Satsang Presentation at STOTS


Image

God Who Works in History

STOTS Satsang Presentation: 29-01-2013

1. When we look in to the Biblical testimony, both of the Old and of the New, the kind of God we see is a God who works in history.

The very revelation of His name in the land of Midian to Moses makes it clear. “I shall show to you what I shall be” was the answer to Moses’ question about God’s name (Ex. 3:13-14. I am not responsible for the translators’ misunderstanding of the Hebrew phrase “yehyh aser yeheh” which is in future tense and not in present tense and which cannot be translated as I AM, rather only as “I shall be”- literal translation will be “I shall be that I shall be”. The wrong translation is because of the misunderstanding due to its Greek translation (LXX –Septuagint) which reads anokhi which may mean I AM. But there is not present tense in Hebrew grammar and according to Hebrew thought God’s name can not be revealed to be understood by any one. This is because pronouncing a name will imply bringing that person or entity under the control of the one who pronounces it. To them God’s name or essence is beyond human comprehension. They will not dare to pronounce what is called the word YAHWEH. Instead they will write YHWH with the vowels of the word ADONAI which means LORD and will only read ADONAI or the LORD ). We see God revealing little by little as time went on through what He did in the history of His people with an influence of it in the history of those confronted them. Thus they were able to call Him God Almighty (El Shaddai Gen. 17:1; Ex. 6:3); God Eternal (El Olam ); Lord of Hosts (Yahweh Zevavoth – of army); Lord the Banner (Yahweh Nissi Ex.17:15); God Everlasting (El Elion Gen. 14:20); God of the Righteous (El Jeshurun – Dt. 32:15); Great God (El Hagdon – Et. 10:17)  etc.

Later in the fullness of time God revealed himself through His Son which again was God’s involvement in the history of His creation.

This does not mean that He has no influence on nature. Of course He has. But that also has to be understood as part of His working in history since He does it with humans in mind (Creation of the earth, Guiding the sun [Ex. 17:12; Jos. 10:13]; Dividing the sea for Israel to pass through; Jesus pacifying the sea etc.)

Therefore we may say that God’s primary arena of work is history. However, it is a fact, as we see in Biblical testimony, that many a time people did not comprehend and understood the working of God and its message. This caused unnecessary suffering for the people and nature. To take away this suffering, again God himself had to work in history.

God still is at work in history. So if we want to see God, we need to look in to the events in history. Every event in history has a message and that message comes from God. This does not mean that every historical happening is God initiated. As a matter of fact many of them are not. Slavery in Egypt, other god worship in Canaan, too much taxation by Solomon, killing of innocent children in Judea by Herod etc. and similar negative and non-salvific historical situations were not caused by God, rather by humans without understanding the purpose of God in this world.

This kind of situation calls for God’s active response and His corrective work in history. To those situations God responds through His intervention to correct and further history toward salvation.  Of course, all of the chaotic situations that appear in history many not be human caused, rather due to the growing up issues of creation as the creation is in the process of becoming perfect (see the phrase in our Eucharistic liturgy when the holy elements are elevated and the celebrant say, “One Holy and Living Spirit that perfects everything that is created is with us”. Also see Jesus’ promise “When the Spirit of Truth comes, He shall lead you to all Truth” [John 16:13]. This is like a child, when tries to walk by itself, falls down a few times. Like in the case of the storm in the sea while Jesus and His disciples were on the boat – Matt. 8:23 ff.). But there also God will be working to make it better and well.

Therefore, there are God initiated events and also God responded events in history. Both His initiated work and His responding work in history will solely and essentially be salvific work, because God is the creator and savior in history.

God through Christ brought an active response to the situation that prevailed in the first century in the world. It is said in Galatians 4:4 that Christ event was “in the fullness of time”. God requires His disciples to continue His style of working, that is work in history: initiating and responding. So now it comes on us to have active positive involvement in history and corrective active responding to chaotic situations made by humans and by unjust structures in history or otherwise.

2. It is in this context I am examining the situation created by few anti-social individuals in a bus in Delhi few weeks back, where a girl was sexually abused and assaulted and later died, which irrupted enormous public response. Young boys and girls with adults and old took it to the streets of Delhi in huge numbers and in other parts of the country in good numbers.

Many among who took it to the streets criticized the government and the police for their failure in providing adequate security to the public especially to women in Delhi. Some used it as an opportunity to gain political mileage, whereas some others to engage in anti social activities.

There were also people who criticized these demonstrations. Few prominent citizens like Arundhati Roy called the demonstration non-sense, some others accused the girl, who was attacked, for careless life style and going out in the city at night with a boy friend (but it was not the boy who abused her!).

A religious leader said the girl should have held the hand of the assaulter and called him brother so that he would not hurt her (to me that is the biggest joke of the year. Oh those “religious” leaders!!). A religious group in Kerala called for separate education facility for girls and boys (Help us O God, they do not know what they are talking about!!). Naturally others took it up and the discussion went in that direction for a while. Yet another group criticized the way women dress up in public which according to them is the reason for such events. They did not say why then aged women get attacked.

As usual, fortunately or unfortunately, our community did not have any response. We kept our head under the sand like an Australian bird the Ostrich.

To prevent this sort of things from happening, again there were multiple voices. Some said the accused should be given capital punishment which will be a message to those who in future might think of abusing women. Others said, the assaulters should be castrated. Some found this an occasion to voice their opinion against capital punishment for any criminal activity. There were people to follow it up for and against, as usual. It is reported that one of the accused also asked for death sentence on himself.

3. Television channels and print media spent lot of time and space to discuss the issue as they got some hot subject to deal with for a while.

The government broke its silence to condemn the incident and said it will do whatever possible under the law of the land to punish the accused. It also added that the law will take care of the matter.

It should be remembered at this point that three days before this incident, the Supreme Court had, in an appeal petition, made capital punishment given by a High Court to an accused rapist, brought down to life imprisonment (Appendix: Today [04-02-2013] I heard in the news about the first verdict of the newly constituted bench to consider abuse of women cases at the Kerala High Court (of course intended to be a positive step after that Delhi incident) which sent free of charges an accused in similar case that happened a decade back and who was sentenced to severe ten year imprisonment by the trial court).This tells us how the law takes care of such matters and for that reason any matter that comes under its consideration.  I am not saying, of course, things will be the same always. But the result can be this way or that way and the events will keep repeating. Fast track courts will only be the first stage of a long legal process.  It can take years before a clear and final verdict is given. By the time things will be different in all fronts.

It is usual that emotions irrupt when something of this kind happens and will be in the air for a while. But it will give way to other hot news that comes along. Then the earlier one will be forgotten. If several of them happen one after another, then it will become no news at all.

4. The situation under consideration certainly calls for a response from us since we are the disciples of God who works in history responding to chaotic historical situation created by humans.

We may raise few questions first. Who are these people who commit this sort of things? Why these kind of things happen in our society? Who is to be blamed? What can we do to prevent these incidents being repeated?

The disciples asked Jesus about an unhealthy situation, “whose sin it was?” Jesus answered, “That the glory of God be manifested” (John 9:2). I am not going to exegete this passage. But simply would say that the question is relevant in this case.

I want to bring together all those questions and ask, “Whose sin it was?” In a society, where everyone is inter connected, it is hard and many a time impossible to point the finger just at one person. If at all someone has to be blamed, it has to be the society that includes me and you.

Giving capital punishment to one person or all the accused in this case or in similar cases will not solve the problem as there will be hundreds or thousands of potential offenders in waiting. This will continue to happen. Many of those who commit such acts will not be either in a mental state to think of the consequences or will be sick enough not to even reason. Many a time these are done in a momentary impulse or in a state of sickness of mind.

Castrating is also not a viable solution. You cannot go around and find out all potential offenders to perform that. Thrissur Corporation recently decided to castrate all new born puppies of stray and street dogs to contain the fast growth of street dogs. This may not be a good idea to be implemented among humans.

So what shall we do? Only preventive and perspective building or conscientizing measures will solve the problem as I think of it. ‘Sati’ a pre-independent Indian social evil was controlled not only by legislation (of 1829 Dec. 4), but also through awareness campaign initiated by Raja RamMohan Roy (from 1812).  I would give few measures to achieve this goal.

Our society needs to develop a healthy male-female relationship culture. This should be taken up by families, schools, public offices, service agencies and NGOs. I would give primary role in this regard to the environment in families and the kind of education people get at home. In Kerala even these day mothers would say, “onnumillengilum avanoru aankutti alledi?” (O girl! after all is he not a boy?). From childhood itself people should get the education to respect each other and consider both male and female as human beings. How father and mother treat each other will be a great educational material for the children. Family is the first place where a healthy man-woman relationship should begin. Religion has a vital role in educating families. Jesus learned to respect the women, the sick, the downtrodden and enslaved from him mother as used to be in Jewish society of His time.

On the part of the government, it should have law enforcement machinery fully functional along with conscientizing propaganda through various media. The need for night patrol and shadow police force, to make the security of citizens, is to be recognized by the civil administration. Security of a country is not primarily that of its geographical boundaries, rather it is of the citizens. That should be in the priority list of the civil administration and citizens on the streets should feel safe to move around any time day or night. Purchase and consumption of intoxicating materials need to be under strict monitoring and regulation. Law enforcement officers need to be vigilant at all times and at all places.

People need to get trained in schools and at homes to defend themselves and to be vigilant against any possible danger. In the present case, the girl and her friend were looking for cheap bus ride to residence. In such situation, if they were prepared to face any hostile situation (that is something they had to learn from early days in their life) this would not have happened. Of course single independent incidents may still happen and they need to be dealt with by strict and fast legal procedure.

Our response to events like this has to be realistic, pedagogical and salvific. No positive effect is going to be brought in with the kind of attitude that was displayed during the recent event under consideration. A long term and steady method has to be adopted to see that this will not be repeated or at least will only be stray incidents.

God works in history, and we are asked to join Him. I believe this is how God’s work in history becomes evident in human history.

Those Israelites who were taken to Babylonian exile initially sang Psalm 137 which was an expression of a negative attitude. But later they listened to prophet Jeremiah who asked for a positive and realistic approach (Jer. 29:5 ff.). It produced new institutions, enormous literature, new insight in to the ways of God in history, helped them to live a productive life in diaspora and later opened the way for many to return to Jerusalem. If they had continued to lament like in Ps. 137, nothing of this would have happened. Moses, who ran away from the presence of Pharaoh several years back, was brought back having enabled by God to defend himself and his people. Same God is challenging us to respond to every situation that is negative and non-saving among us and in our history, by gathering courage and defending self and others to make our world a better place to live in dignity and meaning. This is how God works in history. Rise to the situation and see what kind of work He asks us to do in our history. Learn from historical events and see God working in history. We have to join Him in His work. We shall work with God initiating and responding when situations call us to because He is a God who works in history.

Metropolitan Yuhanon Mor Meletius

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: