  Most of the time the money spent on them comes from average working people in Gulf countries and in North America.  We spend the money with no sense of public accountability and Christian principles.  Most of the time we put up ugly structures spending millions.  Later it becomes a burden to members of the congregation that they do not have the resource even to paint the building once in a decade.  Much of the money given through offertory goes either for construction projects or maintenance of the existing building.  We do not see people living in the neighborhood without even a decent house for them to spend the night.  This is another example of we being overcome by economic evil in the community. 

 

Many times the church makes laws and ordinances with out any regard of the people who are affected by such legislation.  We also do not care for individual needs of people.  We make square boxes and try to fit people in them without regard for their problems and concerns.  This is true in the case of inter denominational marriages.  People are not at fault for being a member of a particular denomination.  But when it comes to the question of marrying a person of another denomination, which also believes in the same God, the authorities have problem in letting it happen.  There are instances of the whole family being excommunicated by the authorities for a member of the family getting married to a person of another denomination.  We are placing, as Jesus once said, heavy burdens on believers. 

 

I can go on like this giving many more examples of evil tendencies existing in our society and churches.  The sad reality is that none of these is counted as a sin or evil in the sight of most of the church authorities.  It is time that we sit down and think again about the terms evil and sin.   Our traditional understanding of them may not be enough under the changed situation.  We need to continuously analyze the socio-politico-religious life of people and try to see what is evil and what is good in a given situation so that we can avoid being influenced by evil. 

 

 

Face Future with Christ


Face Challenges with Christ!

Yuhanon Mor Meletius

Once Jesus fed a large number of people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Seeing the size of the crowd and listening to the suggestion of Jesus to feed them, the disciples got quite wondered how they could do that. They asked Jesus “How can we get enough bread to feed all these people?”

This incident helps us to think about our attitude toward possibilities and challenges in our lives.  The question asked by the disciples could be interpreted in two ways: as a question of exploration or as a question of helplessness. Many people when confronted with challenges in life simply stand helpless and hushed.

Actually it is the challenges that help us to explore new possibilities.  Jesus placed before the disciples a challenge.  They were not used to facing them.  They were rather quiet people who lived minding their own business and taking care of their own families.  They never dared to venture into the unknown areas of life.

Jesus, who was preparing them to be ‘fishers of people’, wanted to take them beyond the known to the unknown and un-ventured.

The first step in every scientific invention is the question “How can we do it?”  Humans are created by God with tremendous potential.  He has also placed innumerable possibilities before them.  It is our responsibility to explore the new possibilities. Feeding the multitude is not an easy task, but only by dreaming about doing what is not easy we will grow.  But human tendency is to limit oneself to the known and to the easy.  Of course, the exploration into the unknown and to the undone might involve certain elements of risk and danger: the risk of failure and the danger of trouble.  But unless we take courage to explore into the possibilities, we will never find out what lies beyond.

Some people, though they look to the future with hope, after attaining a limited goal, they fail to look any further.  For example, people from Kerala went to North America and to the European countries with an explorative attitude.  But once they are there, many of them stop exploring. They are satisfied with what they have got and live ‘minding their own business’ in a quiet and passive manner. They do not involve in the social or political life of the society they live in.  The only area they are active is religion.  There too they are not explorative.  Rather, they try to create mini Malayalee Christian communities with its shortcomings and pitfalls.  What happens is they are stuck with what they have inherited and thus fail to adapt to the new situations and to attract the new generation into their community.  They also fail to enrich their own religion and religious life by bringing new elements into it.  This will also result in failing to meet the needs of the young people and satisfy their aspirations.  Also they will be left in the larger society as unknown and powerless people.

Looking to future is a never-ending process with unlimited prospects.  Life is to be a journey confronting challenges all through.  Whenever someone stops facing them, then that person is dead.  To cite a familiar example, Adam and Eve had the same problem.  They thought that a certain fruit was good for them to become like God based on the wrong advice of the snake. They did not explore into the nature and content of the fruit as a creation of God.  They stopped looking for meaning at a certain point.  That caused their death in that environment, and consequent burial or casting away from the community.  Everything and anything that has been created by God has its own individual existence in the community and its own identity.  Adam and Eve failed to explore into that identity.  So they became dead.  As for many of us, we do not actively involve ourselves in the life of the community we live in and let others know us and let ourselves know others.  Thus we become dead to the society around us.

This also helps us think about our role in the society, which should be a constant concern for us.  The question “How can we feed them?” shall be a question that determines our life in this world.  By finding an answer to this we are trying to take our lives further just because our prosperity is very much related to the others’ prosperity.  We are quite used to leading a life of minding our own concerns.  But by doing that we are closing the doors of our own future.  Our lives can only be taken further in close cooperation and interaction with others.  So the challenge of Jesus is to feed the others, and through that to feed themselves.  There is a famous saying of Sri Buddha. He says, “If you want to be selfish I suggest you be uniquely selfish.  Unique selfishness means that one’s life can be made better only by making the lives of others better.  So you try to make others’ lives better”.

Jesus placed a possibility before the disciples.  They had the possibility of having their resources multiplied several times by feeding others.  They did not understand the greatness of that challenge until Jesus faced the challenge by himself.  But it is for us to explore the possibility of bettering the lives of ours and that of others by facing challenges that come across us.  We are constantly faced with greater possibilities provided by God and it is for us to ask ‘how can we do that’ in an explorative and not helpless manner.

Let us look to the future with hope, and face challenges along with Christ, and thus we will make the lives of others and of our own better and happier.

Participating with God and Creation


 

Participating with God and with Creation

 

                                                                                    Metropolitan Mor Meletius Yuhanon

 

Text: 1 Cor. 10:16; Eph. 2:13.  ‘The cup we drink from is a participation in the blood and the bread that we share is a participation in the body of Christ’.

 

Koinonia, a Greek word, which is pregnant in meaning is translated here for common understanding as ‘participation’.  The primary question is, participation on the basis of what or what is the foundation of this participation?

 

Church essentially is a community called out for life in fellowship and participation.  The two words ‘fellowship’ and ‘participation’ are quite significant and they make the church a community.  This community is formed out of individuals.  However, these individuals have no separate existence without the community.  Each member in the community find his/her/its own identity only in the community.

 

Fellowship and participation are made concrete in two levels; one with God and the second with the creation.  Paul said, Christ is the head of the community.  We experience God through Christ.  Our fellowship with God is through Christ and in the Holy Spirit.  Our participation with the Holy Trinity is experienced and made concrete in our daily life through our participation with the creation.  Our participation with God and creation can be understood in several foundation.

 

1.  Participation due to createdness.  Our unity with God and between creation is due to the fact that God created us and we are his creation.  As for humans, we are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26, 27).  Thus the whole humanity is united between one another through the sharing of the image and likeness of God.  This is a special kind of relationship, that is of  fellowship and responsiveness.  It makes participation meaningful and concrete.

 

There is a second dimension to this unity.  ‘We’ are his creation.  This ‘we’ makes us one among ourselves.  This includes the whole of creation (Isa. 11) and it is primarily a question of our faith.  Everything that is included in the created world is to live in harmony and mutual respect.  In our Eucharistic Liturgy we say, We humans join “the sun, moon, stars, the earth, the sees … in proclaiming the glory of God.  The fact that all inclusive ‘we’ are God’s creation becomes the foundation of our participation with God and between one another. 

 

2.  Our participation with God and with one another is again on the basis of the salvific work of God in fact is in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The body and blood which we partake becomes a concrete means through which this participation is made possible.  By our blessing of the cup and bread, we enter into a sacramental relationship with God.  Thus at every single place where the body and blood of Christ are shared, we find church.  There fore, church is primarily local.  Hence participation is also to be basically local.  The church has no mission if it does not being it at the local level.

 

Here we have a basis to transcend the differences too, differences like man and woman; like rich and poor; like human and other creation etc. (Gal. 3. 28).  Of course differences are there.  As a matter of fact, differences are necessary as they are the ones that make creation unique and beautiful.  By this we learn that creation as such in its totality is not completely at our disposal (Adam never saw the creation of his partner as he is said to have been in deep sleep).  Diversity is not to create conflict or confusion, but it should make unity richer.  It helps all seek for better understanding of one another and always keeps us in exploration and dialogue.  It constantly reminds us that our understanding of God and His ways are not exhaustive.  It also proclaims the magnanimity of God.

 

Of course, our goal is to transcend the differences and to find complete meaning of the fundamental truth (Isa. 11).  We know the truth to the extent that Christ is the Son of God and is our Savior, but we do not know yet all the implications of this fundamental faith affirmation.  If we claim that we know all of it, then certainly we are blaspheming.

 

The foundation of our lives lie with God.  He is a God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.  He is not a God of a single person, rather he is a God of Israel too; that is God of one community.  Keeping the relationship with each individual, he transcends personal cult possibility to enter in to relationship with the whole.  Here Israel is not a person, but a community called in to existence to invite all creation to God’s presence.  Diversity provides individuality, but it also points to the need for cooperation and participation, not independence and absolutism.

 

3.  The word participation implies that it is not static but dynamic.  It is in an ongoing progressive momentum.  This makes participation richer and more meaningful.  Our dynamic participation with the salvific work of God is in our sacramental life.

 

In baptism and Eucharist and other sacraments we experience being united with God the Father.  The word mystery is quite apt in this context.  We are invited by God to enjoy the mystery and slowly it ceases to be a mystery, but the ultimate mystery, which is God Himself remains as such (Lk. 24:30,31:  “their eyes were opened and knew that it was Jesus”).

 

Our dynamic participation with one another is actualized through the sharing of joy, suffering and struggles of our fellow beings (Rom. 15.26-27; 1 Cor. 1.6-7; Heb. 10:33).  What you have done to one of these little ones,  you have done for me (Mtt. 10:42; 18:6).  Jesus’ sharing the grief of the people at the tomb of Lazarus (Jn. 11.35), helping Zachaus find his identity as the son of Abraham (Lk. 19:9), participating in the joy of the people at the marriage feast at Canaa and making it perfect joy (Jn. 2), sharing the struggle of Peter while trying to make his living by fishing (Lk. 5.4-7) all are models of this sharing and participating in the life of others.  Jesus asks the Zebedee sons whether they could share the baptism and the cross of the Son of Man (Mk. 10:38).  It is a challenge for participation in the life and work of the whole creation, not to mention humanity.

 

‘Koinonia’ in faith of the creator -savior God is for the healing of the broken bones of the humanity, (or rather of the whole creation ).  Note the expression “I pray for the liberation of the whole creation” (St. James’ Liturgy, Syrian Orthodox Church).  The church through this prayer is helping the whole creating in its struggle for a life with dignity and freedom, its growth and search for meaning (Doublin Document, Faith and Order Commission, WCC).

 

This includes self understanding too.  Knowing oneself can only happen by dealing with his own problems and the problems of others.  We solve our problems always with the help of others (James 4:23 ff.).  We are enriched and benefited by the fellowship and participation of others.  Jacob realized who he was and who he should become (that he was ‘cunning’ until them, and should rather be ‘Israel’ in future) in his struggle with God and in relation to his brother Esav whom Jacob considered to be a threat to his life, (though he later fund out that he came in peace).

 

4.  Sacramental life is a life sent out (Mtt. 28: 19; Lk. 24: 48; Act. 1: 6-8, a life in unity with God).  A life in participation is a life proclaiming.  Unity alone can make effective witness.  Jesus becomes a witness to the love of his Father through his unity with Him.  He said I and my Father are one and it itself becomes a testimony to what Jesus did and also provides authenticity to it (Jn. 13: 35; 15: 14).  Witnessing is discipleship (Jn. 17).  There is no discipleship without unity (Jn. 13:35).  Unity itself becomes a witness.

 

Witness is witness to a new world.  The preaching of the disciples were full of testimonies of the even of resurrection (Acts. 3:15; 4:10; Rom. 4:24; 8:11).  Resurrection talks about the possibility of transcendence, transcending barriers.  Thus it is proving hope for a better future to the whole world (Mtt. 12: 31; Acts. 2:26).  the birth of Jesus was a matter of greater joy to the world (Lk.2:10).  It thus helps the creation to transcend all limitations that limits the urge for unity.  It takes away the meaning in life and hope for future (1 Cor. 15.26).  The last enemy that is to be destroyed is death.  Death is something that hinders the smooth transition in to an growth in unity.  Jesus, “let them be one even as we are one” (Jn. 17:21).  It is towards this goal of unity with God the Father in H. Spirit through Christ, we hope live and work.  The participation in the body and blood of Christ is the participation in the life and work of Christ and in the struggle of creation in its meaningful existence with dignity and freedom.

A thought for Tomorrow


 

A THOUGHT FOR TOMORROW

Our generation has seen quite a lot of changes in almost all areas of human life. One of the major area where we experience change during our time is the area of communication. Few decades back communication facilities were quite primitive and methods were in fact crude. Today, we who live in the age of advanced Information Technology, can not imagine of those times with lot of hurdles and limitations. However, a perfect communication is still a dream for many of us.

Communication basically works through images and symbols. Unless we are able to understand these symbols and images, we will not be successful in communication. We know that computers can exchange information only if compatible transmission is being done between them. Yes, in the world of communication compatibility is a primary requirement. When a person’s understanding of express love does not meet with the understanding of express love of another person, loving becomes impossible. For certain children love of parents should manifest in granting them freedom to do any and every thing they want to. But for the parents, controlling the children and molding their lives, as they consider best, are the right way of expressing their love. Here two different groups interpret the concept of love in two entirely different and contradicting ways. When people of this type are to live together, conflict is inevitable because there will no communication be occurring in their midst. However, both parties will be saying that they are trying to communicate to the other parson. This is where, in the modern world, faith in a religion should help people.

Faith primarily is relationship. Many times people have tried to interpret the term faith; as believing in something, which is not seen or experienced. But believing and experiencing is very much subject to the mutual relationship. On the other hand relationship itself is determined by communication. In the Old Testament the first attempt by God to establish a relationship with the people of Israel was in the context of the experience of liberation. We see, in the Book of Exodus Ch.3, Moses asking the name of God who appeared to him in the burning bush. God was trying to communicate to him about the need to liberate the people of Israel. But Moses was not having the necessary rapport or relationship with God to understand him; and hence he was not ready to take it from God. Then God showed him his shepherd-staff turning into a snake and back. This was a symbol for Moses; a symbol that tells Moses, that God can change the shape, nature and usefulness of a thing into another. Moses was able to relate this symbol of change with the need of his people for the change in their slavish situation. This was also a symbol of God’s loving care towards Moses and his kinsmen. Thus a relationship was established between Moses and God. Moses was now ready to believe God. He readily accepts the responsibility of leading his people out of Egypt.

The initiative of establishing a relationship and creating the best symbol for expressing that relationship comes from God. Israel found this symbol working in the Exodus event. One of the greatest symbols history has ever created to express love of one toward another is the cross. It tells humans of the change of death and deadly forces in to life and life-giving forces. It also speaks of the liberative love of God towards humans. The act of cross was initiated by God. However since cross is an all time symbol, we need to create current and relevant symbols which will be suitable for our changing situations, but still related to and well founded on the classic symbol, the cross.

The Cross, as I said earlier, is the symbol of the caring love of God which is also a paradigm for mutual love for humans and it speaks of the possibility of transition of evil to good. In this world, we are many times confronted with multitude of symbols and images. We should be able to identify these symbols in the light of the great symbol cross. Taking our old example of parent child relationship, the parent should always try to evaluate the symbols through which he/she is trying to express his/her love to the child in the background of cross. One way of comparison is to try to see whether the symbol really liberates the child or not. The cross is also a symbol of giving away what was precious to one – life – for the sake of the other. The parent can consider whether he/she is trying to love the child for the sake of him/her or for the liberation of the child itself. Many parents consider their children as a proud property, which gives them satisfaction and joy. Yes, children through their life and work give the parents lot of satisfaction and joy. But when it becomes a demand on the part of the parents, it will be felt as a burden on the part of the children and the immediate reaction will be to defend themselves against, and to reject the content of that symbol. This takes away the possibility of an effective communication between parents and their children. This could happen vice versa too. Our challenge for tomorrow is to find out new and effective symbols that we may communicate effectively and meaningfully.

Let me bring to you another important area where this theory works; that is the area of husband and wife relationship. No matter how deep the husband may love his wife, unless it is expressed through the right kind of symbols, the wife may misunderstand it and could right away reject it. This will be the end of their effective mutual communication and a healthy relationship between. There will emerge a situation where even if they live together on social compulsion, they still be separate in effect. This could happen in any form of relationship that we see in our midst.

Our religious life should help us to formulate symbols of relationship compatible in all sense for a peaceful and healthy life here in this world. Prayer shall be a good and effective means of evaluating the compatibility of symbols. In prayer we constantly look to God and try to see the symbol of cross so as to compare it with our current symbols with a readiness to make necessary changes in them. In prayer we also stand before God to create new symbols for our relationship with God and also with others. These symbols shall become ethical norms for a whole community. No symbol humans use is all time useful. Usefulness of symbols can change according to change in social, economic and religious atmosphere and context. Having too many children to the parents was one the symbols of a good family during the earlier times. These days no family will be considered, under normal conditions, a healthy one if they have more than two or three children.

In an agriculturist context having several bulls and cattle were considered symbols of wealth and prosperity. These days having them will be a burden and something unnecessary. In earlier times, in line with the male dominated social setting, love of husband towards wife and vice versa were expressed through the symbol of dominance and subordination. These days it is being changed to more of participatory and mutuality patterns. Unless we keep on revising our symbols according to the changes in socio-economic world we might become irrelevant to the world around us. Hence our prayer before our God shall be to help us formulate appropriate symbols and models to express our relationships. This is how we grow to the fullness of mutuality. God salvific work in Christ in this world was aimed at making the relationships perfect and fully functional. St. Paul very well puts it when he says that, Jesus Christ pulled down the dividing wall between God and human and between human and human. We, in this world, are trying to work out this mission which God initiated in Jesus Christ, in and through our own lives and in our socio-religio-politico life situations in this world.

The world is becoming more and more complex, confusing and complicated. There are new and advanced advertisement methods through which every product is brought before us. In advertisement selling the maximum quantity is the primary, if not sole, objective. Here each relationship and the symbols that express these relationships will be on the billboard of advertisement. The advertisement world tells us that husband expresses his love towards his wife by buying a Prestige Pressure Cooker. It also tells us that for children doing education should have a particular Ayurvedic tonic.  It is easy for us to be lured in to that world and might think that these are truly the symbols to express our relationship with others. We could very well see a shift in value in this process. In such a situation we at the user end should be more prudent and careful to identify which is the best suitable symbol for us so that we may have a better and healthy relationship between. This is how the kingdom of God is being established in here. Let us pray to God that he may help us to identify and make use of the best symbols to express our relationship with God and with one another and that we may have meaningful communication occurring.

Avenues of Freedom Experienced


THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

THEME FOR THE YEAR – 2004

 

AVENUES OF FREEDOM EXPERIENCED

Yuhanon Mor Meletius

President, Orthodox Christian Youth Movement of the East

 

Introduction

“Freedom is what we have – Christ has set us free.  Stand then as free people and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again” declared St. Paul (Gal. 5:1).  We Christians are supposed to be the free people.  It has been more than half a century that we, the citizens of India, are politically free.  Yet the question is, are we really free in fuller sense, as we claim to be?  Are we acquainted with all the dimensions of the experience of freedom?  What constitutes freedom?  What are its content and relevance?  All these questions are serious enough to be analyzed meaningfully and in detailed.

 

1. Slavery is comfort

Slavery, as far as many are concerned, is more pleasing and is preferred than freedom.  It has often been seen that prolonged slavery conditions one’s mind to misconceive it as freedom.  For instance, the Israelites, in their pilgrimage to Promised Land of Freedom from the slavery of Egypt, repeatedly asked Moses: “Why have you brought us out in to this wilderness that we should die here?” (Numb. 20:4; 21:5ff.). Besides, it is often heard that in our land it is women themselves who block their own path of freedom.  Such behaviour is an offspring of their prolonged slavery.  Bondages do not demand independent thinking or free decisions.  As a result, one is not forced to suffer that pangs of birth or the hard realities of executing such decisions. For many, such a life of confinement, though it is bondage, is pleasing and so they prefer it.

 

It must be recognised that bondages of any kind are denial of one’s true self or individuality.  This thwarts one’s understanding of psyche and visions of life.  Slavery leads to discrimination in relationships.  For instance, it was the slavery to the serpent and its words that created a breach in the equal status of man and woman (Genesis).  Thus it is evident that freedom is highly essential to safeguard the inherent position of God’s creations and to maintain healthy relationship among them.

 

Our inclination to injustice is one of the pillars of slavery. The blacksmith who designs duplicate keys for a thief is a constant threat to the latter.  The contemporary society chained itself in the fetters of ‘advanced patterns of life’.  The ceaseless anxiety and mounting ambitions of parents on the future of their children put dim shadows of hell in to their lives.  Human is enslaved by heated hopes of luxury and illusions of life.  The implication of such a slavery is seen in the fatal fall of Eve, who wished to taste the forbidden fruit which she thought good to taste – though she was without former experience. 


Today the mind human is moulded by the rainbow of market culture.  All these attractions, in a way, steal the freedom from him.  Such human who fails to anchor the intoxicated dreams loses all his/ her innocence, and garlands him/ herself with the fetters of illusion. 

 

Indeed, even spirituality has lost its basic principles and true sense all over the world. Now it aims at making human a slave to it by exploiting his emotional weakness.  Many are enslaved in the fast growing ‘Retreat Centres’.  Besides, he is suffocated among the handcuffs of advanced standards of life sponsored by scientific and technological progress. Human who is in the pursuit of making life easier and comfortable with the aid of machines stand upset and immobile at the failure of the same.  The unwise use of finite natural resources has turned life in to a mess. 

 

2. Misunderstanding Freedom: The Concept of self-Sufficiency

The concept of self sufficiency is unrealistic and yet another facet of slavery. We claim that we have been in the noble pursuit of constructing a self sufficient India.  But in the endeavour to fulfil this dream of the architects of our nation, we have brought ourselves at an alarming state of imported culture.  The fall of Babel, built by those who came from the East, which stood as the symbol of freedom and unity of community indicates the ultimate failure of self-dominant attempts of human to find ‘name and fame’ for him/ herself.  It is the ignorance about the basic nature of God’s creation and its existence that forces human to strive for self-sufficiency.  The vague concepts of divine call and mission too may intensify the craze.  It is pertinent in this view to recall that Abraham was called in to the glory of God to become ‘a source of blessing for all’.  Christians must not monopolise Christ – the way for all humanity – and his promised salvation for selfish ambitions.  It must also be noted that self sufficiency is relative in its true sense.

 

The concept of self sufficiency is one of the meanest feelings of a narrow mind.  Human’s apprehensions on external influences accelerate his contraction into the self.  Semitic religions generally promote the grave misconception that interpersonal relationships make human a heretic, wicked and anti-faithful.  They evaluate all external environments as evil and immoral.  The fast growing religious fundamentalism and terrorism in India testify that even Hinduism, contrary to its essential nature, has become exclusive and fundamentalistic.  But among the monotheistic Semitic religions Jesus had.  Propagated a religion of universal love.  The sad fact is that slowly his disciples fell in to the trap of exclusivist self sufficient community craze.  Caste system and social stratification crept in to Indian Christianity too.

 

The inclination to achieve self sufficiency brings our unjust amassment of wealth.  The old concept that “end justifies the means” is still live in the minds of human who strives to become richer by any wicked means.  The consequences of such deeds are evident in the society as growing injustice, Hawalas, bribery and corruption.  No doubt even the institutions of the Church have proved themselves to be the fertile soil for such unholy practices and mis-governance. 

 

The concept of self sufficiency endows human with an unrealistic feeling of security which lacks spirituality.  Jesus Himself has proclaimed that true spirituality is the essence of healthy relationship between human and human.  Even Christians who consider the universality of Jesus Christ as good news (Gospel) is not free from this self sufficiency attitude.  Even the Old Testament community who boasted that they had Abraham as their father and that it was Jacob their ancestor who gave them that well were not broad-minded enough to accept the faith of Abraham or his attitude of respecting Malchizedech, the priest of another race.  The followers of Christ who declared that Christ is the only way fail to perceive the various dimensions of it because he confines Christ in to his own narrow intellectual scenario.  So he turns a blind eye to the varying and complex realms of Christ’s mission in the world to control and mould the face of history. Thus Christ is conceived not as the creator and redeemer of all ‘the seen and unseen’, but as the wonder worker and miracle merchant who heals, enriches and predicts the fortunes.  It is not the fulfilment of the personal concerns that one should seek in Christ.  The perspective of freedom is to experience consolation in the wellbeing of others. The avenue of freedom is to build up a pure and healthy bond of inter-dependence after discarding prejudices and misconceptions yet by maintaining one’s own self-hood.  This constitutes spirituality in its purest form.

 

3. Freedom experienced in Worship

A Christian should seek the essence of freedom in worship. God commands Pharaoh to set his people free to worship in the desert.  Here the aim and objective of worship are interpreted as social and political liberation. It is in worship that one recognises one’s own true self, the position in the society and the intensity of one’s mission in the living context.  It is this assignment that Prophet Isaiah receives at the divine vision (cf. Is. 6).  Jesus Christ addressed his disciples who shared his mission to set people free, as ‘friends’ instead of ‘slaves’.  It was an index of their state of freedom attained in the Son of God (John 15:15).  This is more evident in the epistle of Peter (1Pet. 1:2-9).

 

Worship is held in the presence of God.  It begins with the exhortation to ‘raise our hearts and thoughts and minds up to Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand side of God the Father’.  Thus worship turns to be an experience of freedom to call the Almighty God Father and because of that to call all created ones fellow beings and brethren.  It is an experience of freedom at the communion of the whole creation and the celebration of unity.  Since God is the God of all, the whole creation arrives at the presence of God. So worship is impossible without the unity of catholicity of the creation being recognized.  In other words, “we glorify the God who has been glorified by all the elements in the cosmos viz. the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, the ocean etc.”  The dwelling place of His Father must be the temple of worship for all.  The unclear and incomplete perception of personal assignments of divine calling too may lead us in to a search for self sufficiency. One should not seek the presence of God for the material prosperity and personal salvation.

 

Worship enables us to survive the bondages and break the boundaries.  Freedom to cross over all the human made barriers on the basis of race, colour, gender, social ranks and age is an inevitable outcome of worship.  How can a person who enjoys the fetters of social barriers proclaim that his help comes from God, ‘the creator of heaven and earth?’  It was the mercy of Jesus that transformed the crippled woman, the tax collector, the leaper and the prostitute in to the status of being the offspring of Abraham.  Yet the community to which they belonged turned their back against them.

 

Worship removes communication barriers. Sense – perception was alien to the selfish community in the Babel, but the freedom of mutual understanding was endowed upon those who were assembled at the house of the Pentecost.  A new community, united on the rocky foundation of sharing and caring was evolved there.  Here a new way of life which addressed one another freely and shared the spirit of fellow pilgrims was evolved.  This dream had been nurtured by Prophet Isaiah as the land in which the ‘sheep abide with the pack of wolves and the cheetah dwells in the company of goats’. Worship in the spirit of fellowship and unity makes life free and meaningful. It boosts vitality and creative faculty of human which sprouts fresh from the free mind. Why does the cruel forest-king turn blind eyes to the mystery of the green vegetation which feeds the whole creation? 

 

If creativity is illumined by healthy communion of interdependence, the result of it will be the ministry of reconciliation.  The mission of the worshiping community should aim at renewing the fellowship feeling by the breaking of the bondages. Such an endeavour would become an act of freedom. Attempts to found peace and to maintain it are the indices of the worshiping community.  Simeon, who had been faithfully waiting for Jesus Christ was seeking the rise of salvation for the Israelites, not the eradication of his own personal grievances.  No doubt, Virgin Mary showed great concern over the issues of others as it is evident at turn of events at the wedding house in Canaa.

 

Conclusion

We are entrusted with the mission of Christ to propagate the Gospel of peace up to the frontiers of the earth.  But today it brings about divisions, rivalry, separations, discrimination, bondage, injustice and injury to others.  The freedom experienced in worship is the symbol of experiencing freedom in the kingdom of God.  Jesus Christ’s parables on the kingdom of God are enriched with the expressions of unity and growth of freedom.  Let us have a new perspective of the freedom of creation to shoulder the responsibilities entrusted by it.