A Meditation on Luke 11: 9 – 20


A Meditation on Luke 11:9-20

(Text for Second Sunday after Ascension of Mary

Delivered at St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur).

I find two important themes in this passage for us to consider today:

One: Search and will be found.

Two: A talks about the disintegration of communities.

Parallel to the first story is seen in Matthew 7:7. This saying is not connected in Matthew to the second saying seen in Luke (11:14-23). The gift of God is said to be just ‘good things’ according to Matthew (7:11) where as according to Luke it is the Holy Spirit (11:13). Of course Holy Spirit is some thing good that comes from God. But I doubt that is what Matthew means here. It should be just some thing good in general. This saying is not seen in Mark. So it is from common source to Matthew and Luke.

Regarding the meaning of the saying, I do not think that it is a talk about our hard labour to get some thing good in our lives. Rather it reminds us of knowing what really want and what we need to do to get it in terms of doing our part of the job.

In Matt. 6:26, Jesus talks about the birds of the air that do not sow or reap, but are fed by God. But the birds have to look for where God has kept the food for them and also they have to eat it for themselves. No one else can do these things for them.

Yes you have to do your part of the job to get the blessing. The door is waiting to be knocked to open and the thing is waiting to be searched for you to have it. There was a call from God the Father saying, “Here is my beloved Son … listen to him” (Matt. 17:5). It was for the people to behold him. God can not make them listen. There is a saying, ‘you can only lead the horse to the water, but can not make it drink’. You can explain to your students what they need to learn. You can not make them taught. We need to do our job and no one can do it for us.

The second incident in Luke is a talk about the possible disintegration of communities and societies. This is given in the backdrop of Jew’s accusation of Jesus casting out demons with the help of demons.

Parallel texts can be seen in Matthew ch. 12 and Mark ch. 3. There are few differences between these three records. Mark records the story in an entirely different context. Jesus was with a large multitude and he had no time even to eat. Seeing this, his own people called him crazy. Matthew has blind and mute person healed by Jesus. The people called Jesus, ‘Son of David’ which is not seen in either Mark or Luke. This is quite understandable considering the audience of Matthew which was primarily Jews.  According to Matthew it was the Pharisees who accused Jesus. For Mark it was the Scribes who did so. Luke has only ‘some of them’ implying part of the crowd. To Mark the statement about division comes as a parable from Jesus.

Luke v. 16 seems to be an interpolation which says, ‘some others asked for a sign from Jesus’. While some accused Jesus of casting out demons by demons some others asked for a sign.  We can already see a division on this matter among the people.

Luke 11: 23 and Matthew 12:30 end with a statement “He who is not with me is against me and will be scattered”. Actually this is where the second passage ends. For some reason the lectionary did not consider this important to be included.

Matthew and Mark conclude the passage with a statement regarding ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’. Luke omitted it for unknown reason.

Let me today focus on the second part of the passage that talk about Jesus being accused of casting out demons by demons.

A Divided House

Division can be of two types.

I. One that is inevitable and positive:

There was division among the people and among the Jews regarding who Jesus was and what was he doing (John 7:43; 9:16 and in 10:19).

As a matter of fact Jesus came to this world to create a division according to Luke 12:51-53. (‘I have not come to set peace on earth rather division’)

This division is between good and evil, between those who accepted Jesus as God and those who did not.

Elimination and removal of evil from what is essentially good is the work of salvation.

It is elimination or burning out of impurities or parasites that were attached to some thing fundamentally good. This is what we see all through the history of humans with God.

Abraham leaving Haran was a division; the burning bush Moses witnessed was another division (the bush in flame was not consumed. But there was some thing symbolically being consumed, which is slavery in Egypt); Israel leaving Egypt yet another division; accepting Jesus for sure was another.

Those were means of re-instatement of the creation and hence some thing positive and good.

II. There is a second kind of division.

This division is seen as something negative and destructive.

This is what Jesus was talking about in this event under consideration.

A situation where things can not be sorted out and a consensus or perfect understanding can not be achieved becomes a reason for division.

Such a situation will put confusion and chaos in the community and will eventually lead to breaking down and perishing of it.

No caring person can allow this to happen. That will be self destructive.

We in India today are facing such a situation.

The big question before our nation today is how to deal with the escalating corruption in our society?

All-party meetings, parties and Team Anna, government and civil society representatives all stand at different corners not agreeing on ways and means of sorting it out and trying to cast out this demon.

We are divided.

This unhealthy and destructive division prevail in all sections of our society, our families and even in every single person today.

People are becoming more and more confused that leads them to depression and further to breaking down of the self.

Integrity of personality, of family, of communities becomes a big challenge for us.

Look at our Church for example.

A Church divided in to two groups, the Jacobite and the Orthodox.

Both worship the same God, profess same faith, follow same tradition, share the same heritage, teach the same theology and worship using the same liturgy. There is absolutely nothing that divides us. Still we are divided. We have become a laughing stock in the midst of other people. Our financial and other resources are wasted on this division. Our young are going away from the fellowship; we are loosing members to unhealthy new generation ‘so called spiritual’ groups mushrooming in and around us.

We need to stand together, work together and march forward for the welfare and progress of the people.

Wedded husbands and wives are now standing in the veranda of court rooms waiting for them to be called to present their reasons for them to be separated or divided.  Daily about a hundred divorce petitions are filed in family courts in Kerala with mutual consent. When they are separated, where will the children go and how healthy will they be emotionally in future? How will they experience God’s loving care through the parents and will learn to love others? Families are getting split away at an alarming rate. Still we claim that we are a developed community and are progressing.

No community, family or individual can stand when it is divided for the wrong reasons.

Yes we need to distinguish between good and evil.

Since evil has no essence and eternal existence, it has to go and a division with that goal will help world become a better place and will progress.

But we should not be divided to cast out demonic forces that parasite and sickens us. Also we should not use demonic forces to cast out demonic tendencies. That will be a matter for another sermon.

Be divided and take a definite stand for right and noble cause. But do not be divided in casting out demons and never use demonic forces to eliminate what is bad and unhealthy in us and around us.

Jesus who cast out demons with the power of God will help us to be united to eliminate bad influences and tendencies in and among us.

Cast out demons with the ‘figure of God’ and we will see the kingdom of God in our midst! Amen.

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Sat Sang at STOTS


I addressed the St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary family at the Sat Sang. My presentation:

Prophet Micah speaks to India

(A re-reading of Micah 3:11with the present socio-political atmosphere in mind)

Prophet Micah said, “Its rulers give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for a price, It’s prophets give oracle for money; Yet they lean upon the LORD and say, Surely the LORD is with us! No harm shall come upon us”. These are the words of a prophet of Ancient Israel of 8th C BC.

Israel became truly a free country after Saul, when David became king. It had all the resources to stand on its own feet.

But this freedom did not last very long. Solomon introduced a new wave of establishing diplomatic relation with neighboring nations. He had several wives and had to construct independent houses for them. He had other building projects too including the temple in Jerusalem. So he had to raise tax again and again. Most of the tax money went to these projects and welfare and developmental projects of people got less and less. Naturally the construction contractors and middle men became richer and richer.

People became restless and unhappy. They could not take it any more. Solomon is acclaimed as a wise person every where. But he was not wise enough to listen to the voice of the people. He distanced himself from the people. His son was even more of less contact (2 Chronicles 10). Then came Jeroboam a truly people’s person.

After Solomon the nation was divided in to two leaving just two tribes for the son of Solomon Rehoboam and Jeroboam a popular leader went away to north with ten tribes. That was the end of a united free Israel of the dream of Joshua (Joshua 24).

But that also did not save any one. Unrest and uncertainty prevailed in both countries. It was in this context prophets of Social reformation and religious vigor, like Amos, Isaiah, Hosea and Micha (Who is like Yahweh – 737 to 690 BC.  The kings mentioned in the book are from 756 to 697 BC) appeared on the scene. Micah started prophesying just before the fall to Israel to Assyrians.

He was addressing a nation that had long lost all its fundamentals. These fundamentals were set by none other than Yahweh, a just and righteous God. Amos Micah’s predecessor, said,  “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever rolling stream” (5:24). Amos addressed only the Northern nation. Micah prophesied with the same principle but addressed both Israel and Judah. In the words given above the prophet specifically points out the anti-divine practices in the society.

I am afraid Micah was talking not only to Israel and Judah but also to us, the Indians! He is very much alive and is talking to us today through these words, because that is what we are today.

Look at our situation! India became an independent nation in 1947. Great leaders gave their lives for this noble cause. What does it mean to be independent? The people get the privilege of deciding their own future and destiny, that is what it is to be called a free people in a country. India was freed in to a democratic system of administration.

In a democratic society, the people and their welfare are counted as primary concern oc the nation. Elected representatives and appointed administrators should do their job for and on behalf of the people and should be accountable to the people at every point. Any thing that happens in our country should have people and their welfare and security as its focus. Mahatma wrote: “I hold that self government is not an end in itself, but only a means to good government. And true democracy is that which promotes the welfare of the people, the test of good government lies in the largest good of the people with minimum of controls. The test of autocracy, socialism, capitalism, etc is also people’s welfare or good government. In themselves, the various approaches are of no value. Any system of government can fail if people do not show scrupulous honesty and a feeling of brotherhood. There may be work, there may be men to do the work and also the tools with which to do it: yet in my view, any system which admits poverty and unemployment is not fit to survive even for a day…” (Hindu. 31/12/1947).

As early as 1921 while leading the first non-cooperation movement Gandhiji had stated that ‘one of the objectives of the movement was to purify India by fighting against deceit, corruption, terrorism in political life and the incubus of white superiority’. In 1928 he wrote in Young India (Dec. 6, 1928)  “Corruption will be out one day, however much one may try to conceal it: and the public can, as it is its right and duty in every case of justifiable suspicion, call its servants to strict account, dismiss them, sue them in a law court, or appoint an arbitrator or inspector to scrutinize their conduct, as it likes”.

Former president of India, Mr. K. R. Narayanan during his first address to the nation on the eve of Independence Day of 1997 quoted this and said, ‘we should educate people to fight against corruption’. Now I see people well educated against corruption and are on the streets against it.

Look at the chart that gives you a glimpse of the corruption scandals recorded in the history of our nation:

Jeep Purchase, 1948 – 80 Lakh; BHU Funds, 1956 – 50 lakh;  Mundhara Scandal, 1967 – 1.25 crore;  Teja Loans, 1960 – 22 crore; Kuo Oil deal, 1976 – 2.2 crore;  HDW Commissions, 1987 –  20 crore; Borors Pay off, 1987 – 65 crore; St Kitts Forgery, 1989 – 9.45 crore; Airbus Scandal, 1990 – 2.5 crore; Security scam, 1992 – 5000 crore;  Indian Bank Rip off, 1992 – 1300 crore;  Sugar Import, 1994 – 650 crore; JMM Bribes, 1995 – 1.2 crore;  In a Pickle, 1996 – 10 Lack; Telecom Scam, 1996 – 1.6 crore;  Fodder scam, 1996 – 950 crore; Urea deal, 1996 – 133 crore;  CRB Scam, 1997 – 1000 crore; Vanishing Companies scam, 1999 – 2563 crore; Plantation Companies scam, 1999 – 2563 crore; Ratan Praksh scam, 2001 – 137 crore; Stock Market scam, 2001 – 1,15,000 crore; Home trade scam, 2002 – 600 crore; Stamp Paper scam, 2003 – 30000 crore; IPO Demat Scam, 2005 –140 crore; Bihar Flood relief scam, 2005 – 17 crore;  Scorpene submarine scam, 2005 – 18978 crores; Punjab city centre project scam, 2006 – 1500 crore; Taj corridor scam, 2006 – 175 crore; Pune Billionaire Hassan Ali Khan tax default, 2008 – 50000 crore; The Satyam Scam, 2008 – 10000 crore; Army ration pilferage scam, 2008 – 5000 crore; 2 G spectrum swindle, 2008 – 176000 crore; State Bank of Saurasta scam;   – 95 crore, Illegal money in Swiss Bank as estimated in 2008 – 7100,000 crore, The Jharkhand medical equipment scam, 2009 – 130 crore; Rice export scam, 2009 – 2500 crore; Orissa mine scam, 2009 – 7000 crore; Madhu Koda mining scam, 2009 – 4000 crore; Commonwealth game scam, 2010 – 40000 crore; Kargil coffin scam, ?, Adars Housing Society Scam, ?, Israel arms deal scam,  2010 – 500 crore; ISRO Satalite Broadband scam, 2011 – 1000 crore. Total of a minimum 910603234301500+/

Few more facts: According to ‘One India’ News report that came out on 17 Feb 2011 quoting Global Financial Integrity, a Washington Base Organization, the illicit outflow of Indian money since 1991 to foreign banks amounts to a total ` twenty one lakh (21,00000) crore.

According to the data provided by the Swiss bank, India has more black money than rest of the world combined. India topping the list with almost $1500 Billion, followed by Russia $470 Billion, UK $390 Billion, Ukraine $100 Billion and China with $96 Billion.

This amount is 13 times larger than the nation’s foreign debt. Every year this amount is increasing at a rapid speed. The total black money accounts for 40% of GDP of India, if all the money comes back to India then that could result in huge growth burst for India. The account holders include politicians, IRS, IPS, IAS officers, religious leaders and industrialists

The Supreme court with Mr. Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Niijar on Jan 19, 2011 expressed displeasure over the government’s reluctance in coming out with full information on the black money stashed by Indians in foreign banks, saying ‘it is a theft of national wealth and amounted to “plunder’ of the nation”.

A news from Indian Express daily Aug. 23, 2011 tells us, Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy a congress MP in the Upper House of Parliament filed his tax return showing an annual income of ` 9.19 lakh in May 2004.  In 2011 Lok Sabha bypoll from Kadappa, he declared an annual income of ` 36 crore. He has declared movable assets for ` 365 crore and immovable assets for ` 25 crore. His wife has an asset of ` 41 crore. His father Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy is the Congress party chief in AP. Jaganmohan recently moved to a newly built 53,000 sq.ft. house in Hyderabad that cost `99 crore.

Recently the Chief Minister of Karnataka had to resign for his alleged involvement in mining scandal. He is now in judicial custody for allotting government land to his relatives. His family members are also in the list of accused. The amount of money pocketed goes up by thousands of crores. It is in this context we are asked to look in to the movement of Anna Hazare against corruption and people’s response to it.

Who is Anna Hazare? Kisan Baburao Hazare commonly known as ‘Anna Hazare’ was born on June 15th 1937 in a small village called Bhingar near the city of Hingangahat in Bombay Province of those days (presently Maharastra state) to a very poor family. He studied only up to 7th standard. He came to Mumbai and became a flower vendor in Dadar. Later he opened his own shop. In 1963 he joined the Indian Army as a driver at the age of 25. He was influenced by the writings of Swami Vivekananda through his book “Call to the youth for nation building”. Later he also read the works of Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. When he survived his second accident, he took an oath that he shall dedicate his life to the service of humanity and that was at the age of 38. He was honourably discharged from service in the army when took voluntary retirement in 1978. While in the Army he had won several medals of honour (This was confirmed by the Army in an RIA petition).

Then he went to Ralegaon Siddhi, his native village to see people’s suffering in the drought prone rain shadow region of Ahamadnagar district in central Maharastra. With the participation of the local people he made the village an oasis. They planted about three lakh trees to prevent soil erosion. He made the land fertile with water shed development program and organic farming. He made the administration proclaim the region alcohol free. Tobacco, cigarette and beedi were also prohibited in the village. In 1980 he started a grain bank for the villagers to deposit and loan food grain. They used low water consuming and high yielding crops and avoided high water consuming corps like sugar cane. He also helped several other villages to follow the pattern. This method of farming helped them to cultivate 2500 acres of land in place of 70 acres in 1975. He was also able to promote milk production. They produce about 2500 litters of milk per day now. Along with this a child nutrition program was also introduced.  Literacy rate now is much above the national rate. Removal of un-touchability, collective marriage, Gram Sabha are some of the other initiatives.

The first ever anti-corruption movement was launched in 1991 under the banner of ‘Popular Movement to Fight Against Corruption’. (Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan . BVJA).  It was against 40 corrupt forest officers. Next protest was against 4 NCP ministers of Maharastra in 2003. Other initiatives include Right to Information Movement in 2005, Regulation of Transfer and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Officials Duties Act (2006), Campaign against liquor from food grains (2007). In all these cases the respective authorities had to yield to the demand of Anna Hazare and take appropriate action on them.   The last one in the list is for a Jan Lokpal Bill (April 5, 2011).

He was criticized of his positive comments about Narendra Mod (April 2011). Later he clarified his statement. Some people alleged that his Hind Swaraj Trust spent Rs. 2.2 lakh for his birthday party against the laws of the Trust. He is also accused of being anti-dalit. He has won several awards and honours including Padmabhusan and Padmasree

How do we look at this movement? To me the methodology may be a bit unacceptable (we have reports that some of the top leaders of the movement have left because of the highhanded attitude of few members of the movement), but we cannot ignore the issue he raised. Indian Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Sing commented on his movement and said, ‘corruption cannot be done away with by just one method or one Lokpal Bill. The answer would, why don’t he try some more? Has he done anything on that? He stated some time back that he is not in control when a coalition government is in power, when people asked him about doing nothing Mr. Raja on 2G spectrum case (there are people who think that he was rather protecting him).

Are we to let what Micah said about Israel happen to our country? Micah said in 3:12 “Therefore because of you Zion shall be ploughed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest”.

What has happened to US and several European countries are to be studied in this context. A documentary by Charles Ferguson called “Inside Job” will tell that story. Some of the questions we may have to ask under the circumstance are, Is there any relation between globalization/ privatization and current escalation of corruption? Our Prime Minister said, there is no relation what so ever. But look at the data, the number of scams and amount of money went up from 1990 when we opened our country up the world corporations!

How do we deal with this? What are the measures that could be taken by the Church in this matter? We have house full attendance every Sunday in the Church, do we dare to use the pulpit to talk about what Micah said about our country? Do we tell the people what is happening in our backyard? Do we tell the people to resist corruption and nepotism?  Do we tell the people that we need to be a just nation? Do we tell the people that we are Christians who read Micah in our Churches? This, I think is the only way to deal with the issue.

God be with us; God! Save our country from corruption please!!

Parish Mission of the Seminary Students


Students of Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam conducted Parish Mission at St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Elanadu, Thrissur Diocese. It included, seminars, Medical camp, house visit, youth meet etc. Few Pictures:

Job Opportunity!!


These ads are self explanatory:

STILL MORE AND MORE PEOPLE GO FOR IT COURSES. WHY?

Question on Transfiguration


Question:

Respected Thirumeni,

Today, we observe as the Feast of Transfiguration and we celebrate Holy Qurbana. It seems, there are no special prayers. Even the Promeon and Sedra were usual ones. But we do have special hymns to be used on three occasions and the one immediately after the reading of the Gospel by the celebrant seems to carry some confusing message. This hymn describes Jesus going up the Mount Thabore (though Bible is silent on which mountain this happens) with Peter, James and John. In the next line, the hymn describes the coming of Moses and Elijah. It describes Moses coming from Mount Nebo and Elijha from the skies.

The background could be the Old Testament narration of their departure from this world. As Elijha was taken ‘up’ in a chariot of fire, the hymn mentions his coming to Mount Thabore from the ‘skies’. There is no confusion here. But Moses died on Mount Nebo and now, he is coming to Thabore exactly from the same Mount Nebo. And we believe, wherever one dies, he is taken to the Paradise. Therefore, the narration about Moses here in this hymn seems confusing and against what we teach.

I shall be thankful to Your Grace for a guidance on this. Or should we leave it as a poetic imagination? But even then, what we sing during our Holy Qurbana has to be within our practicing faith!

Your spiritual son (?),

Answer:

Dear (?)

Thank you for the mail and the question. First of all you can not apply all your rationale on our liturgy and specially hymns. They are primarily meditative and only secondly theological or factual. For us the departed ones are continuing the journey towards the perfection of their salvation. I do not know what you mean by ‘paradise’. It in our faith refers to a condition of perfect bliss. A perfect bliss is attained only on the second coming of our Lord. Until then the departed continue the kind of relationship they had while in this world with God and one another towards perfection. ‘Paradise’ is not a place, rather a condition and is a mythological explanation of the condition of perfect bliss.

Bible is a compilation of memories kept alive by the worshipping community and we can not geographically locate places mentioned in the Old Testament particularly and in general in the Bible for sure with few exceptions like Jerusalem. Names to places in the Bible, as you may see from the Bible itself, were given in context (eg. Gen. 28:19). The fathers of the Church take the Biblical stories and events some what freely and then make meditative hymns and prayers. For example there is no place in the Bible that the thief who confessed at the cross was that on the right hand side. But our liturgy at several places refers to him as the one on the right hand side. When the hymn says that Moses came from Mt. Nebo, they only mean to say that Moses came to Jesus from where he was last found. This is not a reference to his after death condition. It simply considers Moses as still a living person. It will not be right on our part to read too much in to these hymns. What is important in this hymn is both Moses and Elijah were real historical figures and were present before our Lord.

Hope I addressed your qurstion.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Second Question:

Respected Thirumeni,

This is a sort of continuation to my mail dated 6th August, 2011 on which guidance is awaited.

To teach those great lessons on Transfiguration such as the fellowship of the living and departed, the pre runner of the Glorification of Jesus after his resurrection and so on, why God chose Moses and Elijah? Why Job or Daniel or Noah was not considered? Why Abraham, Isaac or Jacob whom we remember as those with whom we long to have fellowship after our departure was not considered? Why Jeremiah or Isaiah or Hosea or Amos who all worked for God in most trying circumstances was not considered? Could the reason be that Elijah and Moses were not buried by men?

Kindly advise me (?)

Answer:

Dear (?)

The question is why Jesus chose Moses and Elijah to be on the Mount of Transfiguration with him? The answer would be those were the leaders of the Israelite community that suits well with the mission of Jesus.

1. Moses is the one who lead the people from slavery to freedom in a political context. Now Jesus was attempting to liberate Israel and then the whole world from bondage to freedom not only in a political context, but in a holistic manner. When Jesus was attempting to do this, and when discussion about that was taken up, he could not forget the one who, though in a limited way, worked out freedom movement in the past.

2. Elijah was the one who conducted the sacrifice on the Mount Carmel to re-establish Israel’s relationship with God and through that reestablishment of genuine worship. Now Jesus was conducting a discussion on how to re-establish Israel’s lost relationship through his own sacrifice. Elijah through the sacrifice was with animals and was just to re-establish relation of Israel with God. Jesus’ sacrifice was to re-establish relation of the whole creation with God. So he chose to do it by his own sacrifice and the scope was much wider. However, he wanted the presence of the one who conducted a similar sacrifice in the past, though with limited scope. There is no one else who can substitute these two people when we consider the situation.

Combined together, we may see that when God does some thing, He includes those leaders of the past who did similar thing for God in history. This is a clear indication that even today when God does some thing in our lives or history, he wishes to have the presence of people of the past, though they may not be present alive in this world. God considers them as living ones with him to participate in the discussion and actualization of God’s plan for the world. This will be a powerful answer to those who say that in our worship we do not have to remember the departed ones. In our worship we are attempting to actualize the effect of the sacrifice of Jesus in our specific historical context and life situation. When God considers these contexts He invites people of the old also in to the actualizing group. Our remembrance of the departed in worship is only recognition of God’s invitees in our worship. If we do not do that, we will be disregarding and ignoring the method of God who works out our salvation in specific context.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni